Saturday, February 25, 2017

Berlin Hassenpfeffer with Braised Red Cabbage, Potato Pancake, Baked Apple and Spaetzle

     Many people associate classic German cuisine with heavy rich food.  More often than not, a cuisine is acclimated to the climate of its origin, although in modern times, social pressure is a cuisine influence.  In recent years, German fine dining cuisine has favored lighter healthier food choices. 
     Even with all the social pressure and culinary influences of the mass media in the world, most people look forward to classic German food, because it is a hearty satisfying cuisine that presents good dining value.  The climate in Germany is like Pennsylvania or New York in America, so the winters can be long and very cold.  Rich heavy classic German food is a welcome sight on a cold winter day.
     Rabbit is a popular classic cuisine meat choice.  Just like the old saying goes, "They breed like rabbits."  Rabbits always seem to multiply wherever there is farmland and they are a vegetable crop pest, if there is an imbalance of natural predators.    
     With such an abundance of rabbit, it is surprising to see that rabbit is rarely offered at a regular grocery store.  This is because modern mainstream shoppers have been conditioned by the mass media to only look upon rabbit as being cute furry creature that lays eggs on Easter.  Less than 100 years ago, most people looked upon rabbit as being a free meal that was relatively easy to catch.  
     Other than for country folk that like to hunt and trap rabbits, this viable alternative healthy meat choice has nearly been completely overlooked by mainstream consumers in this modern age of worrying about how cattle flatulence is falsely blamed for the global warming scam.  Fortunately, rabbit can be found at good local butcher shops and Asian food markets.  Rabbit truly is a gourmet food item and there are great classic rabbit recipes worldwide.    
     Hassenpfeffer is a German style rabbit stew.  There are as many different ways to make Hassenpfeffer as there are German Potato Pancake recipes.  Hassenpfeffer recipes can be regional and they can vary from household to household.  Today's Hassenpfeffer is cooked in a style that is similar to Berlin Klein Fleisch Stew or a Hamburg style winter pork stew.  The rabbit is traditionally marinated ahead of time for any Hassenpfeffer recipe.  How the rabbit is stewed is what makes the difference.  Since this is a winter rabbit recipe, the stewing sauce is made with crème fraîche, prunes and pearl onions, which creates a gentle warm satisfying meal for a cold day.   
     German entrées are usually served with a few flavorful vegetable preparations that are placed on the same plate as the entrée.  During the winter season, comfort is the key to the vegetable selection and in a classic sense, only vegetables that can be stored in a cold root cellar should be chosen.  Braised Red Cabbage, Potato Pancakes and Baked Apple are classic choices.  Potato pancakes can be made with grated potato for a rustic look or they can be made very refined, like a flour pancake. 
     Spaetzle are quickly made dumpling noodles that are cooked in water first, then finished by pan frying in hot beurre noisette till they puff up.  There are several different Spaetzle making methods.  Spoon-drop style Spaetzle are one of the easiest to make, especially when only a few small portions are needed.  

     *Many of the food items in this entrée can be prepared ahead of time, cooked at the same time or kept warm till they are served.  The braising of the marinated rabbit, the braised red cabbage and the boiling of the spaetzle can be done well in advance.  These three items can be finished shortly before serving.  Rustic Potato Pancakes should not be made too far ahead of time or they will discolor.       
     Marinated Rabbit Preparation: 
     This recipe yields 1 whole boneless rabbit.  (2 portions) 
     Whole Rabbit is usually sold as a frozen product in butcher shops and Asian food markets.  
     Step 1:  Cut 1 whole rabbit into leg and back sections.
     Step 2:  Place the rabbit sections in a container.
     Add 1/2 cup of acidic Riesling Wine. 
     Add 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar.
     Add 1 whole garlic clove.
     Add 1/3 cup of coarse chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cracked black peppercorns.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher Salt.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Cover the container with a lid.
     Place the container in a refrigerator.
     Marinate for 8 to 10 hours.  Turn the rabbit pieces in the marinade once every 2 to 3 hours.

     Braised Red Cabbage:
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 hearty portions.  
     Black Forest Bacon is an American product.  The bacon slab is coated with German winter spices during the curing process.  
     Step 1:  Heat a braising pan or a wide sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 2 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 strip American style Black Forest Bacon that is coarsely chopped.
     Gently sauté till some of the fat renders the bacon just begins to turn a light golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped celery.
     Gently sauté till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Add 9 cups of thin sliced red cabbage.  (About 1/2 of a medium size red cabbage head.)
     Sauté and stir the cabbage till it starts to wilt.
     Step 4:  Add 1 peeled cored Gala Apple that is diced.
     Continue to sauté and stir, till the cabbage wilts.
     Step 5:  Add 1 cup of French Rosé Wine (or a full bodied Blush Wine).
     Add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add enough water to barely cover the cabbage with liquid.
     Step 6:  Add 2 pinches of cinnamon.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 3 spice cloves.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 7:  Stir the ingredients.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Cover the pan with a loose fitting lid.
     Place the covered pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Stir the cabbage once every 10 to 15 minutes.
     Braise until the cabbage becomes tender.
     *While the cabbage is braising, the roasted rosemary pork, vegetables and the baked apple can also be cooked in the oven.
     Step 9:  Remove the pot from the oven.
     Place the pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till no excess liquid remains.
     Keep the braised red cabbage warm over very low heat (or chill and reheat shortly before serving).
     Berlin Hassenpfeffer:
     This recipe yields about 3 1/4 cups.  (2 petportions)
     This stage of the rabbit recipe should be done shortly before serving.
     Step 1:  Drain the marinade off of the rabbit section pieces.  Discard the marinade.  Brush off any peppercorns or onions.     
     Step 2:  Place the marinated rabbit section pieces in a deep braising pan.  (Select a pan that is just big enough to contain the rabbit pieces.)
     Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Drizzle 1 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter over the rabbit.
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Braise till the rabbit is fully cooked and tender. 
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
     Remove the rabbit from the braising pan. 
     Pour the braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a container and set it aside 
     Cut or pull the rabbit meat off of the bones.
     Cut the boneless rabbit meat into bite size pieces.
     Step 5:  Place the rabbit meat pieces in a sauce pot.
     Add 6 large pearl onions (or small boiler onions).
     Add 7 pitted prunes.
     Add the reserved braising liquid.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper. 
     Place the pot over medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till only about 1/4 cup of the braising liquid remains and the onions start to become tender.  
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of sour cream.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1/4 cup of milk. 
     Gently simmer till the sauce reduces to a medium thin consistency that easily coats the ingredients.
     Keep the Berlin Hassenpfeffer warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Baked Apple:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Core 1 Gala Apple.
     Trim the top and bottom of the apple flat.
     Step 2:  Place the apple on a roasting pan.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of melted unsalted butter over the apple.
     Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar over the apple.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of cinnamon over the apple.
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the apple just becomes tender.
     Keep the baked apple warm on a stove top.

     Spoon-Drop Spaetzle:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion or 2 petite portions.  (About 1 cup)
     Spaetzle can be boiled ahead of time, but they are best when pan fried in the hot beurre noisette just before serving.
     Step 1:  Place 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of melted butter.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add a little bit of flour at a time while stirring with a whisk, till a thick spaetzle batter is formed (about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup).
     *The batter should be a little thicker than a pancake batter.  The batter should be thick enough to slowly pour off of a spoon.
     Step 2:  Chill the batter for 20 minutes.
     Heat a large sauce pot of water over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Bring the water to a simmer.
     Adjust the temperature so there are no signs boiling on the surface of the water.
     Step 3:  Use a spoon to stream thick bands of the spaetzle batter across the surface of the hot water.
     *Do not stir!  The spaetzle will sink to the bottom of the pot.
     When the spaetzle noodles float to the surface of the hot water, then they are ready.
     Step 4:  Scoop the spaetlze out of the water with a fryer net.
     Place the spaetzle in a colander to drain off the water.
     Set the spaetzle aside or chill them for later use.
     Step 5:  *The spaetzle should be finished with butter just before serving! 
     Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Let the butter cook till it turns a golden brown color and a hazelnut aroma can be noticed (beurre noisette).
     Add the prepared spoon-drop spaetzle to the hot butter while gently shaking the pan.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté and gently toss the spaetzle with the butter.
     Sauté till till the spaetzle puff up and a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the spaetzle on a platter and keep them warm on a stove top.
     Rustic Potato Pancakes: 
     This recipe yields 2 medium size potato pancakes. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 large 8 ounce peeled russet potato in a sauce pot.
     Cover the potato with water.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium high heat.
     Par-boil the potato till it is almost halfway cooked.   
     Step 2:  Cool the par-boiled potato under cold running water.  
     Coarsely grate the potato into a mixing bowl.  
     Add 1 whisked large egg. 
     Add 1/2 of a chopped green onion.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add just enough flower, while stirring, to form a thick batter that can be easily gathered with a spoon.  (About 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup.)
     Step 3:  Heat a wide non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.  
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Place 2 portions of the potato pancake batter side by side in the pan.  (About 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup each portion.)   
     Use a spatula to press the thick potato pancake mixture into a flat round shapes that are about 4" wide and about 3/8" thick.  
     Step 4:  Pan fry till the bottom of the potato pancakes are golden brown.
     Use a spatula to flip the potato pancakes.
     Pan fry till they are golden brown on both sides.  
     Step 5:  Remove the potato pancakes from the pan and set them on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan off any excess butter.
     Keep the potato pancake warm on a stove top.      
     Berlin Hassenpfeffer with Braised Red Cabbage, Potato Pancake, Baked Apple and Spaetzle:  
     This recipe describes 1 entrée presentation.
     Step 1:  Place the Berlin Hassenpfeffer in a single portion size ceramic soufflé ramekin. 
     Place the ramekin on the front half of a serving plate.
     Step 2:  Arrange 1 Rustic Potato Pancake, 1 Baked Apple, 1 portion of Braised Red Cabbage and 1 petite portion of Spaetzle on the back half of the plate.  
     Step 3:  Place a small dollop of sour cream on the potato pancake.  (About 1/2 tablespoon.)
     Place a few thin slices of green onion on the sour cream.
     This is a great plate of hearty German food for a chilly day!     

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