Does anyone know if there’s an etymological root shared by porcini mushrooms and the word porcine?
If not, there should be, because they make a handy stand-in for bacon.
On an impromptu trip into the City this weekend, I picked up the winter issue of Diner Journal, a Williamsburg food mag with writing from one of my favorite bloggers, the ever irreverent and potty mouthed Grocery Guy. It’s a really cool little slice of literary food writing, with winter recipes from two Billyburg institutions, Diner and Marlow & Sons.
I browsed through it on the train home, drooling over all the meaty goodness. Brisket cooked in Chimay. Pork braised in milk. Lamb shanks cooked in white wine. Sigh. Can Meat-Free March be over already?
The weird, ball bearing snow we got on Friday night makes it hard to believe winter’s almost over, but there are signs. Croci and daffodils are muscling their ways out of the frozen earth, the robins have returned.
The spring vegetables have not, so larder cooking remains the name of the game.
One of the few meat-free recipes in the Journal is for spätzle. There’s also one for Lentils cooked in red wine I have my eye on. I’m beginning to sense a theme here… These folk really like cooking with booze.
Their spätzle recipe differs a bit from the one I concocted from the memories of my aunt’s Easter-time dumplings in the ratio of egg to milk, so I decided to stick with the one I know. I made the dough a little thicker, like a stiff pancake batter, and used two spoons, as if I was making quenelles, to get the batter to drip into the boiling water. And then, in place of the bacon, I used some reconstituted porcini mushrooms that they sell for scandalously cheap at Polbridge.
But man and woman cannot live on spätzle alone (although you could try, it would probably be a pretty good life too, until the scurvy kicked in of course).
The boy suggested making a vegetarian version of chocroute. I blanched. I paled. I gasped. I scoffed. I felt a little dizzy. Chocroute is one of the meatiest of meaty meat dishes. I felt Frenchmen and women all over the globe turning over in their graves at the very idea of taking the sausages and smoked meats and bacon out of the dish.
But then we got home.
I headed for The Czechoslovak Cookbook first. I hoped to find a cabbage or sauerkraut recipe, but alas, nothing piqued my interest. I then turned to Polish Cookery, and boy oh boy, here we hit the jackpot (and I bet you were beginning to wonder where the pickles fit in).
Like many good old ethnic cookbooks, this one offers up a “mother” recipe which is followed by “chick” recipes, or variations on a theme if you prefer. To wit; Vegetable recipe 30, Sauerkraut in Wine (Kapusta Kiszona na Winie) is followed by Sauerkraut with Dried Mushrooms (no. 31 Kapusta Kiszona z Grzybami) and Sauerkraut with Pickles (no. 32 Kapusta Kiszona z Ogorkami) which is where I stopped in wonder and glee. Sauerkraut? Pickles? Can we get a hells yeah? I thought so.
The original recipe (no. 30) obviously calls for cooking the kraut in wine, while the pickle variation calls for cooking in stock, but I’m a lot like the Diner Journal folks. I enjoy cooking my food in wine. So, I did, but to get that hearty savoriness one would get from stock, I threw in the porcini soaking liquid. Genius, right? I love it when everything ties up neatly in a pretty culinary package.
And how was it all? Delicious! The spätzle had much more body than my original batch and were so garlicky and tasty with the silky, earthy mushrooms mixed in. One would think the kraut would be very sour and sharp, what with pickles and wine along for the ride, but it just isn’t so. The browned onions and mushroomy goodness impart a depth to the liquid that seems almost meaty and gets soaked up by the spätzle doubling their deliciousness.
This is hearty woodsman fare.
But if you ever do actually feed this to a lumberjack I’d suggest throwing in some smoked pork loin (actually, I’d suggest this preparation for anyone not having a Meat-Free March)!
Head below the jump for recipes for Sauerkraut With Pickles & Porcini Spätzle.
Sauerkraut With Pickles
prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: 1 hour
- 1 Onion, roughly chopped
- 1/2 head Garlic, roughly chopped
- Olive Oil
- 2 lbs Sauerkraut with Carrots (if you can find it), rinsed and well drained
- 3/4 c cheap Moscato wine
- 1/4 Dry Vermouth
- 5-6 small Polish pickles (these are sweeter than normal Polish Dills)
- about 2 cups dried Porcini Mushroom cooking liquid + 1 tbsp Mushroom Puree
In a dutch oven over medium heat add a glug of olive oil, the onions and the garlic. Cook until browned. Add the sauerkraut, wine and vermouth. Bring to a boil. Add the pickles, the mushroom puree and the porcini liquid. Turn the heat down until the liquid is at a bare simmer. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes stirring frequently. Uncover and cook at a boil until almost all the liquid is boiled away.
Serve with Porcini Spätzle or a hunk of good crusty bread. This would also be good with some slices of smoked pork loin tucked into the kraut at the time the liquids are added.
- 4 organic Eggs
- 1/2 cup or so of Milk (more may be needed if the dough gets too thick)
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 tbsp dried Dill
- AP Flour
- 1 package dried Porcini Mushrooms soaked in hot water at least 1 hour and roughly chopped
- 1 head Garlic, minced
Whisk together the eggs and milk. Add two healthy pinches of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and the dill. Whisk to incorporate. Add the flour 3 tbsps at a time and whisk to incorporate until a thick pancake-like batter is achieved. The most important thing is to add them slowly and whisk to completely incorporate every single time. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and pop into the fridge to allow the flour to fully hydrate for one hour.
Place a large pot of heavily salted water to boil on the stove and a large metal colander into the sink.
Pull the batter out of the fridge and place the bowl next to your pot of boiling water. With a soup spoon scoop up some batter. With a slotted spoon, swirl the boiling water, using a smaller spoon encourage the batter to fall into the water in a thick ribbon. Keep swirling until the spätzle begin to float to the top. Pull them out with the slotted spoon and transfer to the colander in the sink. Repeat, repeat and repeat until done. Douse with cold water to stop cooking and allow to drain thoroughly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Add a healthy glug of olive oil to an ovenproof baking dish. Add the finely minced garlic and chopped porcini and stir around. Scoot the spätzle into the dish and turn to coat with the garlic/oil mixture. Slide the dish into the oven at 350°F.
Allow to bake for about 15-20 minutes or until becoming golden. For the last 5 minutes feel free to jack the heat up to about 450°F to encourage crust-formation. Pull out of the oven and allow to rest a couple of minutes
Serve with Sauerkraut With Pickles, Chocroute, lamb, pork, steak… Whatever, just enjoy!