Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Around the World in 80 Plates: Austria
Back in 2001, I decided to quit my job and go backpack through parts of Europe for about a month, how original I know. I started in Paris, stopped in Geneva, Salzburg and then went to my favourite place in my month of travelling Vienna, Austria. I loved it there, in fact I think I called my mom about 10 times telling her I was never coming home. I had planned on spending two days there when I was planning it all and ended up spending 5 and the only reason I left when I did is because the hostel I was staying at was fully booked past then. If they hadn't been, I may still be there now! Ha! I loved the art and museums (there's like 100!), the music and history. It just felt right to be there. I wish now I had been more adventurous when it came to dining because I really don't remember much of what I did eat and I doubt if much of it was traditional. I do remember trying some sort of goulash at the hostel but not knowing exactly what was in it and being a little leery of what was hiding in the yummy broth.
I looked through a few books and Googled Austrian cuisine and decided there were two dishes I would make, Wiener Schnitzel and Spaetzle. They don't traditionally go together but I found the combination of their names entertaining (maybe there's a Monty Python skit in there) and they did taste great together so maybe bucking tradition is in order here.
For the Wiener Schnitzel, I made a fresh batch of No Cluck Cutlets from Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! but instead of shaping into 10 smaller cutlets, I formed them into 6, as flat as I could manage, cutlets. I found that I could smoosh them flattest using my hands and used the cold broth (used to cook them) to set the shape. As soon as they hit that cold broth they seem to lock so if you can stretch them on the way there as much as you can that broth is going to help keep your shape. I baked them the same in the oven for the same amount of time but used two separate baking dishes (both with full recipes of the cooking broth) so there was room for three big cutlets in each. When they came out I let them cool then stuck them in the freezer to make them more manageable to dredge and bread crumb. I set up a breading station with three pie plates, one with about a cup of all purpose flour and a bit of salt and pepper, one with prepared Vegg (2 tsp + 2/3 cup soy milk blended in a blender) and the last with 2 cups of panko bread crumbs (that I ground up a bit to make them less coarse). I put the cutlets through the breading station in that order and fried them in a cast iron pan with a mix of olive oil and butter (EB sticks). I managed to bread all six but had to add more panko to the last dish since you need a fair amount in the dish to really cover the cutlets. They fried up golden brown and crispy and tasted amazing. I don't know how traditional they tasted since they usually use veal (boo!) but I would happily eat this version any day! I read that they are served with lemon wedges which I thought I had but apparently didn't so I used what I did have on hand and sprinkled a little bottled lemon juice on top and it really did add a little something to it.
I read a few web articles on spaetzle and decided I had to try them. Reading Wolfgang Puck wax poetic about them can have that effect. I grabbed my copy of World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan and started mixing. The batter/dough (?) goes together quickly but does need a half an hour to sit. I read through her suggestions of what to use if you don't have your own spaetzle maker and decided I would try my potato ricer. It worked well but the pieces/strands of spaetzle wanted to stick together as they came out. I found the best thing was to hold it up high over the pot of boiling water and that way they stretched before hitting the water and most came apart with a quick stir of the water. I scooped them out into a cold water bath to stop the cooking then held them in a separate bowl with a tiny bit of oil to keep them from sticking to one another. I chopped up two small white onions and sautéed them with about 1/4 cup of EB buttery stick. Once they started to caramelize and brown a bit, I added in the spaetzle. I let them cook in the butter and onions until they started to brown just the slightest bit. I decided that I would season them differently so I divided them in half. To one half, I added dried parsley and thyme and some salt and pepper. To the other, I left them in the hot pan and added about 1/4 cup of meltable cheddar from Artisan Vegan Cheese (if I had Emmentaler on hand I would have preferred that but hey, I had the cheddar and it worked out nicely too) that I just broke up into pieces with my hands and scattered in and some dried dill, parsley and salt and pepper. They were both delicious but the one with the cheddar and dill was really special. It reminded me of macaroni and cheese almost and went perfectly with a bite of Wiener Schnitzel.
It was another one of those meals that I was mmming and ahhing through the whole thing. I can get quite vocal at the table when supper is really good! It had me googling spaetzle maker after supper since I know I will definitely make it enough now to invest in one!