5 Classic German Comfort Food Recipes

Classic Dishes Can Be Sehr Gut, Especially When Paired with the Right Wines

Recipes by Nancy Johnson | Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

If warm and cozy is what you’re looking for this winter, try hearty German cuisine. Each region of Germany has its own specialties, but typical German cuisine includes a variety of wursts (sausages), schnitzel, sauerkraut and potato pancakes. When dining, set out a loaf of pumpernickel bread and plenty of butter and enjoy.

Gary: German white wines complement a wide variety of food items.  Riesling in particular is one of the most versatile grapes when it comes to wine and food pairing, perfect from appetizers and hors d’oeuvres to desserts. With their cool climate acidity and piquant flavors, German white wines cleanse the palate and bring out enjoyable nuances in the dishes. Quality wines from reputable producers will be made from vines with low yields, which increases texture and concentration, an important consideration when pairing with richly-flavored entrées.

Pork Schnitzel with Sour Cream Dill Sauce

Flour, egg and bread crumbs are the basics needed for schnitzel. Flour helps the egg to stick to the pork cutlet; egg helps the bread crumbs to stick. To keep the breading from falling off during cooking, refrigerate the breaded cutlets for about an hour.

4 boneless pork loin chops, trimmed
1/2 cup sour cream
2 TBS buttermilk
1 TBS chopped fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp grainy German mustard
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS butter

Pound pork into 1/8-inch thick cutlets. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine sour cream, buttermilk, dill, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Place flour on a plate. In a bowl, whisk milk, mustard and egg.  In a food storage bag, add breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic powder and paprika. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Dredge pork in flour. Dip pork into milk mixture. Place cutlets one at a time in food storage bag and shake to coat.

Heat oil and butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook pork 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Keep pork warm in 300-degree oven.

Serve with Sour Cream Dill Sauce and Braised Red Cabbage. Serves 4.

Braised Red Cabbage

This is actually better when made a day ahead and reheated before serving. For a different spin, add a peeled, diced apple while cooking the cabbage. Shred the cabbage either with a knife, grater or mandoline. The addition of cider vinegar and wine will help brighten the cabbage’s purple color. If the color dulls, simply add a bit more cider vinegar.

1 medium red cabbage, cored and shredded
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil and butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sugar; sauté until onion is golden and soft. Add cabbage and stir to coat. Add broth, spices, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Add vinegar and red wine, cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf before serving.

Gary: The natural acidity and light sweetness of German wines in the dryer Prädikat categories enhance the pan-fried pork cutlets while also enabling the wines to stand up to the cabbage, vinegar and spices. Look for a quality producer’s Kabinett (lightly sweet) or Spatlese (late harvest) that will stand up to the acidity in the sour cream, set off the flavors of the cabbage and bring out the added spice characters. The regions of Mosel, Nahe, Rheingau and Rheinhessen offer Rieslings that would be a marvelous pairing to this dish.

Beer-Braised Bratwurst with Sauerkraut

Bratwurst is a type of pork sausage, popular in Germany since the 14th century. Today bratwurst is often served with rye bread or rolls and mustard, but in this recipe, it’s paired with fluffy spaetzle. Look for a good quality sauerkraut, with or without caraway seeds.

2 pounds bratwurst
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-pound bag sauerkraut or 1 large jar (32 oz) sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 TBS brown sugar
1 can (12-oz) lager beer
1 TBS butter
Salt, pepper, and paprika, to taste

In a large skillet, heat 1TBS oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until golden and tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in rinsed and drained sauerkraut, sugar and beer. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to loosen browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

In a separate skillet, heat 1 TBS oil and butter over medium high heat. Add bratwurst and turn a quarter turn every 2 minutes until all sides are browned. Add bratwurst to sauerkraut mixture and cook, covered, 20 minutes.  Uncover and cook 10 minutes longer. Serve with spaetzle.

Spaetzle

Spaetzle is an egg dumpling popular in Germany as well as several other European countries. I use an inexpensive spaetzle maker to form the dumplings, but you can achieve similar results by pushing the dough through a colander.

2 cups flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 TBS butter, melted

In a large bowl, stir flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk milk and eggs. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Let dough rest 15 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt. Reduce to a simmer.

Hold a colander over simmering water. Working in batches, pour 1/2 of dough into the colander. Use a spatula to push the dough through the holes of the colander into the water. Repeat with remaining dough. If dough is too thick to push through colander, add a bit more milk to thin it. Stir the pot gently. Cook about 3 minutes or until spaetzle rise to the surface. Drain. Toss spaetzle with butter.

Gary: The richness of this dish would suggest a dry white (Trocken) from the Franconia region. These wines are perfect for meals and come in the traditional bocksbeutel-shaped flagons (similar in shape to the Mateus Rose bottles with their wide-oval bottoms). In this region the Sylvaner grape rules and makes a delicious white wine. Another option is a Trocken produced from late harvested grapes (Spatlese) from the Rheingau region with its classic structure or from the Rheinpfalz region with its earthy minerality and body. For red wine lovers, here is the opportunity to pair with a Pinot Noir or Blaufränkisch.

Potato Pancakes with Sugar-Roasted Apples

There are several different ways to make potato pancakes, including using mashed potatoes, but my favorite is this version: crispy grated potato cakes complemented by roasted apples.

5 large baking potatoes
1 egg, beaten
3 TBS flour
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, to taste
1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBS butter

In a large bowl, combine egg, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Coarsely grate potatoes with grater, mandoline or grating attachment on food processor. Place potatoes in clean dish towel and twist towel over sink to drain off liquid. Pat potatoes dry. Stir grated potatoes into egg mixture.

Heat oil and butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Drop 1/4 cup potato mixture into skillet. Flatten to 1/2 inch thick. Repeat, cooking about 2 pancakes at a time. Cook, turning once, until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and transfer to baking sheet; keep warm in a 300-degree oven. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture. Increase oven temperature to 400 and bake potato pancakes 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Makes about 6 pancakes.

Sugar-Roasted Apples

Honeycrisp is the apple of my eye when it comes to baking, but you can also make this dish with any baking apple such as Granny Smith, Pink Lady or Gala. I peel the apples for this dish, but you can leave on the skins if you’d like.

6 Honeycrisp apples
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Halve, core and peel apples. Cut into wedges. Divide among 2 pie pans in a single layer. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1 TBS water. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over apples. Roast in oven, turning halfway through, until apples are tender and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Serve with potato pancakes.

Gary: With the potential of slightly increased acidity of the apples from the roasting and the addition of lemon juice, plus the sweetness of caramelized brown sugar, look for an Auslese with some sweetness.

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