Oktoberfest Eve (Sort of…)

My pal, Steve, was in Luxembourg — close to the German border — a couple weeks ago, and sent me a photo of the very large beer he was drinking.

“I’m celebrating Oktoberfest!” he said.

“It’s only mid-September!” I pointed out.

Don Schneider and his boar beard

Don Schneider and his boar beard

“I guess they start early.”

So it seemed reasonable when our pals, the Schneiders, invited us for an Oktoberfest dinner on September 28.

I don’t know much about Oktoberfest, except that people gather in large halls, cheerful red-faced men dress in lederhosen, and buxom women in low cut frilly blouses deliver towering overflowing steins of beer. But being a “theme” guy, I readily agreed to a role in the evening’s festivities.

Besides bringing some beer, I offered to make spätzle: the chewy German egg noodle that goes so well with bratwurst. Monica was making schnitzel, and Don had a rack of wild boar ribs he wanted to do something with. Or rather, he wanted me to do something with.

Monica tends to the schnitzel

Monica tends to the schnitzel

While grilling is not exactly what you think of when you think of Bavaria in autumn, it was nearly 100 degrees in Topanga and I wasn’t ready to tuck away the BBQ tongs just yet. So onto the grill went the seasoned boar rack.

To serve with the boar, I made a thick and glazy sauce of chicken stock, duck demi glaze, onions, red wine and prunes. We cut the fat-crispy ribs into individual serving portions and drizzled the sauce over them. I chopped up a knob of foie gras I found in the fridge and velveted it into the finished spätzle for an extra decadent hit of luxury. (Foie gras’ French birthplace, Strasbourg, being — like Steve! — near the German border, I felt confident I could connect the dots.)

Wild boar rib rack with prune wine sauce

Wild boar rib rack with prune wine sauce

Don and I tucked into some Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, while Monica channeled her Irish German and hit the Guinness and Leslie drank zinfandel. On the plate was a symphony of flavors that might’ve inspired Beethoven himself: the crisped schnitzel, buttery spätzle, juicy bratwurst, glossy medium-rare boar ribs, red and white new potatoes and, in the interest of some token representation of the green food group, a floret of steamed broccoli.

I would have given you the wild boar recipe. But really, do you think you’re going to find a rack of wild boar ribs? Neither do I. Instead, I would recommend grilling up some bratwurst (or steaming them for those of you in less Mediterranean climates), serving them with mustard alongside these delicious spätzle, tossed with butter and pepper.

Oktoberfest dinner is served!

Oktoberfest dinner is served!

Enjoy! Or as they say in Germany around this time of year, “Prost!”

*    *    *

Spätzle
serves 4-6 as a side dish

1.5 cups flour
4 eggs
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter
additional salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Mix together the flour, eggs and salt until smooth. (Should resemble a thick pancake batter. Add a little water if it seems too thick.

In a large pot, bring to a boil about 5 inches deep of water.

I have a nifty spätzle maker that my Austrian friend gave me. But a colander with large holes will do the trick. (As will a potato ricer.) Pour batter, about a third at a time, into a colander or ricer set about the boiling water. The batter will drip out into the water and form “noodles”. Let them cook for about 2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon or mesh skimmer to a plate. Continue until all the spätzle are cooked.

Heat a large skillet over medium. Add the butter and, as it melts, toss in the spätzle. Season liberally with freshly ground pepper and salt, and serve alongside bratwurst with mustard.

(*Note: I have tossed in roasted chanterelle mushrooms at the final step, and this adds a delicious flavor. You could use any fresh wild mushroom, or instead add roasted cauliflower, sautéed garlic, caramelized onions… be creative!)

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nlsb0169

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Veracruz-style fish tacos

Veracruz-style fish tacos

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Salmon at Pike's Place Market in Seattle

Salmon at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle

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Multekrem

Multekrem

I would run into my towering Norwegian pal Pål (with the cool little bubble over the “a”) over the intervening years at school. Pål had brought polar cloudberries that his parents had smuggled in frozen from Norway to our house for dinner, and I was smitten. The cloudberries, folded into whipped cream, became multekrem — one of the most heavenly flavors ever. (Appealing, perhaps, to my northern DNA…) The salmon-colored cream would often enter my head for no reason at all, like a beautiful song from the past. More

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