Yes. Here we are at the half-way point. I have completed 55 meals. I can’t believe that 55 full dinners have been served. I have surprised myself. Seriously, I didn’t think that I’d stick with it, but lo and behold people who I don’t know in real life started reading this damn thing. So now I have to see it through. I’m committed.
I think that the half-way point is a time for reflection. With that in mind I want to share that the top 3 meals (according to site visits) are: #72 Chicken Livers in Sherry, #2 Veal Chops in Mushroom Sauce, and #103 Mandarin Chicken Salad. An interesting trio. But why?
Chicken livers aren’t terribly popular, but you know what is? The many variations on the name of child-bride Courtney Stodden. Note to self: write more about her and Eugene Victor Tooms.
Veal Chops in Mushroom Sauce is actually searched a lot and my post pops up on the first page when you Google it. I hope that those veal chop lovers found what they were looking for here. That recipe is actually quite good.
Mandarin Chicken Salad was terribly popular because I commented on a website about cat walking (yes, on a leash and all) and mentioned how big Brian was. So a lot of cat ladies moseyed on over here to look at my handsome boy.
So that’s where we are now. What will ultimately be the most popular meal? Who knows! But now, I give you my 55th meal!
If you recall, I put my 55th dinner in your hands. Your choices were #107 Seafood Mousse, #52 Shish Kebab, #60 Orange Duck, and #25 Sauerbraten.
You went and you voted (some of you again and again and again and again), the ballots were counted, and although all of the contenders made a valiant effort, there could only be one winner.
And the winner is…
The Pot Roast From the Motherland!
Sauerbraten literally translates into “pickled meat.” That sounds good to me: I like pickled things and like meat. Win. And apparently you folks like German food–when you voted for my 30th meal, Sauerkraut Casserole was the winner.
Fun fact: Sauerbraten is the official national dish of Germany and was originally made with horse meat. I, however, used a rump roast. A rump roast that was 50% off! Score!
Anyway, you start by making a brine in which the roast is marinated for 3-4 days (or as many as 10). The marinade is a simple mix of vinegar, water, sugar, onion, spices, and herbs.
I put my roast in the fridge on Thursday, so it marinated for 3 nights/4 days. I flipped the meat at least once a day.
This marinade smelled so good to me that every time I popped open the container to flip the meat I totally wanted to gnaw off a piece of that raw beef. I know, totally gross. How Rosemary’s Baby of me!
Fast forward to Sunday. Cooking day.
Noon. Pie time. Shoo Fly Pie time. I do not know the origins of the Shoo Fly Pie but I think it’s a Pennsylvania Dutch thing, which means it is an Amish thing, which means that it makes me a little uneasy (the Amish give me the willies). But this looked like a very easy recipe and the only things I had to purchase were molasses and unseasoned bread crumbs. How thrifty!
So here is the assembly of the pie:
So that doesn’t look too bad, right? It went into the oven.
1:15: the pie has finished baking. We’ll get back to that later.
2:30: I started prepping the beef. But I had issues with merely getting the meat out of the bowl–it was so soft it was just falling apart. I can only imagine what this piece of meat would look like had it been in there for 10 days! Patting the meat and rubbing it with flour was also an ordeal. And very messy. Hence, why the unwieldy meat wasn’t in the pan for another 25 minutes.
2:55: Browning commenced. Due to the size and condition of my hunk of beef, this step was cumbersome as well; but eventually the meat was simmering in the deliciousness that was my vinegar marinade. Ultimately the beef cooked for about 3 hours.
5:00: I began making the spaetzle. I started earlier than #25 instructed because I was using a piece of meat smaller than 4 pound. Mine was closer to 2 pounds. But anyway…spaetzle. My mum would make these as dumplings for beef stew. I did not know that there was a name for those other than boiled dumplings you put in stew.
So I went about making the dough. I utilized the spoon method. This was more difficult than I thought because the dough was so damn sticky. So instead of little rounded dumplings the dough went into the water in twisted stringy shapes like little squid bodies. Not pretty. They floated up in the boiling water like clouds: Dog. Fish. Turtle. Uterus.
The meat! Beef, glorious, beef! I got my beef out of the skillet, onto a plate, and put that in a warm oven. Lifting out the meat was even more difficult than getting the meat in because it had broken down even further. The result: meat juices and oil and all over the kitchen and myself. Wonderful!
Meat out, I skimmed the fat, per #25′s instructions, and then I added ginger snaps which I had completely obliterated in a Ziploc bag with my rolling pin. Crushing cookies or crackers in a bag is not only a convenient and clean way to make bread crumbs, it is also an extremely cathartic activity and I highly suggest it.
So once the cookies were in, it was just a matter of stirring and stirring and stirring while the gravy thickened and the cookie chunks broke down. This took a while–maybe 10 to 15 minutes? I’m not really sure at this point. Between 5pm when I started on the spaetzle and when dinner got served (boo-yah!) I stopped tracking the time. Whatever.
So anyway, the gravy thickened beautifully and looked the way gravy is supposed to look (an act of God, I’m sure). And this gravy smelled great! The ginger really went well with all of the ingredients from the brine. The ginger snap technique always seems weird to me–I know that I’ve done it once before (I can’t remember which meal), but it really is such an economical and easy way to make a gravy like this. It’s the ginger, flour, and brown sugar all together without the hassle of measuring (and you get to hit things).
Then gravy, gravy, gravy, plating, plating, plating, yadda, yadda, yadda.
6:30: DINNER IS SERVED!
I’m proud of this one. Aside from the fact that my cut of beef isn’t all roast-like and my dumplings aren’t pretty, rounded, and golden-brown, this photo was pretty successful. I don’t have an ornate beer stein lying about in my apartment so I opted for a glass bottle and an owl. Owls are very 70s, you know.
The sauerbraten was really good. Super tender. The way the pickled meat matched with the sweetness of the gravy was just divine. A German sweet and sour beef, if you will. The dumplings (sorry, spaetzle), wasn’t anything to write home about, but it aided in the consumption of ginger snap gravy.
The meal was accompanied by rye bread and jarred red cabbage. Nice additions.
The pie was weird. Dense. It went like this: pie crust, gelatinous molasses layer, and then crumbs on top. It reminded me of the prune bars that I made a long time ago for the epic Tuna-Cheese-Macaroni-Loaf. I think that the pie would be good warm, with some vanilla ice cream to soften it up a bit. But I didn’t have ice cream. Sad face.
So anyway, you guys picked a winner. #25 (spaetzle excepted) was a success. Thanks for voting and thanks for reading. My 55th meal is in the books! Now to 56 and beyond!