Friday, January 13, 2017

"A Taste of Switzerland" - Pears and Apples with Potatoes and Bacon - a "neutral" dish for a night filled with competition!

Date I made this recipe:  January 8, 2017 – Double header: Packers v. Giants and the Golden Globes

A Taste of Switzerland by Sue Style
Published by Hearst Books New York
ISBN: 0-688-10900-4; © 1992
Purchased at Bloomington Crime Prevention Association (BCPA) annual sale
Recipe:  Pears and Apples with Potatoes and Bacon (or Ham) (Schnitz Und Drunder) – p. 119

Folks, it's that time of year for football divisional playoffs.  Such pitched battles!  Such edge-of-the-seat moments!  Such "underdog" triumphs!

And then, of course, there are TV and movie award shows like tonight's Golden Globes.  Such pitched battles!  Such edge-of-the-seat moments!  Such "underdog" triumphs!  Such...interesting..."outfits?!" (To quote two of my celebrity fashion bloggers, Tom and Lorenzo – – "What is that even?")

At least I don't have to ask my Green Bay Packers "who are you wearing" because I know.  They're wearing "victory!"  (Green Bay Packers 38, New York Giants 13)

Like a lot of football fans (and players), I have my superstitions surrounding game time.  One wrong move and I could jinx my team and they will be out of the running.  And so I approached tonight's dinner very carefully.

First, I thought of making something Saturday night from some of my Wisconsin-themed cookbooks or a football cookbooks, but then thought that might screw up things on  Sunday.

Then I contemplated making something on game day itself but the game was scheduled to end around the dinner hour and I was concerned that if we won (and we did), that I would jinx it for the following week. (Yes, I know this makes no sense whatsoever but it's how I roll.)  And if we lost, well then I just wouldn't be hungry.

Hot on the heels of the game though was the Golden Globe award show and so making something international as a salute to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association that hands out these awards seemed like the better way to go (to avoid the jinx) but what country?

And then, light bulb moment:  Switzerland.  The Swiss are neutral!  They are noted for their neutrality!  (And their Swiss bank accounts!  And their chocolate!)  So I could make something Swiss and it would all be okay.  I could avoid anything football related and just concentrate on film and TV.  Perfect.

And so Swiss food it was and so I pulled out my A Taste of Switzerland cookbook and got to work.  And it didn't take me long to figure out the theme to Swiss cooking and it boils down to this:  cheese, sausages, and chocolate.  And while this makes it easy to come up with a recipe, I would have liked more variety but perhaps that is not the Swiss way?

Sadly, I cannot tell you much about Swiss food as I've only been to Switzerland once and then only to Zurich where I am proud to say I ordered our Italian meal for us in our Swiss restaurant in Spanish!  You probably had to be there.  The funniest thing though is that the waiter understood me (and I him) despite the fact that the Swiss generally speak a mix of German, Italian, and French so "'S' is for 'Spanish'" is no where to be seen.  That said, when in Rome, or in this case, Zurich, we order food "by any means we can, in any way we can, for as long as we can."  (With apologies to Methodists everywhere.)

Aside from that one stop in Zurich, the rest of our time in Switzerland was spent on a train bound for Italy where we spent the second half of our honeymoon (25 years ago this past May!).  The scenery was spectacular although I got just a teensy nervous when we went through the Swiss Alps given that I'm afraid of heights and all.  And while the train food was not all that bad (the Europeans have a lock and load on this), we didn't get to sample much in the way of Swiss fare.  Next time.

This cookbook contains the following sections:  "Daily Bread;" "Of Cows and Cheese;" "The Federal Sausage Feast;" "Wild Beasts and Wild Mushrooms;" "Champion Chocolate Consumption;" "Fruits of the Earth and Heavenly Distillations;" "A Taste of Switzerland's Wines," and then a few pages about "The Art of the Swiss Hotelier," and "Food and Wine Museums in Switzerland." 

If there's a downside to this cookbook, is that there are not enough recipes from which to choose.  And hilariously, the first recipe that this book opened to is "Diced Veal with Cream and Mushrooms," and if you read my last blog about National Spaghetti Day, you'll know why I passed on that.

Okay, so I looked through the recipes and settled on two, both involving cheese and potatoes (how can that combination be wrong?), and Andy cast the deciding vote:  "And the Collectible Cooking award goes to....Schnitz Und Drunder, otherwise known as Pears and Apple with Potatoes and Bacon (or ham)."

Congratulations, "Schnitz" – so deserved!  Sympathies to our runner up, Älpler Magrone – Macaroni with Bacon, Cream and Cheese (p. 62). Look, if it was up to me....

I'm glad we decided on the "Schnitz" recipe though because the flavors of the fruit, ham, and potatoes all worked well together.  After simmering the first set of ingredients together, you add a bit of cream to pull it all together and there you go, your winning dish!

So the Packers won, and many people "won" at the Golden Globes and this dish was winning save for one tiny thing:  the time it took to make it.

This was supposed to be a 30-minute dish.  Thirty minutes to sauté the mixture "until most of the liquid has evaporated."  Well, it took a lot longer than 30 minutes to accomplish this feat.  My best guestimate is about an hour but that all depends on your definition of "most" and "evaporated."  I wasn't sure how much liquid constituted "most" and so cooked the dish closer to 50 minutes than 30.  And even after I added the cream, I did not "serve immediately" but rather kept it simmering for another 10 minutes, bringing our total closer to 60 minutes..  But you know what, it's best not to rush these things and besides, I was able to toggle my TV viewing between post-game wrap ups and the Golden Globes and that was fine by me.

Finally, I'm surprised that there was not a chapter specifically dedicated to "potatoes," as many Swiss dishes, like this one, contain them.  In fact, a potato dish called Rösti is probably the Swiss national dish and if it isn't, it should be.  Rösti is like a potato pancake and I could have made it (recipe on p. 76), but we decided on the other recipe instead.

This then concludes all things "competition." But PS, and with all due respect Meryl Streep, football is so art, especially when you look at the "ballet" performed by Green Bay Wide Receiver, Randall Cobb, when he reached up to grab a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown lobbed by quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, at the end of the first half.  So there! It was poetry in motion, I tell you, poetry- and art - in motion!

So much for being neutral like our Swiss friends.  Enjoy!

Pears and Apples with Potatoes and Bacon – serves 4-6
1 onion, chopped
25g/1 oz/2 tablespoons butter
1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced
Optional:  1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper
500g/ 1 pound, 2 ounces potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
A 300g/ 10 oz piece of bacon or ham (cut into large chunks)
2 tablespoons cream

Soften the onion in the butter without allowing it to brown.  Add the pear and apple and toss them in the sugar (if using).  (Ann's Note:  I didn't!).  Season lightly and add potatoes and enough water to barely cover.  Cut the bacon or ham into large chunks and add to the pan.

Simmer for about 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir in the cream, check the seasoning and serve immediately.  (Ann's Note:  as stated above, I simmered for about an hour total.  After 30 minutes, it just didn't seem like most of the liquid had evaporated so I cooked it for another 15, then added the cream and cooked it for about another 15 after that.)

And here is what the author said about this dish:  The combination of apples and/or pears with potatoes and smoked pork in a savoury one-pot meal crops up all over German-speaking Switzerland under many different names.  In the old days, the fruit would have been dried, the potatoes from stocks in the cellar and the bacon or ham from the family pig.

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