Friday, November 30, 2012

Sausage Pfanne, yes that’s pan with a pfft!

So one of the first real German meals I had here in Fulda was this traditional mountain fried potato sausage wonderfulness back in February.  We arrived here in January and the funny thing about Fulda is there are more Italian restaurants that any other type combined.  So since we really couldn’t find good Italian when we were living in SoCal, we indulged.  When we finally got around to finding a few German restaurants I wanted to try some Hessen classics.  One that we found at the Hohmanns Brau Haus was the Rhöner Bauernpfanne.  The Rhön Mountains are a group of low mountains that run through central Germany.  They are an icon of the area that we live inand we have one about a kilometre behind our apartment and the tallest one, Wasserkuppen, is only about a 20 minute drive away.  Bauernpfanne roughly translates to farmer’s skillet and by how heavy and hearty it was you can see this easily being served by a German Oma in the deep winter to warm the body and soul.  What I remember about the HBH version was how heavy and rich it was.  I’d had it in February when we had a cold snap and the weather was regularly dropping to -15°C and after that meal, during the walk back to our hotel, where we were still living at that time, I was warm and toasty.  The only negative I could say about that original dish was that since it was mostly root vegetables and pork, by the end of the meal it had become a little one note. 
Even so, once we had finally moved into our apartment and all of our kitchen accessories arrived, I was still thinking about the dish and decided to try my hand at a Thirsty version.  So below is my variation on the dish, trying to make it a little lighter and at the same time a little healthier.

Such beautiful colours!

Thirsty’s Sausage Pfanne
First things first and vitally important you should pour yourself a glass of wine.  I usually take one sip and then forget about it until the pan is in the oven, but I like it to get my mind in the right place.  Food and drink are so intertwined in our palettes that it’s really hard for me to separate them and that little sip usually gets me to thinking about how the flavours will blend and what new thing I can throw in there to make a subtle change.

All ingredients waiting to be loaded into the pan.

So when I get into the kitchen, Mrs. Thirsty usually starts her internal war of conflicting emotions.  She loves it when I do the cooking but we have a rule in our house that when one person cooks, the other cleans the kitchen.  She thought this was great until she really witnessed the horror the kitchen was usually left in after my genius/insanity.  So she’s spent the last few years subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) training me to minimize the disaster.  With this in mind, when I prep for this meal I try to stick to one pan, one spoon, one cutting board, one knife and a few prep bowls.

Makes 4 servings, 2 if Mrs. Thirsty and I are really hungry ;)

Prep Time 30min
Cook Time 60 minutes

4 Sausages, Fresh, uncased and chopped (German or Polish, I use pork but to up the healthy factor you could swap out a chicken or turkey sausage)
250g Bacon, uncooked, diced (More than anything here I'm trying to get the richness and saltyness of the bacon fat, a healthier option would be about 2 Tablspoons of coconut oil and a pinch of salt)
½ of a Purple Cabbage, Chopped
1 Red Sweet Pepper, seeded, and diced
250g Green Beans, chopped into 2cm pieces
1 large Carrot, peeled and sliced thin
4 medium yellow potatoes, diced with skin
1 large apple, cored and chopped with skin
1 large Shallot, fine diced (this can be swapped for about 1/8th a cup of onion)
3 cloves of Garlic, crushed and chopped
2 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar
½ TSP Cumin
1 TBS Herbs de Provence
2 TSP Sunflower Seed Oil (or any oil with a higher smoke point)
Couple shakes of Green Tabasco to taste


1)      I want to add some different flavours and textures to the dish to keep it from taking on a monotone taste.  So what I’m doing here is staging the ingredients to cook them all at different times to get some different textures in the dish
a.       Bowl 1 - Garlic and Shallots
b.      Bowl 2 - Potatoes, Carrots and Beans
c.       Bowl 3 – Pepper and Apple
d.      Bowl 4 – Cabbage
2)      Now, while the oil is heating up in an oven safe pan on medium high heat, I dice the bacon up and push it to the side of the cutting board.  Pre-heat oven to about 175°C (375°F for my American friends and family)
3)      Put the shallot and garlic (bowl 1) into the hot oil and then uncase the sausage.  The easiest way I find to do this is slit the sausage lengthwise on the inside of the curve.  Then holding the sausage in each push with your thumbs on the outside of the curve.  The slit should split and the sausage should come out easily in two pieces.  Once it’s all uncased, a rough chop with the knife to break it up into some nice sized chunks and the knife can go in the sink
4)      Once the onions are a soft and the garlic is starting to brown, add the bacon to the pan.  Give it a couple minutes to start rendering that fat off and add the sausage in.  As above for a healthier option here you could use a couple table spoons of coconut oil to imitate the richness of the bacon and a chicken sausage.
5)      Brown the sausage up.  You want it so that the pink is gone but you haven’t started getting that nice crispy crust from the Mailliard reactions yet (think the dark crispy outside of a roast in the oven).  Now add the contents of bowl 2 to the mix, periodically mixing everything up until you are just starting to see some colour on the potatoes.  After the first couple minutes  in the pan I usually add the Cumin, Herbs de Provence and Tabasco
6)      Once you are seeing the browning on the potatoes, add bowl 3 and bowl 4 on top of it without mixing anything and splash the cider vinegar on top.  Put the cover on the pan and place it in the oven.  At this point I set the timer for 20 minutes and put the cutting board and prep bowls in the dishwasher then grab my glass of wine and book and sit for a bit.
7)      After the timer goes off, open the oven, take the top off (watch out for the steam, nothing like having the oven fog your glasses then getting a face full of vinegar steam) and stir it all around a bit.  You should be getting some juice in the bottom of the pan from the water coming out of the veggies.  Close it back up and put the timer on for another 20 minutes.  I generally top off my wine and relax, dinner is almost ready.
8)      When the timer goes off pull it out of the oven and fluff it up a bit and serve.  

Photo taken after serving up two hearty bowls!
So the dish should end up filling with out being heavy and while the core flavours are the same, there should be little changes in each bite depending on if you get more cabbage or apple, etc.  The cabbage should be a little al dente with the potatoes and carrots soft, the sausage still juicy and the apple and peppers adding an occasional bit of sweetness to balance the bitterness from the cabbage, the salty from the bacon and just that hint of vinegar to keep it from becoming too rich.  There shouldn’t be too much of a sauce but if you want more you could plan to add a half cup of dry white wine to the pan before the second 20 minutes in the oven.  This should leave you with an Au Jus that will be tasty but you may want to give it an extra 10 minutes uncovered in the oven at the end to cook out that raw wine flavour and reduce.  We have this about once every other week or so in the winter because the root veggies are more common and it seems like cabbage is a staple around here in the winter.  It’s fairly quick if you prep the ingredients a head of time and relatively healthy plus the big bonus of being Gluten and Lactose free.