Jeremy & Jessica Nolen: New German Cooking

Quite possibly the best German cookbook in the US at the moment. Read my review of New German Cooking, featuring an original recipe for dandelion green salad.

dandelion salad large.jpg

9781452128061_350New German Cooking. Recipes for Classics Revisited is what Jeremy and Jessica Nolen modestly called their German cookbook. In Germany, rediscovering culinary traditions has been en vogue for a while now, but all too often the strategies for revival are the same. In books and food magazines, traditional recipes are “re-invented” by adding or substituting some sumptuous ingredient: a goulash made from wild boar here, some extra Riesling there, a rabbit stew on top of your Maultaschen. New German cuisine it seems, equals prime ingredients, locally and organically sourced, rare and pricey, added to traditional recipes. There is nothing wrong with this, but it doesn’t really testify to creativity or innovation. Why then refer to this as “new”?

Jeremy and Jessica Nolen’s book New German Cooking deviates from this pattern in refreshing ways. The authors are the chef and pastry chef at Brauhaus Schmitz in Philadelphia and their rich experience in German restaurants ties this book together. Accordingly, the book doesn’t miss out on some beer hall favorites, pretzels, schnitzels, sausages. Sauerkraut Fritters or Beer and Cheese Soup speak the language of the beer hall, but with an accent so unique that it made me want to pack my bags and head to Philly to try the food right there at the Brauhaus. (I’ve become enough of a New Yorker already to consider this a really big step.)

beer cheese soup

But New German Cooking easily transcends the realm of the stereotypical. It showcases an abundance of healthy and fresh ingredients, and its vegetables and salads chapters might actually be the ones that impressed me most. The recipes use typical German ingredients and flavors, but mix them up in new and exciting ways. A Kale salad comes to mind that combines gouda cheese, roasted paprika hazelnuts and a dressing featuring mustard, garlic and, yes, Maggi sauce. The recipe has become a staple in my salad repertoire, along with the Dandelion salad featured below.

dandelion salad small
The dandelion salad from New German Cooking is easily one of my favorites. Last time I made it, I barely managed to shoot this photo before the salad was gone…

The book is truly informative, introducing German food culture: Brotzeit, sourdough breads or festive roast goose (again, not without an interesting twist: glazed with Gewürztraminer and filled with a pretzel-apple stuffing). It teaches the reader how to make head cheese and sausages, things most home cooks might not actually want to try out. But the recipes are fascinating reads and the beautifully shot images make this book a real pleasure to browse.

Exceptional ingredients appear in the places they belong, developing their star qualities at the center of the respective dishes such as the Cold-Smoked Venison Carpaccio with Pickled Oyster Mushrooms or the traditional Hasenpfeffer. The latter is thickened with blood sausage rather than, the traditional way, with hare’s blood, which strikes me as a reasonable adjustment for the American cook.

New German Food is a book dedicated to cultural mediation. Both on the level of recipes and of the informative and well-written commentary. That such an educational mission is risky terrain, shows the introduction to the potato salad recipe: “Let this serve as the definitive reminder that German potato salad never contains mayonnaise or bacon!” Barely noticeable to the American reader, this erroneous verdict on mayonnaise, leaves a gaping hole in the middle of many a German Christmas Eve dinner table, grocery store shelve and street stand. It also contradicts the authors’ own emphasis on regional diversity, which in other places opens up wonderful trajectories like a whole chapter on fish.

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The photography by Jason Varney ties in very nicely with the stories told by the recipes, showcasing a clean and yet homely atmosphere. This German Gemütlichkeit comes through also in the dessert chapter that focuses on a small, but well-curated selection of baked goods. And many of them could really add to a traditional German afternoon coffee table. The Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate and White Chocolate Torte strikes me as such an invention. Referencing my childhood favorite Nutella, it once more showcases what makes this book a treasure: the combination of familiar German flavors into truly new creations that feel elegant but not over the top.

Dandelion Green Salad with Warm Bacon-Mustard Seed Vinaigrette. New German Cooking features a couple of recipes that can be made with foraged wild ingredients, such as this salad. I fell in love with the dressing that is sweet and salty and rich and pairs amazingly well with the bitter greens.

dandelion salad large.jpg

Croutons

  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread, cut into 1/2 in cubes
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt

Dressing

  • 1 lb thick-cut bacon, cut into pieces 1 in wide
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1 large bunch dandelion green, aber 12 oz, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

dandelion

Step 1. Make croutons. Preheat the oven to 350°F/l80°C. Put the pumpernickel cubes in a medium bowl, drizzle with the butter, sprinkle with the salt, and toss to coat the cubes evenly. Spread the cubes on a sheet pan and bake until they are firm but not completely hard, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Step 2. Make the dressing. To make the dressing, in a medium frying pan, fry the bacon over medium—high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain off the bacon fat from the pan into a small heatproof bowl and reserve For another use. Turn the heat to low, add the shallot and garlic, and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the vinegar and brown sugar and stir until thoroughly combined. Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the mustard, and then slowly whisk in the grape-seed oil until emulsified.

Step 3. Assemble. Put the dandelion greens in a large bowl. Pour the warm dressing over the dandelion greens and toss until wilted. Serve immediately, topped with  the croutons.

One thought on “Jeremy & Jessica Nolen: New German Cooking

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