Alsatian Foodways (traditional)
From Jay Gage, exhibits and textiles curator, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Library, Fargo
Alsatian "Winstub" bistros serve a white wine which is more fruity, full-bodied, and drier than most German wines. The foods of Alsace tend to the simple and uncomplicated in concept; yet, the Alsatian cuisine rates high in European reputation, due to the melding of both French and Germanic sensibilities.
The lightness of "Foie Gras", originated in 18th century Straussbourg. The most typical dish is "Tarte Flambée" which is a paper-thin "pizza crust", brittle crisp, with a thin covering of double cream, shaved onion slices, and lean bacon slivers, garnished with parsley.
Another popular meal is "Choucroute Garnie", a fragrant herbed sauerkraut mounded on a platter with plump ground-meat sausages and ham slices/herbed goose. An alternative choice for fish creates a "Choucroute aux Poissons."
A specialty is "Baeckeoff" [Bake-off], a casserole of pork, lamb, and beef marinated in white wine with juliened-sliced potatoes and small whole onions, flavored with sweet basil and bay/laurel leaf. This dish is allowed to linger and simmer at more than three hours in a pre-heated bread baker's oven.
"Escargots (large snails are force-fed corn-meal) a l'Alsacienne" is succulent with garlic and parsley. "Coq (Rooster) au Riesling" is simmered and roasted in wine. "Matelote du Rhin" is a regional fish stew, unique to that locale.
Munster cheese, "Bretzels" (pretzels), and gingerbread provide a continuity of food choices to linger with "Kougelhopf", (a crown-shaped raisin cake) and assorted petite fruit tarts.
Baeckeoffe (Alsatian casserole)
In Alsace, this distinctive food dish was originally brought to the village bakery, to be cooked slowly in the baker's oven, which cooled slowly after fired to high heat. This recipe serves 5 or 6 diners" (Alsatians would often add a scalded pig's foot and tail to this casserole.)
1 lb. boned pork loin
1 lb. boneless beef brisket or blade steak
1 lb. boneless lamb shoulder
2 lb. potatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups Reisling or other dry white wine
1/2 lb. yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, halved
bouquet garni (consists of bay leaf, parsley, thyme & allspice)
salt and pepper
Cut meat into bite-sized cubes and marinate for 24 hours with some wine, bouquet garni, a few onion slices, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Layer potato slices and remaining onion slices in an earthenware baking dish with lid. Pour remaining wine slowly over casserole. Cover tightly with lid or a double thickness of aluminum foil with shining side of aluminum foil facing the food. Cook for three hours at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Serve this casserole with green salad and a beverage of Pinot Blanc or Reisling.
Senf-Nudeln (mustard noodles)
This distinctive regional food, despite an obvious Germanic taste for sour, is widely embraced among regional French classic cuisine.
1 cup clarified butter
1 cup Dijonaise mustard
1/2 cup fresh chopped herbs
2 to 3 lbs. egg noodles
Most commercial butter is "unwashed", leaving the 20% buttermilk (whey) intact within the churned butter, plus heavily salted. To prepare "clarified butter", slowly melt unwashed butter in double boiler until liquid butter fat floats to form a top golden layer. The butter milk (whey) and salt sink to form a water-based sediment. Now place these two separated liquid layers of oil and water into a cold freezer to harden. Upon hardening, remove from cold freezer, lift hardened "clarified butter" from whey and salt residue -- then quickly rinse with cool water and pat dry with soft cloth. Now re-melt pure butterfat ("clarified butter") for assembling ingredients.
Combine one cup of Dijonaise mustard or "Grey Poupon" brand mustard. With one cup of melted "clarified butter" at medium heat. Remove from heat to stir in your favorite fresh herbs, whether finely chopped sweet basil, parsley, fennel, thyme, caraway, or dill -- usually one-half cup.
Then cool in refrigerator to marinate flavors for 24 hours. Then reheat to serve hot over freshly cooked egg noodles (2 or 3 pounds), which are freshly tossed with the mustard/herb marinated butter.
Some historic Alsatian recipes for summer salads used blanched garden green beans -- by substituting the "clarified butter" for a dressing of Dijon mustard with mayonaise, sweet cream, honey, and white vinegar.
Dr. Jean Schweitzer, Professor Emeritus of Alsatian Ethnic History/Geography, University of Strasbourg, was consulted on food traditions of Basse Alsace, when Jay Gage, GRHC curator, visited Kelm am Rhine and Straussbourg, Alsace, during July 1996. The elite book store, Oberon, (near the Straussbourg Cathedral) has the best book selection for classic and regional foodways of Alsace.