May 31, 2014

Himmel und Erde (Heaven & Earth), plus International Bento (German)

Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth) is a classic regional meal popular in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz (also called the Rhineland-Palatinate), among others.

This is really more of a serving suggestion than a recipe - I'm assuming that you know how to make simple mashed potatoes, and can source decent sausage, onions, and applesauce. A basic sort of peasant dish, Himmel und Erde is simply mashed potatoes, served with sausages, applesauce, and fried onions. Himmel, or Heaven, is invoked by the apple, which grows high in the air, and Erde, or Earth, is invoked by the potato, which in some German dialects is Erdapfel ("earth apple", not unlike the nomenclature for French pommes de terre, which also means "apples of the earth"). But where do the sausage and fried onions come in? Well, short answer is, that the sausages are pork, and Germans seem to serve pork with almost everything. Fried onions are just a bonus.

The classic iteration of this dish that I can find is with blood sausage and bratwurst, and that's what I've done here. The blood sausage is a smokier version of the United Kingdom's blood pudding, which you could also use in a pinch. The applesauce I made by peeling and dicing some pie-making apples into a saucepan with a pinch of salt and some water, and then simmering and stirring until they became sauce, but you could use any applesauce you like (I would avoid overly sweetened ones myself...but a lot of Germans probably wouldn't). Then, it's just a matter of cooking it all up and getting it onto the plate.

So, boil your potatoes to make the mash, and warm up your applesauce. While that's happening, sauté your onion rings in the same skillet that you're using to cook up the bratwurst. When the applesauce is ready, turn it off with a lid on to keep it warm. Push the onions and bratwurst to one side of your skillet, and add the slices of blood sausage to the pan. Let the blood sausage cook over medium heat (turning once) for about five or six minutes, while you mash the potatoes. Once the potatoes are mashed, the onions and sausages are fried and standing by, assemble as desired.

I'm contemplating a slightly more elegant version of this dish using roasted potatoes and apples in wedges, in some sort of clever baking-dish assembly, but that hasn't happened yet.

I sent the leftovers to work with Palle the next day as a German bento. There are extra onions acting as a bed for the blood sausage, and no bratwurst (this seemed plenty filling for a lunch as it was). His co-workers seem to find it amusing when he arrives with home cooked German food for lunch, while many of them head out for pizza and Burger King.

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