June 22, 2014

Schweizer Wurstsalat (Swiss Sausage Salad)

This is an enormously popular salad in this part of Germany, and while variations are also enjoyed in Switzerland, Austria, and the Alsace, this particular version of Wurstsalat (which also goes by the names "Straßburger Wurstsalat" and "Elsässer Wurstasalat") is often referred to as "Schweizer", meaning Swiss, because of the inclusion of Emmental cheese. It's a common summertime snack (as you can imagine, it goes rather well with a nice glass of beer) or light lunch, and easy to pack for a picnic.

As with the Rheinischer Kartoffelsalat, in my last post there are many, many iterations of this salad, and you can easily customise it as you see fit. As previously, I'm posting a fundamental version for your consideration, but feel free to adjust the proportions of the key ingredients — as I served this with the potato salad as linked, I kept the number of pickles somewhat discreet, although I have seen some versions that boast almost as much pickle as meat, and ones with a shocking amount of onions. There are versions with or without cheese, and versions with mayonnaise instead of marinade. Some delis here will have two or three different versions, so you can choose depending on your mood. So feel free to let your own needs and preferences dictate the balance of the various ingredients.

One thing that I appreciate about grocery shopping here is that there tends to be no real difference in price for "format shifting". That is to say, if I buy my cheese or meat as a block, or in slices, or shredded, it costs pretty much the same, priced by weight. Since I can buy pre-julienned sausage here, too — available, I'm sure, expressly due to the popularity of this salad in these parts — this dish comes together in a snap. You'll see that the marinade is quite similar to that of the potato salad, but has less liquid, since none of the marinade gets absorbed.

Schweizer Wurstsalat
Swiss Sausage Salad

Serves 4

300 grams thinly julienned sausage (recommended: Schinkenwurst or Lyoner sausage)
1/4 - 1/2 medium yellow or red onion, finely sliced
6 - 8 cornishon-style pickles, julienned
3/4 - 1 cup grated Emmental cheese (or Edam, or Gouda)

100 millilitres vegetable broth or stock
1/4 cup finely sliced green onion
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon hot mustard
3 tablespoons neutrally-flavoured vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or coarse sea salt
ground white pepper to taste

Heat the vegetable broth/stock until not-quite boiling, and remove from the heat. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine the green onion, parsley (finely minced), vinegar, mustard, oil, salt and white pepper and whisk. Slowly pour in the broth, whisking, to bring the marinade together. Add the julienned sausage and stir well, ensuring each piece is thoroughly coated with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight. Stir periodically, if convenient.

When you're ready to finish the salad, give it a quick stir, and then add the yellow or red onion, the pickles (julienned), and the grated cheese. Toss lightly to ensure that the marinade (I guess it's a dressing, by this stage) gets evenly distributed, and serve with buttered bread on the side.

One of the attractive looking versions that I've seen includes tiny bits of red chile peppers (and possibly also chile flakes). You could also use paprika sausage (which is essentially Lyoner sausage with pepper flakes) for all or a portion of the meat. I wouldn't use a super aged or smoked Gouda here, as it might overpower (or, go ahead, but maybe use half the amount of cheese to start, and adjust as necessary). While this salad is normally served without greens, you could certainly serve it on a bed of baby lettuces, for a sort of chef salad effect (with or without the hard-boiled egg). You could probably also use it as a basis for a pasta salad, although I think you would need quite a bit more marinade, and maybe more parsley.

June 19, 2014

Rheinischer Kartoffelsalat (Rhineland-Style German Potato Salad)

Summer weather has arrived in Rheinland-Pfalz, and with it many restaurants have switched over to their summer menus. Oh, not to worry, you can still get the heartiest of hearty items (Sauerbraten, Rinderrouladen, Goulash, etc.), but the seasonal offerings have definitely shifted. This includes a fundamental shift in the lunchtime menus from fried potatoes (that is, bratkartoffeln) on the side, to potato salad.

I was a pleased and surprised, here in the heart of sweetened mayonnaise country, to discover that most of the potato salads in this region are marinated in a vinaigrette as opposed to a creamy dressing. What didn't surprise me, however, is the lack of crumbled bacon in the salads. Oh, a lot of them have pork in them, but it's ham. Tiny, tiny cubes of fried ham. Also, not every potato salad, even the Rheinisch ones, contains pork - although plenty of them do. But it is definitely not the crumbled bacon, or even bacon bits, that so often comes with the "German Potato Salad" label in Canada. I chose to make this one vegetarian, simply because I was serving it as part of a duo alongside a sausage and cheese salad, and decided that my meat requirements were being well met already.

At its most plain, this potato salad omits the radishes, and at its most fancy (known as Bunter (colourful) Kartoffelsalat) it will have not only the radishes, but also a sparse inclusion of red and/or yellow bell pepper pieces, and possibly fresh cucumber to go alongside the pickles. The fun thing about salads is that it's very easy to customise them to your personal tastes. So, by all means, feel free to add the extra vegetables. Or tiny cubes of fried ham. This ham-free version is vegan.

Rheinischer Kartoffelsalat
Rhineland-Style German Potato Salad

Serves 4 - 6

2 kilos waxy potatoes
1/2 medium yellow onion
4 cornishon-style pickles
4 large radishes

200 millilitres vegetable stock or broth
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon hot mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
white pepper to taste
1/4 cup parsley (and/or fresh dill)

Boil and peel the potatoes in whichever order you choose. Allow them to cool, and then cut them into slices. Some of those slices will break up a bit - that's supposed to happen, and if it doesn't happen now, it probably will when the remaining ingredients are stirred in. Put the potatoes in a bowl with a bit of extra room (to allow you to stir).

In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock or broth (or heat up some water and add vegetable base as is appropriate). Add the vinegar, mustard, salt and white pepper, and whisk to partially integrate. Finely dice the onions, and add them to the stock, simmering very briefly - not for more than about two minutes. Pour the onion-stock mixture over the potatoes, and stir through. Allow to cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then stir in the parsley. Cover and place in the fridge. Let the potatoes soak up the liquid for at least an hour or two, then thinly slice and add the cornishons and radishes, and any of the optional additional ingredients that you like. Taste, and add a little extra vinegar if you like (places around here serve it extremely tart, which is very refreshing in hot weather) and more salt if needed. Allow the salad to chill again, covered, for about half an hour, and serve. If you like, you can garnish with wedges of hard-boiled egg or tomato. I like to do a final pass with freshly ground black pepper to serve.

Coming soon: Swiss-style Sausage Salad (Update: Now posted!)