Red or green?
The sausage was German, but with a bit of a kink (there was a lot of spice). Still, it was produced by a family-owned and now legendary New York German butcher shop, so we both thought of pursuing the idea of a German meal through a judicious choice of its accompaniments, even if it would be more of a creative, 21st-century and (narrowly) cosmopolitan German meal.
I had probably, without knowing it, been saving that package of Spätzle noodles for just such an occasion, as I hadn’t felt they represented the echt thing (which has to be egg noodles made by hand, at home), and I was reluctant to pass them off as such. This seemed to be the right moment to try them out.
We had first tasted these fantastic sausages, on buns, with condiments, at Schaller’s Stube, which is, naturally (was sonst?), a ‘sausage bar’. Half of the name, and probably almost half of the sausages special interest, comes from a certain ingredient, ‘hatch pepper‘, identified with New Mexico, and not with Germany.
So I thought it made at least some sense, at least using a little imagination, to accompany these capsicum-flavored sausages, and the German ghost pasta, with some really excellent tomatoes I had ripening on the breakfast room windowsill, since both peppers and tomatoes originated in the lands of what is today known as Latin America.
- four smoked hatch chile sausages from Schalle & Weber, pan grilled until they looked just a little blistery, served with a bit of ‘Meretina’ horseradish spread from Schaller & Weber and some organic German-style Texas-manufactured mustard from Whole Foods Market
- eight ounces or so from a packaged Swabian specialty, ‘Traditional German Egg Pasta Spaetzle’, made in Trochtelfingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
by Bechtle (I don’t remember where it was purchased), cooked in a large pot of salted water for about 10 minutes, turned into a large high-sided tin-lined copper pot in which most of one thinly sliced red onion from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the 23rd St. farmers market had been sautéed, along with a little dried orange/gold habanada pepper, in a couple tablespoons of Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’ from Whole Foods Market, until the onion was more than softened, the mix seasoned with sea salt and Tellicherry pepper, a couple teaspoons of chopped thyme from Stokes Farm added and tossed in, garnished on the plates with purple micro radish from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- two large heirloom tomatoes from from Sycamore Farms, cut into wedges, tossed with a roughly-chopped section of the same red onion used with the Spätzle, seasoned with sea salt and Tellicherry pepper, drizzled with some Sicilian olive oil from Whole Foods, and a little white balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with the same mix of herbs assembled for the dinner of the day before (a combination of peppermint, bush basil, and oregano from Norwich Meadows Farm, summer savory and thyme from Stokes Farm, fennel frond from Alewife Farm, and dill flowers from Eckerton Hill Farm)
- the wine was a California (Central Coast) rosé, Keith Hock Central Coast Rosé 2015, from Naked Wines
- the music was the album, ‘The Eos Ensemble / Jonathan Sheffer – Music For Merce‘, a choice inspired by our visit to the first rooms of the Museum of Modern Art’s Rauschenberg retrospective that day (we will be returning, probably more than once, to the exhibition)
It was a Germanic meal, and a pretty darn good one.
- four ounces of Norwegian canned cod liver, King Oscar Lofot Torskelever (from the Schaller & Weber store, served with little more than pinches of a few condiments (freshly-ground black pepper, Sicilian wild fennel pollen from Buon Italia, chopped celery leaves from , sliced Japanese scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm, and a bit of juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon)
- toasted slices of Orwashers Moroccan olive bread (rustic wheat, white flours; black, green, Kalamata; Moroccan spices)
The entrée was very German, with a few small tweaks, and while the local German sausage, with the New Mexican hot pepper was really, really good, I thought both of the vegetables were pretty astounding. It’s all about our terrific local farmers, and GrowNYC, for getting them to us.
I love cabbage of any kind, and Sauerkraut in any form, but I chose the less familiar (and Rhenish?) ‘Weinkraut’ for this meal, because we were going to be drinking a good riesling.
- the Wurst was German, with spice, so it was modern German: four smoked spicy Hatch Chile sausages, also from Schaller & Weber, pan seared until they looked a little blistery, served with a classic German mustard, Löwensenf Medium and a dollop (occasionally refreshed) of the contents of a tube of ‘Meretina‘ horseradish spread, again, soured from Schaller & Weber
- in Germany the potato dish is described as Saltzkartoffeln (salt potatoes): it starts with some incredibly sweet, buttery small fingerling new potatoes from a farm whose name, unfortunately, I had somehow forgotten to record when I bought them in the Union Square Greenmarket weeks ago, scrubbed, boiled whole and unpeeled in heavily-salted water until barely cooked through, drained, halved, dried in the still-warm vintage Corning Pyrex Flameware blue-glass pot in which they had cooked, barely a tablespoons of Organic Valley European-Style Cultured Butter added, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, arranged on the plates and sprinkled with homemade breadcrumbs that had first been browned in a little butter with a pinch of salt, garnished with chopped parsley from Alex’s Tomato Farm in the Saturday 23rd Street market
- the Sauerkraut was actually Weinkraut (wine cabbage), and not ‘sour’ at all: one chopped sweet medium Walla Walla onion from Alewife Farm, and one cored, peeled, chopped Idared apple from Samascott Orchards, sautéed in a tablespoon and a half of duck fat inside inside an enameled cast iron oval pot until softened, followed by one 16-ounce glass jar of sauerkraut (simply cabbage and salt) from Millport Dairy Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket that had been drained and very well-rinsed in several changes of cold water, then drained once again, squeezed, and the strands separated, the cabbage braised with the vegetables, stirring for a couple minutes, then 9 smashed whole juniper berries, about the same number of bruised whole black peppercorns, one whole fresh bay leaf from West Side Market, a little salt, and a tablespoon of olive oil added and mixed in, and one cup of a Spanish Rueda, Nisia Verdejo Old Vines 2016 (we didn’t have any spare German wines) the liquid brought to a boil and simmered over a low flame, stirring occasionally, for less than half an hour, covered, then uncovered for about 20 minutes more
- the wine was, well, it’s complicated historically: an Austrian (Weinviertel) white, Riesling “Falkenstein” Dürnberg 2015, from Astor Wines
- the music wasn’t German or Germanic at all, although I suppose it could be described as part of a shared Frankish culture and history: Charpentier’s 1686 opera, ‘La descente d’Orphée aux enfers’
I had no plan for what I was going to make for dinner, other than that 2 ripe plum tomatoes would be a part of it. Then I remembered that Barry was going to be very near Schaller & Weber on the Upper East Side that afternoon, and I knew that one of their excellent ‘ancestral’ German wursts would do just fine. Or maybe something not so traditional, like their terrific smoked ‘hatch pepper‘ chili sausages. We had enjoyed them at their Stube and at home, but we thought they had only been a short-term summer special. Neither of us expected they would still have any, but they were there when Barry checked their Metzgerei selection.
I wasn’t sure what to serve with those two choices, tomato and spicy sausage (they didn’t seem to add up to a full meal on their own). I had just about decided on a few small boiled potatoes, with some fresh herb, when I remembered I had brought home some really small cucumbers earlier in the day. Now the meal would be neither German nor Italian; maybe it was just New York-ish.
(these cukes are only 2 to 2 1/2 inches long)
- four smoked hatch spicy chile sausages from Schaller & Weber, pan grilled until they looked a little blistery
- two ripe ‘striped Roman’ heirloom plum tomatoes from Berried Treasures Farm, halved, their surfaces dried, the cut sides placed on top of a mix of sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper spread across a plate, pan-grilled inside an enameled cast iron pan for a few minutes, turned, the grilling continued for about the same length of time, removed, arranged on the 2 plates, brushed with a bit of olive oil and a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar
- a couple handfuls of tiny cucumbers from Norwich Meadows Farm (they were labelled, ‘Excelsior’, but they seemed to me to be several different kinds), sliced lengthwise, sautéed in a little olive oil inside a large enameled cast iron pan until they had begun to caramelize, and, shortly before that moment, joined by thick slices of a ‘scarlet’, or ‘Japanese’ scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm and some finely-chopped pieces of a small Calabrian medium-hot cherry pepper from Alewife Farm, seasoned with se salt and freshly-ground black pepper, served on the plates sprinkled with a little micro sorrel from Two Guy from Woodbridge and drizzled with olive oil
- the wine was a California (Amador) red, Ana Diogo-Draper Amador Tempranillo 2015, from Naked Wines
- the music was Francesco Antonio Bonporti’s 10 Inventions, Op. 10
Only a few hours before I began to prepare it, I hadn’t thought I’d be making dinner at all Saturday night, but by the middle of the evening it seemed like it would be the most comfortable way to satisfy our hunger, better than a restaurant, and also better than ordering even a very good pizza. There would be great company, a good table, agreeable climate control, good decor, great music, unexpected flavors, and not too many dishes to wash afterward.
It was mostly a matter of assembling things for which others had done the hard work earlier (local others).
There was an appetizer because I had already opened a package of a great hard salami the week before, and I had a stash of some terrific semi-wild red cress that would not stay at its peak forever. Also, the frozen package of filled pasta did not represent a lot of food for two by itself.
- two ounces, thinly sliced, of a luscious local finocchiona-style sausage, ‘Finochiona’ (pork, salt, red wine, spices, garlic, evaporated cane juice, celer extract, lactic acid starter culture) from Rico and Jill of Walnut Hill Farm in Pawlet, Rutland County, Vermont, which now sells at the Union Square Greenmarket on Fridays (the sausage is made in collaboration with Jacuterie, an artisanal charcuterie company south of them, in Ancramdale, Columbia County, New York
- handfuls of red watercress from Dave’s Max Creek Hatchery (I still had a lot left), dressed with a good olive oil, Renieris Estate ‘Divina’ (a Koroneiki varietal), Hania, from Crete, purchased at the Chelsea Whole Foods Market, a bit of juice from a small organic California lemon (Sespe Creek Organics), also from Whole Foods, some local salt (Phil Karlin’s P.E. & D.D. Seafood Long Island Sound sea salt), and freshly ground black pepper
- slices of ‘Seedy Grains’ (wheat, spelt, rye, and barley organic bread flours; buckwheat; oats; flax sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds; water, and salt) from Lost Bread Co. in the Union Square Greenmarket
The main course pasta was as delicious as it was pretty.
- most of one garlic scape from Phillips Farms, chopped, followed by one small chopped shallot from Lucky Dog Organic Farm, slowly heated in a tablespoon or two of olive oil inside a large antique high-sided tin-lined heavy copper pan until they had begun to color and smell fragrant, followed by one sliced fresh habanada pepper from from Campo Rosso Farm, briefly stirred with the alliums before being joined by more than half a dozen or so halved Kalamata olives olives from Whole Foods Market, followed by the introduction of a still-frozen 10 ounce package of Rana portobello-mushroom-and-ricotta-filled ravioli from Eataly that had been cooked, al dente, immediately before, everything stirred together over a low flame, along with some of the reserved pasta water, until the liquid had emulsified, the pasta arranged inside 2 shallow bowls topped with a bit of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano from Whole Foods, olive oil drizzled on top and around the edges, the dish finished with a little micro purple radish from Windfall Farms
- the wine was a French (Beaujolais) red, Barbet Beaujolais Beau 2016, from Copake Wine
- the music was music of Laurence Crane, on the album, ‘Crane: Drones, Scales and Objects’, performed by the Cikada Ensemble, on the Norwegian record label LAWO Classics