Monday, March 10, 2014

Mixed Plate: My Fruschoppen Brings All the Boys to the Yard...

My fruschoppen brings all the boys to the yaaaaard... And they're like It's better than yours, damn right, it's better than yours... I could teach you, but I'd have to chaaaarge.  I don't think Kelis ever had that variation in mind when she did Milkshake a few million pop culture years ago, but that's what I had my brain singing as I was hauling pounds of sausage and bags of pretzels home with me, so that they could be unleashed on a hungry horde. Bavarian brunch anyone? I guarantee it'll bring all the boys (and girls) to the yard. 

Germany does breakfast Like A Boss - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I mentioned before in a post about our trip to Germany, that the traditional Bavarian brunch, fruschoppen, was one of the greatest discoveries my appetite ever had. It's pretty much the perfect meal: sausage, fresh pretzels, sauerkraut, pickles, potato salad, and copious steins of beer. All had in the later hours of morning, into the afternoon. Granted, it's not your typical Eggs Benedict or waffles and pancakes, but why should a definition of a late morning meal be so narrowly defined? And how many ways can you possibly have Eggs-Benny by now, your brunch appetite must be craving something else by now.

Sausage par-taaaaay! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The answer to the mundane brunch gathering can be found through German ingenuity. And having access to a deli that procures traditional Bavarian sausages and fresh pretzel bread. Another great thing about this style of brunch is, you're mostly prepping the food, very little cooking is involved, unless you want to make the sausage and pretzels from scratch. Not impossible, an enviable challenge, but not for me on a lazy weekend over the holidays. I sourced all the sausage and pretzel bread from Liebchen Delicatessen, over in Bellevue; they put together delicious deli sandwiches at their meat counter, and they also sell a lot of European snacks, sundries and ingredients that might be harder to find in a typical grocery store. I was buying in bulk, and they were able to supply me with  large quantities of Seattle-made pork-based knackwurst/knockwurst, pale veal-based bockwurst, and a smoked frankfurter-style sausage. The bockwurst had the most subtle flavor and the pale color probably seemed a little off-putting, but it had a nice, light taste, given the veal filling. The knockwurst and frankfurter sausages were the most popular; fuller, meatier flavors, especially the smoked sausage. For American palates that are used to stronger flavors, at least in this area, going with the bigger flavors is probably best.

Bavarian brunch is all about the accessories, both sweet and savory - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Pretzel bread is a perfect accompaniment to the rich sausages. I went with little loaves, versus the traditional woven knot shape. The loaves were easier to slice in half so people could tear into them or make mini buns and eat with the sausages. The pretzel bread has a nice salty, bitter skin, and a tender, chewy inside, like a bagel. Pretzels have so easily transformed into the bite-sized, crunchy snack, we forget its bready origins and what a great side dish it can be to rich meats. And it's all about mixing the flavors and textures -- having a couple of different mustards, pickles, and a big bowl of sauerkraut balanced out the sausages. I made a big bowl of German-style potato salad, which I'm not really sure what makes it different from typical potato salad except that some recipes said it needed to be served warm versus cold. Room temperature was fine by me, since this was a buffet, but a side dish with a little chill to it was nice, up against all this other food.

Flammekuchen, my one true love! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Since it was the holidays, there were other random sweets, like apple tarts (they should have been strudel, but I had too much filling and not enough pastry dough - whoops), and pumpkin-filled hand pies. Not traditional, I just had the leftover pumpkin filling. The big baked treat that I was excited to make wasn't sweet at all, it was the holy, almighty flammekuchen/tarte flamme, which we became addicted to in Alsace. A treasured flatbread of deliciousness, covered in cream sauce, cheese and bacon, it was a super-rich addition to the table of already rich foods. I used a recipe from Eat. Live. Travel. Write's blog, which also celebrates this dish as a wondrous thing.

All this, and I didn't even mention the beer. Well, mostly because we didn't stick strictly to tradition -- we had a couple of German-style beers, very light and easy to drink with all this rich food, but people brought favorite beers, which means it all turns into a hop-gasmic event of Pacific Northwest proportions. A Hefeweizen would be a good beer choice, we had an interesting grapefruit-flavored Radler which was an ideal breakfast beer. I opted for glasses of bubbly, but that's just me, and there was plenty of coffee-sipping.

All parties end with an overstuffed dog and Archer reruns - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The brunch table was eventually ravaged, the feast commenced to a slow graze, I had nearly killed Indy with feeding her too much sausages (such a no-no; the rich meat causes the pancreas to inflame - double whoops), and everyone zoned-out on their sausage and beer buzz with Archer reruns. A sign of a successful party come to a close. You certainly don't need to wait for the holidays to hold a fruschoppen gathering; I highly recommend doing these frequently, since it's unique, relatively fuss-free and much easier than throwing a custom-crepe or DIY omelet party, because no one's got time for that business.

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