Monday, March 2, 2015

Recipes from Liechtenstein

I have finally met a cheese I don't like.

I once would have thought it was impossible. I *love* cheese. Before I had kids, one of my favorite things to do was visit cheese shops and sample all the different cheeses, and then go home with some exotic, wonderful cheese that I've never had before and eat it with some sort of fancy or unusual cracker. Haha! Like I could ever do such things today, with four kids in tow.

So up until this point I have not been phased by the idea of ordering cheese online, even though it costs a lot of money to ship the stuff (We don't really have any gourmet cheese shops here. Scratch that--up until two days ago I didn't know we had a gourmet cheese shop here, but that's a different story.) Anyway I was getting my exotic cheese from, and that's where I got the two cheeses I used for this week's meal.

Let me back up a little before I start telling you that story. This week we are in Liechtenstein, which is a really, really tiny country in Central Europe. It is so small, in fact, that not only can you not see it on this big map, but you also can't really see it very well on the zoomed in version, either:

Liechtenstein is tiny. At 62 square miles, it is roughly the same size as New Milford, Connecticut. Never heard of New Milford, Connecticut? That's because it's tiny.

Now, clearly Liechtenstein has a short man's complex, because despite its diminutive size it has a lot going for it. In fact, it has the highest gross domestic product per person in the world when adjusted by purchasing power parity. No, really. And if you measure by GDP per capita, it is the second richest nation in the whole world, after Qatar. It also has one of the lowest rates of unemployment anywhere in the world (1.5%). Liechtenstein is mountainous, which means it's great for skiing (not that I ski or anything) and (I'm not making this up) it is also the word's largest exporter of false teeth. Which I don't know, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that someone put that little factoid in Wikipedia for fun and it's not actually true, but it does make for entertaining reading.

Schloss Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Photo by jimynu.

Anyway, the food in Liechtenstein is is heavily influenced by its neighbors, Austria and Switzerland. Potatoes are popular there, which seems to be pretty typical for the region, and the nation's large dairy industry also means that cheeses are an important part of the cuisine. Really, really stinky cheeses.

So here's my menu (both recipes are from Liechtenstein's Tourism Board):

Pepper Venison
  • 2 lbs shoulder of venison
  • 3 oz onions, chopped
  • 2 oz carrots, chopped
  • 2 oz celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 8 cups red wine
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves
  • 8 whole allspice corns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 10 juniper berries
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Splash of port or sherry

  • 4  3/4 cups flour
  • 8 eggs
  • 7 to 8 tbsp fresh water
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2  tbsp butter 
  • 2 oz Appenzeller cheese, grated
  • 2 oz sour cheese, grated
So I was excited about this. I've never cooked venison before and I had to go on a bit of a hunt for it--I finally learned that I could order stew venison from the co-op here in town. That's one thing checked off my to-do list. And then there was the cheese.

What's that smell? (Photo by Artizone)
Appenzeller is available on, which described it as being "appreciated by cheese connoisseurs around the world," and "a delicacy on any cheese platter." Sounds great, doesn't it? I ordered some. In retrospect, I am a little angry that nowhere on the iGourmet website was I warned about what I was getting into.

Now the sour cheese, that was a bit more of a challenge.

Sour cheese cannot be had anywhere in the US, and I suspect there's a pretty good reason for that. Several sources referred to it as "strong" or "not for everyone." I was not dissuaded, because up until that point I'd never met a cheese I didn't like, strong or otherwise. I looked for Handkäse, I looked for Harzer, and even for some of the lesser-known varieties of sour cheese from the region. The closest I could come (which probably isn't close at all) was Limburger. So I got some of that, too.

Armed with all of my hard-to-find ingredients, I started with the venison.

First place four cups of the wine in a pot with the apple cider vinegar, half the vegetables and all of the spices. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let cool. Pour over the meat and let marinate in the fridge for a couple of days (or up to a week).

Filter the marinade into a saucepan and reserve. Let the meat drain for a couple of hours, then heat the oil in a pan and sear the meat on all sides with a little salt.

Gently heat the marinade on the stove. Meanwhile, heat up some oil in a separate pan and saute the rest of the vegetables. Add the meat and stir until it darkens (mine was already almost black from marinating in the wine for all that time). Now add a cup of wine, a little more marinade and the spices. Let stew for an hour or so, until the meat is tender.

Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a warm plate. At this point the recipe starts talking about what to do with the pig's blood, which was news to me because pig's blood wasn't anywhere in the ingredient list. But then it says to thicken the stew with toasted flour if you don't have any pig's blood, which was good, because I didn't have any pig's blood. So I just toasted the flour in a dry pan until it took on a golden color, and I mixed it with a little water before adding it to the sauce.

Now add the port or sherry. Put the meat in another pot with the rest of the wine, and add the sauce. Season with a little salt and pepper.

And now for the Käsknöpfle.

I made the mistake of opening the cheese and grating it before I made the dough. Don't do that.

Appenzeller is stinky. In fact, it's so stinky that I didn't even notice the Limburger, which for most Americans is the stinkiest cheese going. Appenzeller is so stinky that I smelled it for hours. The odor permeated everything. By the time I was done making the dough, I had no appetite left from smelling the Appenzeller.

So wait until the very end to grate the cheese. First, put the eggs, flour, water and spices in a bowl and make a dough. Let rest for 20 minutes, then grate. Laugh because you think I must be joking.

I couldn't grate this. It just wouldn't go near the holes in the grater. So I recruited my husband and kids to roll it out into really small lengths of rope and cut it into tiny pieces, which is probably not traditional but it seemed to work.

While your family is slaving away at this, fry the onions in the butter until golden.

Drop your finished pasta into boiling, salted water and cook until the pieces float. Remove with a slotted spoon and top with the grated cheese and the onions.

So despite the smell, it really didn't taste that bad. I've actually found that to be true with most stinky cheeses--the flavor tends to be pretty mild compared to the stink. But because I'd smelled that stink all evening, I just couldn't eat it. I mean, I did, but I didn't enjoy it. Neither did my kids.

I did like the stew. It was really rich and flavorful. In fact it was so rich and flavorful that it was almost disappointing, because it could have been any meat in that dish. I didn't particularly even notice the flavor of the venison.

My husband was unphased by the stinky cheese. So unphased that a few days later he put the rest of the Appenzeller on omelets. My poor kids walked into the kitchen and about fell over from the stink. We had to throw out half the omelets because no one would touch them, myself included. Though Martin did eat his, and so did my older son, whose culinary adventurousness never ceases to amaze me.

Next week: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Liechtenstein Liguria, Italy Lithuania Lombardy, Italy Lorraine and Alsace, France* - See more at:
Liechtenstein Liguria, Italy Lithuania Lombardy, Italy Lorraine and Alsace, France* - See more at:
Liechtenstein Liguria, Italy Lithuania Lombardy, Italy Lorraine and Alsace, France* - See more at:
Liechtenstein Liguria, Italy Lithuania Lombardy, Italy Lorraine and Alsace, France* - See more at:


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