Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Recipes from Luxembourg

I am happy to report that this week’s meal was not the comedy of errors that last week’s meal was, though that does generally make for less entertaining reading. In fact this week’s meal was actually fairly painless, so, sorry about that.

This week we are in Luxembourg, which you’ve probably heard of though I’ll bet you ten bucks you couldn’t point it out on a map. It’s in Western Europe, bordered by Belgium, Germany and France, or maybe I should say “enveloped” because this place is so tiny that it’s like a freckle on the nose of western Europe. At 998 square miles, Luxembourg is about 150 square miles larger than Jacksonville, Florida, and considerably smaller than all four of Alaska’s major cities.

 Grand-Duché de Luxembourg. Photo by Antonio Ponte.
There are more than 100 castles in Luxembourg, which automatically makes it a place I’d be keen to visit. Compare that to 600 to 700 castles in the UK and at first you might be unimpressed, until you realize that the UK has about six to seven times as many castles in roughly 94 times as much land area. So to put that in perspective, at its most generous estimate the United Kingdom has one castle every 134 square miles, while Luxembourg has one every 10 square miles. Yeah, I’d definitely like to go there someday. I love castles.

Given its diminutive stature and geographical proximity to France and Germany, I’m sure it will not surprise you to hear that Luxembourg shares many of the same culinary traditions as those two larger nations. I actually stayed away from the more French looking recipes because I wasn't game for anything complex this week. Instead I chose a pretty rustic menu:

Gequellte Grompere mat Porrettenzapp (Jacket potatoes with leek sauce)
(from Gekonnt Gekocht)
  • 3 1/3 lbs medium-sized potatoes
  • Coarse salt
  • 4 leeks
  • 4 1/4 cups sour milk or buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp mustard (I used Dijon)
Luxembourg stuffed roast beef
(from Kochmeister)
  • 3 1/3 lbs rump roast
  • 6 tbsp oil
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 2 large onions, sliced thinly
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cubed
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 bunches parsley
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups gravy 
  • 10 1/2 oz cooked ham
  • 10 1/2 oz Gruyere cheese
  • 24 whole mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup whiskey
Schuedi, the great Luxembourg sugar cake
(also from Gekonnt Gekocht

For the dough:
  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • Lemon zest
  • 1 pinch salt
For the topping:
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 5 tbsp sugar
Let's do the beef first, because it has to go in the oven a couple of times:

First rub the meat all over with oil and season with cayenne pepper. Transfer to a roasting pan and surround with the onions, carrots and parsley. Roughly chop three of the four tomatoes and add to the pan. Melt the butter and pour over, then bake at 425 degrees until an internal thermometer reads 125 degrees (note that the original recipe said to cook for an hour, which I think would have overdone the meat). While cooking, baste with the gravy.

Let the meat rest for 10 minutes, then slice thickly.

Put thin slices of cheese and ham between each slice of meat, then tie the whole roast back together with some kitchen twine.

Pour off the juices from the roasting pan and transfer the roast back to the pan. Top with the rest of the cheese. Slice the last tomato and place the slices on the top of the roast, then scatter the mushrooms around in the pan.

Now pour the whiskey on top and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes at 425 degrees (I took mine out as soon as the cheese melted). Serve.

Now the potatoes:

First wash the leeks, then split them lengthwise and slice thinly. Leeks are always full of grit and dirt--I actually wash them when they're whole and then again in a colander after I've sliced them. Set aside.

Now mix the mustard with the buttermilk and cream, and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat over a medium flame, and then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook, stirring continually, until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, cook the unpeeled potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes. Serve immediately with the leek sauce poured over.

And now for the cake:

First proof the yeast by mixing 3 1/2 tbsp of melted butter with the sugar, a pinch of salt and about 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Add the yeast and let sit until frothy.

Now mix the flour with the egg, lemon zest and milk. Add the yeast and knead for 12 minutes. Transfer to a floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with a clean towel and let stand in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Spread the dough evenly into a buttered cake pan, then let rise for another 30 minutes.

Press down gently with your thumb to make some indentations in the dough, then place shavings of the butter into the dents. Melt some butter and use a pastry brush to paint the melted butter over the rest of the cake. Sprinkle thickly with sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden. Let cool and serve.

Both the beef and the potatoes were delicious, though a bit on the rich side. I thought the cheese and ham stuffing was really different and very tasty with the beef, but I couldn't eat a lot of it. Unfortunately the dish was also a lot of wasted vegetables, because my kids don't eat vegetables. Now, I am well aware of how bad that is so I like to point out that they eat a lot of fruit at other times of the day but yeah, most vegetables are wasted on them. I loaded up my plate and so did Martin, but we still ended up throwing a lot of them away.

I don't have to tell you what they thought of the sugar cake, though. Because, cake.

Looking back it does seem like there were some complexities to this meal but next to Lithuania it was easy. The hardest part was probably just putting the roast back together after slicing it, and if you compare that to potato water soaked beach towels in the living room, well, I can guess which one you'd choose.

Next week: Macau


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