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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Frikandellen

In several days time, on January 29th, Holland will be the scene for another highly culinary event: the annual Frikandellen Eating competition. Held for the seventh year and hosted by the Men's Choir of Heukelum, a small town in the province of Gelderland, twenty contestants will compete for the challenge trophy and, oh joy, the Golden Frikandel.

Gelderland is no stranger to interesting sausages: it is supposedly the birthplace of Gelderse kookworst and rookworst. In Dutch, worst means sausage which may, on the whole, not be totally coincidental, as the meat used for many of these sausages is not exactly the best. The Gelderse version is made of lean pork, seasoned with a particular set of spices and slightly smoked over oak and beech, then eaten either cold (kookworst) as luncheon meat or boiled (rookworst) with split pea soup or boerenkool, that lovely wintery dish of mashed potatoes with kale.

Frankwin's "broodje frikandel"
So what is a frikandel? It's a skinless deep-fried sausage, made of chicken, pork and beef. It can be served by itself or with mayo, in a roll (broodje frikandel) or cut open and doused in mayo, (curry) ketchup and minced onion. This culinary concoction is called a "frikandel speciaal". This savory sausage is Holland's number one snack, only every so often bumped off its champion position by number two, the kroket, the big brother of the bitterballen. Fried snacks such as these are traditionally sold in neighborhood "snack bars" or "automatieken", like the Febo.

Kroketten, bitterballen and frikandellen are also the top three fried snacks most missed by Dutch expatriates. The first two are fairly easy to make, but I had never tried my hand at making frikandellen until this weekend. It's a bit of a hassle but you'll be surprised at how close to the real thing this recipe is. So get your mayo, ketchup and onions ready, because it's time for a frikandel!

Frikandellen
1 pound of beef
1 pound of pork
8 oz of chicken
3 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of black peper
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
3 teaspoons of onion powder
3/4 cup of whipping cream

Grind the meat very, very fine and blend together with the spices and the cream. Watch out for the motor if you do this on your food processor, and do small batches to prevent overheating the appliance.

Many thanks to Frankwin for
the recipe and all the help!
Bring a large pan with water to a boil. If you have a sausage grinder or stuffer, just hang the end of the tube over the pan of boiling water. If you don't, you can make this contraption to push the meaty mush into a sausage shape: take a 16oz soda bottle, preferably with straight edges, and cut off the bottom. Find a glass or something solid that fits snug inside the bottle so that you can push the ground meat through the opening. You are going to need a lot of strength to do this! Please make sure the pan with boiling water cannot be bumped off the stove and keep kids, pets and impatient eaters out of the kitchen. Safety first!

Now fill the bottle with the meat, tap it tight so that there are no air pockets and hold the bottle over the water. Push the meat through the opening and have someone else cut the string of meat every ten inches or so. The meat will shrink at least a third in the water, so the longer the better. Frikandellen measure on average a good seven inches long.

Allow the meat to boil for five to six minutes, on a medium boil, then retrieve the sausages and dry them on a cooling rack.

Once they've cooled, you can freeze them for future use, or you can crank up the deep-fryer. Straight from the cooling rack, they need about 3 to four minutes in the hot oil (fry at 375F). For frikandellen speciaal you can cut them lengthwise, about 2/3s in, before you fry them.

Serve with mayo, with a bun or "speciaal". If you start training now, you might still be in time to participate in the National Frikandellen Eating competition this year. Good luck!!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gebakken Peren

"To be left with baked pears" is a typical Dutch saying which indicates you are in trouble, or that you're left holding the proverbial bag. Presumably the expression comes from the Middle Ages, where women sold stewed or baked pears on the street. If they had not sold all their merchandise by the end of the day, they were left "stuck with baked pears".

Whether that's true or not, I am unsure but it's a cute story and I'll go with it. Holland has many sayings that involve food somehow: cheese (laat zich het kaas niet van het brood eten), vegetables (een kool stoven), fruit (met de gebakken peren zitten), or meat (wat voor vlees je in de kuip hebt), beans (boontje komt om zijn loontje), butter (boter op zijn hoofd hebben) and ofcourse bread (de een zijn dood is de ander zijn brood).

I found a recipe for baked pears in an old Albert Heijn cookbook but found the execution a little on the boring side. I tend to follow recipes to a T, especially because I want to make sure I reflect the original flavors, but in this case I allowed myself a little culinary freedom. Baked pears are traditional in the verbal fashion, but are not a typical dish or one with much history. However, for a change, one can be glad to be left "stuck with baked pears"!

Gebakken Peren
3 large pears, firm (I used Bartletts)
3 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of sugar, divided
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of panko or unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of vanilla flavoring
 2 tablespoons of chopped hazelnuts

Wash and cut the pears in half, don't remove the stem nor peel the fruit. Melt the butter in a skillet and place the pears cut side down. Fry at a low temperature until the pears are golden on the cut side, about ten minutes. Place the pears, this time cut side up, in an oven dish, sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and panko and bake for twenty minutes at 350F.

In the meantime, let the butter in the skillet cool a little bit, then add the rest of the sugar while stirring and carefully add the vanilla and the water. Be careful that the sugar has absorbed the butter before you add the water, otherwise it will cause lots of splattering and may cause burns! Stir over heat until the sauce thickens and caramelizes, add the hazelnuts and take off the stove.

Place the pears under the broiler so that the breadcrumbs can brown. Take one pear, place it on a plate and spoon the hazelnut caramel sauce over it.

I served the pears with hangop: 16 oz of plain yogurt is left to drain in a moist cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl for 24 hours. Stir the remaining creamy yogurt with a tablespoon of powdered sugar, just enough to take the sour edge off the dairy, and whip for several beats to incorporate some air into the yogurt. This is called "hangop" or "hangup" in Dutch and is an old-fashioned dessert.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bapao

Bapao, or ba pao, is a steamed bun with a savory or sweet filling. Originally from China, it made its way into the Dutch kitchen via the cuisine of Indonesia, a former colony of the Netherlands. The savory filling is traditionally made with ground beef and is flavored with Chinese five spice powder (fennel, anise, ginger, cinnamon and cloves) and sweet soy sauce.

The bun is best enjoyed warm, with a sweet chili dipping sauce. You can buy these Indonesian gems in snackbars, at the grocery store or at the city markets. Look for a small white trailer that sells Vietnamese loempias, i.e. egg rolls, and you're bound to find they also sell ba pao. The fillings can be beef, chicken or vegetarian (usually some sort of tofu mixture).

It's an easy snack to make and once steamed, cooled and properly wrapped, it will hold for several weeks in the freezer. All you need to do is pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes (wrapped ofcourse!) and your snack is ready! Because of the sweet dough and the savory filling, it is a favorite with both kids and adults.

Bapao
1 lb of ground beef
1 green onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of five spice powder*
2 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce**
1 teaspoon of salt

For the dough
4 cups of self-rising flour
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt

Parchment paper
Steamer
Tea towel

Cut the parchment paper into 3x3 inch squares. Brown the beef in a skillet and pour off some of the fat, if there is a lot. Mince the white part and 2/3s of the green of the green onion and stir, together with the minced garlic, into the meat. Sauté until the garlic is translucent, then stir in the spices and the soy sauce. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

Put the steamer on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Tie a tea towel around the lid to avoid any water dripping from the lid onto the dough.

Knead a dough with the flour, the milk, the sugar and the salt, and cut into 2.5oz pieces. Flatten each ball into a circle, not too thin, and add a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture in the middle. Wrap the dough around it, pinch it shut and place the bapao, seam side down, onto a square of parchment paper.

When they are all done, lift the lid on the steamer, place the bapao on the perforated pan. Leave plenty of space between buns as they will rise and expand considerably. Replace the lid and steam the bapao for about fifteen minutes. Carefully lift the lid and keep it straight as tilting it may cause condensation to drip on the buns. This will ruin the fluffy dough, so be careful!

Remove the buns carefully, let them cool a little and enjoy them with a sweet chili sauce dipping. Makes approximately 10-12 bapao.


I was rather conservative with the filling,
but you may want to fill this puppy up,
the dough will hold it!

* Five Spice Powder is easily found in regular grocery stores, in the Asian food section. If you cannot find it, try this recipe.

** The Indonesian sweet soy sauce is called Ketjap Manis. Not easy to come by in the United States but if you replace it with regular soy sauce, add a 2 teaspoons of sugar to the meat and carefully adjust the salt, as regular soy sauce is rather salty.