Category Archives: Austrian

Potato Salad

The potato salad I grew up on was “creamy”,[1] that is, dressed with mayonnaise.  While I remember that dish fondly, I now make a very different type of potato salad, one closer to those I ate in Austria.

The single biggest challenge in making potato salad is having well-cooked potatoes that still hold their shape, and the most important factor in this regard is the variety of potato used.  It must be a waxy, yellow-fleshed variety.  North American varieties like Yukon Gold are okay, but there are some European varieties, like Linzer Delikatess, that are quite simply made for German potato salad.  They have the proper smooth, creamy mouthfeel, and a roughly cylindrical shape that means they slice into … Continue reading.

The Hunter’s Cabin

Or: Manly Pursuits in the Austrian Alps

 

A stream in the hills of Lower AustriaOf the handful of places I worked in Austria, Looshaus, near Kreuzberg, was my favourite. Looshaus is a restaurant and hotel with maybe twelve rooms in the mountainous borderland between Lower Austria and Styria.

I didn’t know this at the time, but the building itself is a fairly famous little piece of architecture.   It was designed by Adolf Loos, an Austro-Hungarian architect who worked in the first part of the last century.  His most famous buildings are the American Bar in Vienna, a short walk from Stephansplatz, and the Goldman and Salatsch building, on Michaelerplatz, also in Vienna.  In 1930 he designed an alpine home for Paul Khuner, the Viennese food … Continue reading.

Beef Liver Dumplings

Liver!For me, the most shocking part of buying a side of beef was how much liver we got.

A lot.  I like liver more than most, and I thought it was too much.

If you have to get through a lot of liver, there’s no better way than to just sear it in a pan and tuck in.  When the distinct, glandular texture of liver wearies the palate, there are liver dumplings.

This was a staple when I was in Austria.  Lunch always consisted of soup, meat, and dessert, and the soup often contained some manner of offal.  Most notable were the soft, bready liver dumplings the size of a toddler’s fist, floating in beef broth.

The biggest problem with … Continue reading.

Alternative Pork Primals: Belly-Loin Combo

I first learned the pork primals in culinary school, and for years I considered that information dogmatic. Then in an Austrian grocery store I saw this:

Carinthian Farmer's Bacon in a grocery store in Austria

 

It’s called Carinthian farmer bacon (Kaerntner Bauernspeck).  Carinthia is a province in southern Austria, known for its rustic food.  It took me a few moments to realize where exactly this cut would have come from on a pig.  It is in fact a pork loin, with the side or belly still attached, cured as one large piece, cold-smoked, and sold in thick slabs.

Novel cuts like this are just as easy to butcher as the classics.  Following is a quick tutorial, with photos, to prove the point.

Here is a side … Continue reading.

Serviettenknödel – Austrian Bread Dumplings

This post is actually about two kinds of Austrian dumplings that are made from old bread.

The first is best made with bread that is a few days old, bread that is dry, but not brittle.  If you let your bread sit for more than a week, so that it’s completely hard throughout, you can make the second dumpling.

The first dumpling, made with days-old bread, is the Serviettenknödel, which literally translates as “serviette dumpling.”  Much like the French word torchon, which means towel, Servietten implies that the dumplings are shaped into cylinders by rolling in a towel or serviette.

The old bread is first cubed and soaked in milk, butter, and egg (full recipe below).

Then the … Continue reading.

Austrian Coffee Culture

I was surprised to learn that Austria has a strong, distinct coffee culture.  I probably shouldn’t have been, as the adoption of exotic goods like cane sugar and coffee beans was the hallmark of European imperialists, and Austria, as the granddaddy of European imperial powers until the First World War, has been roasting, grinding, brewing, and drinking coffee for centuries.

The story of how coffee came to Austria was told to me several times during my stay.  In 1683, the Ottoman army, led by the Grand Vizier, besieged Vienna.  A Polish soldier named Jerzy dressed in Turkish garb and left the city to contact Duke Charles of Lorraine and ask for assistance.  Jerzy snuck back into the city, bringing a … Continue reading.

Fleischknödel – Meat Dumplings

This is the single most useful preparation that I learned in Austria.  It’s invaluable to establishments that use a lot of cured meat, but also a good trick to have in the home kitchen.  It’s called Fleischknödel (approximately: “FL-EYE-SH KNUH-dl”).  Fleisch just means meat, while Knödel is a type of dumpling that is popular in Austria and Bavaria.  Fleischknödel is a fantastic way to use up leftover meat, whether cooked or cured.

Most cooks are familiar with how to use scraps of raw meat.  When butchering a side of pork, for instance, you reserve the miscellaneous bits of meat and fat so they can be ground and used in sausages and forcemeat.

There’s also leftover trim when cutting cooked and … Continue reading.

Würstlstände – Austrian Sausage Stands

Sausages and beer from an Austrian Wurstlstand.Würstlstände are Austrian sausage stands.  They punctuate the sidewalks of every city in Austria.  People from all walks of life crowd around these kiosks for, say, a quick lunch, or a post-bar snack: a sausage, fried or steamed, served with some manner of bread, mustard, and beer or pop.

While certain types of sausage appear on almost every würstlstand menu, it can be frustrating trying to pin down their characteristics, as a huge variety of sausages can go by the same name.  Bratwurst, for instance, is sometimes based on pork, sometimes on veal, sometimes stuffed into slender lamb casings, sometimes into wider hogs…

Here are some very general descriptions of the most common würste:

  • Burenwurst – Apparently a
Continue reading.

Käsekrainer – Austrian Cheese Sausage

Fried KaesekrainerWhile outsiders might consider Wiener Schnitzel or Apple Strudel the national dish of Austria, most Austrians acknowledge a special sausage called Käsekrainer (“KAY-zeh KREYE-ner”) as their greatest culinary achievement.

In a nutshell Käsekrainer is a sausage filled with little cubes of cheese.  Like many classic Austrian preparations, it is not entirely an Austrian invention. Käsekrainer has the same relation to Austria that pizza and hot dogs have to the United States: they are unquestionably of foreign origin, but they have been adapted and adopted by the new country.

If you’ll allow me… let’s break down the word Kasekrainer…

“Käse” means cheese.

Krain is the German name for the Slovenian region of Kranjska, historically called Carniola by English-speakers.  This is one … Continue reading.

Austrian Heuriger

Heurigen (“HOY-ree-gen,” singular heuriger) are special taverns in Austria that serve young wine or cider, depending on the region.

The word heuriger literally means something like “of the current year”.  So for instance new potatoes are called heurige erdäpfel.  With regards to wine it refers to wine from the last vintage, ie. wine that has not been bottled or aged.  Heuriger taverns open up for a couple of weeks at a time so that guests can drink young wine and eat plates of cold food such as cheese, spreads, bread, and charcuterie.  The word for these savoury accompaniments is brettljause (“BRET-tel YOW-ze”).  Brett means board, as the food is usually spread out on a wooden board.  Brettl, … Continue reading.