Cooking with Beer in the Austrian Kitchen

Cooking with Beer by | Oct 2014 | Issue #93

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

There is something special about recipes from the Old World. Austrian flavors fall into this category. Rustic cuisine that has been around for centuries, these recipes are rich in heritage, and have a soul-satisfying taste that evokes great-grandmother’s kitchen. These Homebrewchef interpretations of Old World recipes will warm the house, take off any chill, and pair perfectly with a variety of beers. Enjoy!

This Austrian version of roasted pork layers the sweet, juicy, pull-apart-tender pork with caraway seeds, peppercorns and lots of garlic. As a main course it’s perfect during the cooler fall months, however, Schweinsbraten makes for a wonderful dish any time of year.

Serves: 6–8 people

Spice Rub Ingredients:
2 tbsp whole caraway seeds
2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 each garlic cloves

In a skillet or sauté pan over high heat, add the caraway seeds and peppercorns. Stir and shake the pan to evenly toast the spices until they start to pop and the aroma fills the kitchen. Remove them to a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and allow to cool. Pulse several times to create a moderate grind of the spices. Add salt and pulse a few times. Then add the garlic cloves and pulse a few more times to make a slightly sticky salt mixture. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Pork Ingredients:
4–8 lb. pork, shank, knuckle or shoulder
14 each garlic cloves, sliced in half lengthwise
12 oz beer, preferably a Bock, Dopplebock, Märzen or Rauchbier
1 each large yellow onion, sliced into thick rings

When shopping for the pork, ask your butcher for a large shank or the meat on the other side of the knee or knuckle to get that traditional cut. A pork shoulder with the bone in is another option. Using a long boning knife, create holes in the meat by slowly stabbing the pork alongside the bone. Next, take the sliced garlic cloves and season with some of the spice rub. Press a slice of garlic into each of the holes and push the clove deep inside the pork, slightly mashing the garlic, helping it to release into the meat as it marinates. Finally, use your hands to apply 2/3 of the remaining spice rub onto the outside of the pork and into all of the meat’s crevasses and pores. (Optional: if you have an injection needle, take your lager of choice and inject the pork with beer.) Wrap the pork in plastic wrap or place into a large plastic bag and seal it. Refrigerate for 24–72 hours to marinate and cure.

Preheat oven to 275–300°F. Push the onion slices  apart to make rings, and arrange them over the entire bottom of a roasting or casserole pan. Unwrap the pork and center it over the onions. Taking care not to wash any of the crust off the pork, pour the beer over the onions. Cover the roast with aluminum foil and seal tightly, allowing the pork to steam in the beer and onions. Place into the center of the oven and cook for 6–8 hours. Remove the foil during the last hour to allow the pork crust to crisp and brown. The Schweinsbraten is done when it is tender and soft when pushed with tongs.

To serve, remove the pork from the roasting pan to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. This will give you time to make the sauce. Carve the meat off the bone into larger chunks first, then slice these chunks on the bias to create thin steaks. Divide the meat among the plates and pour the rich Caraway Onion Beer Gravy over the pork and alongside a Semmelknöedel. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.

Caraway Onion Beer Gravy Ingredients:
4 quarts pork stock (below)
12 oz beer, preferably a Bock, Dopplebock, Märzen or Rauchbier (same beer used in pork recipe)

As the roast cooks, bring the pork stock to a boil. Let it reduce from a gallon to a quart. Once the pork is done cooking, take the beer stewed onions and any pork drippings and add to the stock. Add the remaining spice rub and reduce the sauce to about 48 ounces.

Add in another beer (the same used to steam the pork) and purée the sauce to thicken it. If it’s too thin, mix 2 tablespoons of soft butter with 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to make a paste. Add paste to the sauce and whisk to incorporate.

Bring the sauce back to a boil and cook for a few minutes until the flour absorbs the liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more caraway if the flavor is weak. Serve.

Pork Stock
Nothing beats a freshly made stock as it adds rich flavor to a soup, sauce or dish. This recipe is easy, and makes the whole house smell wonderful.

Makes: 4 quarts

1 each yellow onion, very large (or 2 medium), chopped
1 each leek, sliced in half
4 each celery stalks, chopped
4 each carrots, peeled and sliced
3 each bay leaves, preferably fresh
3 each fresh savory sprigs
6 each fresh thyme sprigs
6 each garlic cloves
2 each pork trotters, cut in half lengthwise

Place ingredients into a large stockpot and add enough water to cover them by 3 inches (about 7–8 quarts). Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 6–8 hours. As the stock cooks, use a ladle to skim and remove any scum on the surface. Once done, it will be elegant and full flavored with a wonderful meat and vegetable richness. Strain the stock and transfer to containers; Mason jars work well. This stock can also be made ahead and will last up to 6 days in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

Semmelknöedel is an Austrian bread dumpling. Simple to make, and traditionally served with roasted pork, goulash and other stews, the attention to details make these dumplings one of a kind. Stale bread is the real key ingredient in this recipe, creating the dumpling’s texture and bringing that Old World flavor to the plate. The dried bread also has an absorbent quality that works with the egg to help bind the ingredients together.

Serves: 6 people

1 loaf bread, preferably sourdough (or about 1 pound of rolls)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, preferably European style
1 each yellow onion, large, peeled and chopped
1 each shallot, peeled and minced
8–12 oz beer, such as a Hefeweizen, Bock, Kölsch or Märzen
3 each eggs, extra large
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, cracked
2 tbsp Italian leaf parsley, chopped breadcrumbs or all purpose flour (if needed for thickening)

Begin by slicing a loaf of bread and arranging it over a clean countertop or table so that the slices don’t touch. Let the bread stale overnight, if possible. The next morning the slices will be dry and crisp most of the way through. Stack them three slices high and cut into 3/4 inch-thick squares. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a sauté pan over medium high heat, add butter and let it melt and start to bubble. Add the onion and shallot, seasoning with a pinch or two of salt. Sauté the onions for about 8 minutes, or until they start to become translucent and lightly browned. Take the onion mixture off the heat and cool for 15 minutes, or until it can be handled.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then adjust the heat to barely create a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they are a homogeneous yellow color. Add 8 ounces of the beer of your choice (depending on the bread used and what these knöedel are served with, the beer will contribute extra depth to the finished dish) along with salt and pepper, and whisk to make a uniform mixture.

Add the liquid mixture to the cubed bread, followed by the cooled onions and the parsley. Toss ingredients together and let them sit for 30 minutes to allow the stale bread cubes to fully absorb the beer/egg mixture. Next, use both hands to squeeze and press the mixture together. It should hold a ball shape and stay together. If the mixture is too dry, add more beer, pouring evenly over the entire mix, then re-mix and test the consistency. If the mix is too wet, add breadcrumbs or flour one tablespoon at a time to get the right texture and moisture content.

Form the mix into large orange-sized balls and place onto a sheet tray. These can be made ahead of time and refrigerated up to 6 hours. Alternatively, the dumplings can be added directly to the simmering water and poached for 16–20 minutes. The dumplings will float. Gently stir them once after 5 minutes to prevent any sticking. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain the dumplings for a few seconds and transfer to a warm platter. Serve family style or place one on each plate.