Learning From “The Master”

Frohe Weihnachten! (Happy Chirstmas!)

Christmas Eve at my Oma and Opa’s has always had an extra special place in my heart. I learned to value food, its production, the time spent making it, and the time spent enjoying with those you love from my Austrian and Yugoslavian born grandparents at a young age. Really, they have ingrained it in our entire family, and let me tell you, its – amazing. To not only know how to cook, but how to can your own vegetables and fruits, tomato sauce, pickles, jellies, jams, and yes, even bottle a signature fiery house-made schnapps of multiple aromatic fruit varieties (including an interesting herbal one which I still have not fully passed judgement over) is quite the cooking adventure to learn from your elders. Add making homemade bread, pasta (spatzle), and a hand spiced and ground sausage to the pot, and as my pops would say ” if there was a natural disaster, we know who is surviving on their 6+months worth of insanely good food supplies”.

That said, I was pretty excited at my prime age of early twenties for the Brit and I to assist my Oma for the first time, ever, in creating her incredible traditional Christmas Eve spread, with a few extra plates added to the menu so that the Brit and I could learn a thing or two from “The Master”. Boy, did we ever.

Lets start with that all important menu :

Napa Cabbage Salad, Red-Wine Braised Red Cabbage, Brandied Carrots,  Roasted Cauliflower, Mashed Potatoes, German Potato Salad, Handmade Spatzle, Opa’s Kickin Roasted Sausages, Garlic Slow Roasted Prime Rib, and some lovely fruit and Oma’s famous Christmas Cookies for dessert.

Now, with that menu, you would think this woman is feeding a family of 50, not 20, especially if you knew the prime Rib was between 20 and 30 lbs. Oh, look at that, now you do 🙂

As is now known, my Oma is not used to being put in a delegate’s position, and thus the duty of instructing others to work on various dishes, does not come naturally to her, per-say. However, she did an amazing job as it for being a newbie, as well as for showing us a thing or two on how to get her dishes to taste, well… just like she makes them for us in Chicago, but we can try to recreate it in San Francisco.Sigh. Alas – of course my holiday will never be topped without my amazing boys (cousins, brother, and boyfriend!) , parents, and grandparents (shhh don’t tell them I didn’t say Grosseltern!) in tow. Love the family. Love the photo. Love learning from “The Master”.

So with that said, I would like to share my first few cooking tips and tricks with you for you to try (and apologize for not having  the recipes! but this would be one long post if they too were embedded within).

1) Napa Cabbage Salad with Shredded Carrots

#1- Trim Napa(aka Chinese) Cabbage extra thin, slice cabbage (which has been halved and cored) top down, in a quick cutting/shaving motion to barely shave off the ends of the cabbage, and achieve a nice texture

2) Red Wine Braised Red Cabbage

#1 – Use a mandolin to cut your cabbage (which has been halved and cored) shards extra thin starting at the top of the cabbage half, for this allows for easier braising

#2 – Rotate your cabbage half 1/4 to the left, and 1/4 to the right every 20 to 25 strokes to achieve uniform pieces

#3 – Use red or ruby port wine to achieve a sweeter finished result (and a less tannic dish) for that authentic german taste sensation!

3) German Potato Salad

#1- Bring vinegar to boil in a sauce pan and add a chicken bouillon cube (or 1 tsp jarred chicken bouillon) to the vinegar before pouring “dressing” over potatoes, bacon, and onions – mix well

4) Spatzle (German Handmade Pasta)

#1 – Add 1 tbsp butter or oil to boiling water to keep pasta from sticking

#2 – Lightly shake Spatzle press every few seconds to create short, supple, Spatzle pieces

#3 – Stir pasta in pot every few presses of pasta to make sure all pieces do not stick together


About Heather K

Community Manager by day - Aspiring Food Writer by night. I'm a dreamer, traveler, baker, cook, slow food advocate, runner, road biker, hiker, walker, urbanista, photographer, ceramicist, reader, sunset admirer, experimental, city kid, well-rounded, independent, and lover of all things English (esp. my Brit). Food. It connects everyone. It creates cultures, experiences, emotions, and environments. I grew up with a sibling, so I like to do sharesies - yes at dinner but online too. Plan - I share my passion for food with you, you share yours with me. We can have a proper chat :) Its the one thing I will never tire to chat (or learn!) about. Oh, and it would be superb to figure out my writing style and voice while I'm at it. Learn a little about myself here. Discuss experiences, trials, tribulations, and the journey. You know the schpeal. Go ahead. Take a bite.
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