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Three Days Until
Oktoberfest
By John Havel

Much as summer's warm days and plentiful rains lead to sun-ripened tomatoes and plump eggplants, frigid winter is the promise on which comfort food relies. Instinctively, we gravitate to the stove and the gifts it gives us. Time, now somehow a little less urgent, is given a wider berth, one generous enough to accommodate a rising yeast dough, or the baking of an apple pie, or the preparation of sauerbraten.

Sauerbraten (literally translated, sour roast) is one of those dishes for which there are almost as many recipes as there are cooks who make this uber-Germanic specialty. Some use gingersnaps to season and thicken the gravy. Other cooks use a roux. Some add red wine; others just vinegar. In some regions, buttermilk is part of the marinade. Garlic is favored by some cooks; others just add lots of onions.

Whichever way you cook it, it's a wonderful way to turn a relatively inexpensive cut of meat into a splendid winter main course. Although in many German-style restaurants in America, potato pancakes are paired with sauerbraten, this is common only in a small part of Germany. Spaetzle or another form of plain pasta is the choice of many cooks, while others might serve potatoes -- plain boiled, mashed or potato dumplings -- that will absorb the delicious gravy.

Sauerbraten
5 pound top round
10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 quart red wine vinegar
2 cups julienned onions
1 small bundle of fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups beef stock
1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies
1 cup sour cream

Stud the roast with the whole garlic cloves, and season with salt
and pepper. Place the roast in a deep glass bowl.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the vinegar, onions, herbs, and sugar
together. Whisk the liquid until the sugar dissolves. Pour the
marinade over the roast and cover with plastic wrap. Place the roast
in the refrigerator and marinate for 72 hours.

Remove the roast from the marinade. Strain the marinade. Place the
roast in a braising pan. Add the beef stock to the strained liquid.
Pour the liquid over the roast and place in the oven. The liquid
should cover 1/2 of the roast. Braise the roast covered at 325F for
2-3 hours. Turn the meat several times and add additional stock if
needed. Remove meat from pan and set aside.

Place pan with the braising liquid over a burner. Bring the liquid
to a simmer. Whisk the crushed gingersnaps into the liquid. Simmer
the sauce for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the
sour cream and return meat to pan. Slice the roast and coat meat with
some of the sauce. Serve the remaining sauce separately.

Music By John Havel


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