Sunday, April 25, 2010

Maultashcen Merriment

Guten Tag, family and friends! Sorry that it has been so long between blog posts! I (Fifi) was especially busy studying for my big German exam (TestDaF) which I took on Tuesday, April 20th. The results should be released in about 6 weeks. Only 1/3 of the students in my German school passed the last exam, so I am praying that the examiners liked my attempt at the German language! This is what Ground Zero looked like at our house the week before the big exam:
But I am back to blogging and I can't wait to tell you about the AWESOME day Zev and I had yesterday. The weather is starting to get really lovely here in Germany. A little fresh at night, but absolutely lovely during the day! Yesterday, Zev and I learnt how to make Maultashen!! Our friend and fellow military spouse, Micah, and her German friend, Birgitte, arranged for a small group of us to have a private lesson learning how make this typical Schwabisch dish. It turns out that Birgitte knows one of best Maultaschen chefs in the German state that we live in (Baden-Wuerttemberg)- Mattias Straehle from Weinstube Eissele.  Apparently this small, typically Schwabisch restaurant is so well known for its Maultaschen, that people from all over drive to this restaurant just to taste this awesome and unique south German speciality.
When we arrived, Mattias, who is truly a larger-than-life-character and could give any of the Food Network chefs a run for their money, told us about how he was transiting through Atlanta airport once (Mattias has traveled EVERYWHERE- including New Zealand, Australia four times and the States etc etc), when a man recognised the name of his restaurant (Weinstube Eissele) and stopped to tell him about his Maultaschen experience. People in this region even pre-order Maultaschen for Easter lunch, because it is traditionally eaten at Easter time. I think it's time for a quick Maultashen lesson, don't you think?
Side note #1 about about Maultaschen: according to Wikipedia (the trusty source that it is ;-)): "Maultaschen is specialty food, consisting of an outer layer of pasta dough with a filling traditionally made of minced meat, spinach, bread crumbs and onions and flavored with various spices. Similar in appearance to Italian ravioli, Maultaschen are usually larger, however, each Maultasche being about 8-12 cm (3-5 inches) across." (Oh, but they are SO MUCH better than ravioli!)
Maultaschen are traditionally eaten either geröstet (cut into slices and fried in a pan with onions and scrambled eggs) or in der Brühe (simmered in vegetable broth), or geschmälzt (dressed with butter and onions), usually with potato salad. (We also learnt how to make the BEST potato salad also- Schwabisch style, of course. Let's just say there was TONS of oil and butter- hence the good taste.)
On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Maultaschen are a traditional dish in Swabia, because the meat is concealed under the pasta dough and cannot be seen by God. Therefore they have earned the nick name "Little Cheaters on God" (Swabian "Herrgottsbscheißerle").
And the best part- turns out that this famous restaurant is like TWO minutes from our house! Zev and I have literally run by Weinstube Eissele a few times on our runs, and everytime we take a peek at the menu and say "we need to try this place out"!!
Our lesson started with a glass of Esslinger Sekt (from our own local Champagne Cellar in downtown Old Esslingen, of course!) We then headed down the the "Vorbereitung" Kitchen which is the prep kitchen, to weigh and mix our ingredients. (Side note # 2: Matthias shared his secret Maultaschen recipe with us!!! You may be lucky to get a sneek peek of this recipe if I ever get the chance to make Maultaschen for you ;-))
Matthias and his incredible Head Chef, Oliver, run the restaurant together. Matthias explained that the unique "beziehung" (relationship) between he, Oliver and the friendly, home atmosphere, are what make the business so successful. Side Note # 3: Matthias knows EVERYONE in town. Granted, so do our landlords, Jorg and Ingeborg. Zev and I have a sneeking suspicion that the neighbors on our street know us as the "Amerikaners" even though we try to blend in. Must be Zev's haircut that gives it away! Ha. But seriously, when we told Ingeborg later about our cooking lesson, she was impressed and then asked if I would share Oliver's secret recipe with her! Natuerlich!
After we prepped the ingredients, we went upstairs to spread the filling onto Teig (dough) made especially for Maultaschen-making. In fact, the bakery that makes the Teig for Weinstube Eissele makes a special "length" to fit exactly onto the workspace in the restaurant's kitchen. Side note #4: Notice Zev's neatly lined up Maultaschen packets ready to pop into the boiling water on my left.
The next step was to pop the Maultaschen into the rolling boiling water. No more than 2 minutes, thank you very much. Stir once. Then pop the little babies into cold water. Not luke warm water, but cold water. It has to be cold. And pay attention. Matthias was very precise in his instructions and even asked Zev (who was ALWAYS paying attention!)" Zev: you need to listen to this."
I, on the other hand, was having fun and probably not paying as much attention as one should in a German kitchen. When it was my turn to try making the potato salad with the slicer, he pointed to my potato slices and said  "and this is NOT how you make potato salad, but this is how you make potato mousse." Such is life in a professional kitchen, huh!? 
As you can see above, we still managed to make about 10 kilos of Great German Potato Salad.
As shown above, you can see why the stuff that goes ON the Maultaschen tastes so good. Oliver fried about 1kg of chopped onions into this pan of goodness. (Well, not good for your heart, but good for the soul!) The topping for Maultaschen (as explained above) is called "Zwiebelschmaelz" which literally translates to "Melted Onions." That's one good thing about the German language- even though the grammar can be a killer to work with (I have almost pulled my hair out in frustration), at least the words are logical, even though they are long!
Our special cooking lesson culminated in everyone sitting together to enjoy our Maultaschen and German Potato Salad creations! I cannot describe HOW GOOD it all tasted. Amazing stuff. Matthias also handed everyone a certificate of "graduation" and let us keep the aprons we used during the lesson. Once we arrived home, we prepared two plates of Maultaschen to bring over to our neighbors on both sides of our house.
We have mentioned this in previous posts, but God really blessed us with awesome German neighbors.We first brought over a plate to our neighbors on the right side of our house, Jorg and Ingeborg (also our landlords) and then a plate to our other neighbors, Heinz and Magda. There is no such thing as a quick "drop in" however, but it was nice to sit down for a chat with these neighbors. Magda (who is seriously ALWAYS baking, no matter what time of the year it is) asked if we would like some of her homemade Austrian Apple Pie (there is a difference between Austrian and German apple pie/ apple cake.) Once she mentioned that it had rum-soaked raisins and almonds in it, we were sold...

Needless to say, guess what Zev and I are doing right this minute, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Germany? We are sitting on our balcony in the sun, drinking some nice coffees and enjoying Magda's Apfel Kuchen.
We hope you are doing well!


Micah Cummings said...

Great post Fi, and fabulous reporting. I loved the tidbits of history and translation. It was such a fun day. Definitely one of those 'best of' German memories! Can't wait for many more...
Love, Micah (Frau Cummings)

Leslie said...

I LOVE your hair!!!!!! You look so beautiful!

Zev said...

Was a great event....good friends, good food, very funny is good. Oh, and a little sparkling wine.

Lindsey said...

Your hair is so cute!