Right off the bat I'll admit that what I don't know about German cuisine is a lot. In 2005 I spent 6 months commuting to Frankfurt and I seem to remember a lot of dishes with hard boiled eggs. Other than that, the available food leaned heavily to the Tuscan.
However, I recently hosted my book group and the book we read was Louise Erdrich's fable to the German butcher who immigrates to North Dakota after WWI. Because the food served at the book group tends to be thematic and a stimulant for discussion, I wanted to do something German. Preferably with sausages or cured ham.
I quickly wrote my german friends and one not only gave me advice but also arranged to have her mother bring me some packets of ham and a jar of cornichons. She instructed me that a classic/tradition/common way of serving it was to make open-face sandwiches with a rustic sourdough bread, a pat of butter and a slice of the ham topped with a fanned cornichon. I did as I was told. I knew at least my kids would love it!
As I was putting the sandwiches together it occured to me that I had no idea what each of the four meats were (other than pork and bits). I tried to do a quick Google search but everything was in German. During the evening I asked a non-native German speaker to help out but all we arrived at was "pork." So I turned to an expert, Sandy Neumann who writes the German food blog (despite it's name!) Confiture de Vivre. She explained to me that the coldcuts that we were eating are called Aufschnitt. It is mostly used for sandwiches and always with a pork base. The Bierschinken and Bierwurst are pork with with pieces of bacon added (pork and pork, right?). The Lyoner is made from highly salted and sometimes smoked ham. It orginated as a french import and made its way into German cuisine. I saved the best for last: the Rotwurst. It's a blood-sausage. That is is made by adding cooked pork blood and other cooked meats to the final sausage. By far of the ones we tasted this was the best and highest quality. Sandy also suggested, and I can easily imagine, that a local butcher who makes these meats my hand produces a very high quality Aufshnitt. It makes me want to go to Germany to try for myself!
Knowing the Aufschnitt to be something of a casual comfort food, I decided to make potato pancakes. I had never done it before and although it's a bit labor intensive with the grating of the potatoes and onion and the frying, it's very easy. See the recipe below to try for yourself.
I served everything with crudités and a white sauce of fromage frais, chives, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Of course there was the beer. I say "of course" but in fact it wasn't that easy - it's hard to find beer of any kind beyond the major national and international brands (think: Heineken.) However, the local health food store stocks imported organic (and organic AND gluten-free) beer - so that's what we drank.
Makes approx. dozen (I doubled the recipe and wished I made more!)
4 large potatoes
2-4 tbsp flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
Grate the potatoes and onion into a large bowl. I used the smallest julienne setting on my mandoline but a large-hole box grater would work fine.
Mix the egg and add to the potato-onion mixture. Add just enough flour so the mass holds loosly together.
Heat about 1/8 inch of oil over high heat. Once the oil is hot but not smoking, reduce the heat to medium high and add a spoonful of potato mix. Flatten the pancake with a spatula and continue until you fill the pan (though not crowded). Once pancakes are showing golden on the edges, flip them over and cook the other side (about 6 minutes total). Drain on papertowels.
YUM! Don't forget to share!
Source: Recipe adapted from recipes found on Allrecipes.com