Makes 4 burgers
I have been fretting lately about my city’s inexcusable lack of interesting food inspired by German cuisine. For those German bars that serve up pretzels with eight separate mustards, ich libe dich, but sometimes I need to swoon over more than your flat palettes of yellows and browns. I’m not expecting anything like The Generator (although, Philadelphia, you’re not doing so badly, yourself), but, come on, Germans were some of the earliest immigrants to the Pacific Northwest, and yet we struggle to incorporate their food traditions into our own, insisting on keeping them separate from the others, like some black sheep we don’t want mingling with our prized flock. We hide them in stained-wood bars, below the sidewalk, or at the bottom of menus.
Well, not today. It’s sunny today, so I decided to barbecue. In the fridge are jars of curried sauerkraut I made back in December when the green cabbage was sweet and crisp. But, since January, I’ve hardly touched the stuff. You see, I too have been struggling to incorporate the German food into my diet, even that one that’s insanely good for you. I guess that fermented cabbage never sounds good with black beans or salad or pizza.
Then it hit me: I was making the same excuses as my city. Well, guess what? Sauerkraut is not meant for only sausages and potatoes! And, if you give me a chance, I’ll show you why…
I know, I know, I’ve been posting a lot of crab recipes. OK, only three now. But it’s for a very good reason. The harvest has been excellent this season. It might just be because it’s the beginning of it, but I’d rather not question it. Regardless, I’m finally able to make all these recipes I’ve hoped to try.
A few years ago, my brother and I took a road trip through New England. We ended up driving north to Maine, in part because of the legendary lobster rolls. We drove out to the craggy edge of the Atlantic and ate at The Lobster Shack.
The lobster roll satisfied every love of both trashy, fatty food and refined, culinary delicacies we had. It was one part goop and another part luxury, a richness in every sense of the word.
When I returned, I cooked a lobster and made some bisque. With the leftover meat, I made lobster rolls. I even began writing a post for them. Yeah, they were good. Yeah, they were trashy. Of course they were luxurious. But something was missing. Something didn’t feel right. I felt like an… imposter.
I thought long and hard about it. Every ingredient seemed right: a piece of white bread folded in half, a mound of red lobster meat, mayonnaise, paprika, salt. Probably a pickle, too. Nothing. My heart just wasn’t in it.
Then it occurred to me that lobster was the wrong crustacean. It was crab I wanted to try. Crab, after all, is home.
What a warm summer night will make me crave: crunchy, crusty artisanal toast; crispy, pillowy roasted eggplant; salty, smokey cured pork; and sweet, succulent caramelized onions. This isn’t your typical garlic- and tomato-topped bruschetta. Don’t go skipping to the wine cellar just yet. It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be oozing with all kinds of bold flavors and textures. Stacked and finished with some stinky cheese and an unsympathetic drizzle of balsamic syrup, this wild and earthy bruschetta is comforting and unabashed by whatever dirty secret you might squeal.
Impress your friends and buy a pig’s head. Invite them over when you turn it into cheese. Share beers and eat cured ham.
At the markets here in Seattle, head cheese can run you about $25/lb. So, if you prefer to buy yours already made, please do it. The torta will still be delicious and filling. But it will lack the wholesome tanginess, with such incredible and rich flavors, of this one.
For the adventurous or interested cook, making head cheese is a simple and rewarding endeavor. Plus, pound for pound, it is very cheap. I bought a 14-lb. head for $25. It makes about 6-7 lbs. Plus you get the bones leftover for soup or stock and pounds of fat you can render into lard. Compared to the markets, you’re getting an incredible deal.