…The pretzels, the ham, and the swiss!
Reformationstag is tomorrow! Our church had her annual Reformation Day celebration and dance last night. It was tons of fun! I was pretty bummed that Peter and I wouldn’t be able to host a grand Oktoberfest dinner this year as I’d been hoping to, so I decided that the next best thing would be to make these little treats to bring to the dance:
After much deliberation – and accepting that my German is far too limited for me to come up with some cute alliteration in German – I decided they should be called Wittenberg Piggies. They are delicious little beer brats wrapped in pretzel dough and served with a slew of different mustards on the side. Seriously, you’d have to be a Socinian to not enjoy these.
Ingredients for dough:
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
Ingredients for pretzel bath:
- 2 quarts water
- 2 tbsp baking soda
- 2 packs Hillshire Farms Miller® High Life™ Beer Brats, each brat cut into about 5 pieces
- 1 egg white with 1 tbsp cool water, whisked together until frothy
- coarse salt
This is a bit of a time-consuming recipe, unless you have lots of little hands to help you out. I found it helpful to cut up the brats and brown them on a frying pan on medium-high heat the night before. Then I just stuck them in a container in the fridge. I did not find that the sausages being chilled affected how the dough rose when I prepared them.
The dough, of course, should be made the day you are going to enjoy the piggies: add all dough ingredients into the pan of a bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Program the bread machine for the dough cycle and press “start.” When the machine has completed the cycle, the dough should be smooth and elastic.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and lightly spray them with cooking spray. Set aside.
Turn the risen dough onto a clean counter top. Do not flour the counter top, but keep a little floured area to the side, to dab the dough in. If you don’t use any flour at all, the dough will just stick to the counter rather than roll nicely. But if you flour the counter you’re rolling the dough on, the dough will get too dry and won’t roll nicely either.
Use a bench knife or spatula to cut off a small section of dough. Keep the unused portion of dough covered with a clean towel so it won’t dry out.
Begin to roll the small section of dough into a narrow snake (its diameter should be about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch). Beginning with one end of one brat piece, wrap the dough snake around the brat, snip off the end of the dough when finished, and place the brat seam-side down on one of the cookie sheets. Continue doing this until all the little brats are wrapped. Without worrying about perfection, try to wrap them as well as you can, because the dough can detach from the brats when put in the baking soda bath, if not wrapped well. When all brats are wrapped, let them rise uncovered for about a half hour.
While waiting for the dough to rise, preheat the oven to 400° and bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the baking soda to the boiling water. Carefully lower up to 8 piggies into the boiling water – don’t drop them from too high. Allow the piggies to simmer for about 45 seconds, by which time you will notice the dough puffing. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the piggies one at a time, give them a little shake to remove excess water, and place them back on the cookie sheets.
When all piggies have been bathed, arrange them on their cookie sheets so that the dough – rather than the brats – are facing upwards. Brush the tops of the piggies with the egg/water, and lightly sprinkle them with the coarse salt.
Bake the piggies for about 16 minutes each, or until the tops are a nice glossy golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a pretty platter. Serve with lots of mustard varieties on the side, and enjoy!
I had absolutely no idea how to cook, bake, or entertain when I first got married. My brothers are fantastic cooks, but my mother says I never showed any interest in learning myself, so I was consigned to ignorance by my own stubbornness. When I met Peter, he knew how to cook more than I did – that is, he knew how to make spaghetti and really good salmon. By this time, I recognized that my ignorance was really something pretty pathetic and I resolved to correct it. Unfortunately, I sought out women like Martha Stewart in order to do so. Consequently, I became consumed with perfection in cooking, baking, and entertaining. Likewise, when I discovered Miss Manners, I became consumed with what she insisted polite society deemed good etiquette while entertaining, or doing anything else. By saying I was consumed with those things, though, please don’t think I claim to have ever achieved perfection or anything close to it. It was simply my constant aim. And when I didn’t, in my own estimation, achieve it, I counted the entire evening an embarrassing loss. Needless to say, I was usually pretty depressed after having guests over, and tense during their visits.
I don’t have any problem with Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, Miss Manners, or anyone else who insists “you really must do this or that if you are going to please your guests.” My orange binder is chock full of recipes by the former two ladies, and I have learned some very useful things from Miss Manners.
What I do need to be careful of, however, is that I remember that these ladies are operating from a different worldview. That may sound silly and legalistic, to those who know neither the definition of legalism nor my point. My point is that a Christ-centered worldview permeates an entire life. A saint’s life is going to glorify God in a completely different way than a summer day or a chipmunk. The summer day and the chipmunk are doing what God created them to do from birth. A newly-created woman, however, is glorifying God in a more direct way and in saving knowledge of the One directing her day. It would be incorrect to say, as many people have: “Well, all people and things glorify God in equally important ways because they are all directed by God. So… carry on.” I guess what I mean is that a chipmunk is glorifying God in a more basic way by using his little claws to gather nuts, as God gave him instinct to do; the Christian is glorifying God in a more direct way by using her arm to point to the God who saved her. We are worth more to God than many chipmunks.
Anyway, my point in all of that is that things like hospitality, etiquette, entertaining, and dinner are not indifferent things, as though “whatever you do is going to glorify God, so just do whatever you please.” Those women I’ve listed above have some very good, very Christian things to say about how one ought to operate in those areas. However, because there is not a Christian worldview present, it can easily become a strict – and lifeless – set of rules to follow if one wishes to do hospitality correctly, or if one wishes to live by proper etiquette. Some things we do in the Church go straight against the rules of etiquette: older women approaching younger women in order to train them; Paul requesting compensation for the spiritual leadership he has devoted himself to giving; Christians seeking other Christians for help when they are in need; Christ rebuking Martha (no, the other Martha) for worrying more about entertaining than enjoying her Guest.
Often I see Christian women – myself included – worrying so much about doing hospitality correctly that we end up really only being hospitable a couple times a year, because more than that would be too taxing and expensive. Often we worry so much about etiquette that we refrain from offering help to someone, because we have always been told that “if the offer may possibly offend the friend, then it is best to not offer,” or “this service must never be rendered by one within the person’s immediate family,” and so on. We can also be too concerned about etiquette to ask for the help for ourselves or our families. I know I’ve been guilty of that myself. Is that somehow pleasing to God? If not, then how can we refuse to ask for help on the grounds of etiquette, or even worse: roll our eyes at a sister who dares to break those cold lifeless rules herself?
Evelyn Waugh said “It is a curious thing that every creed promises a paradise which will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste.” It is possible to let ourselves become so engrossed with doing these things “correctly” that the originally intended aim of them becomes something terribly undesirable to us. When we find ourselves tightening our shoulders planning a dinner or a shower or anything else whose intention is meant to be to bless someone else and to enjoy that person, we ought to take note of our rude, impolite sister Mary, and remember how Christ praised her for her disregard for the rules of etiquette and hospitality when the Lord over etiquette and hospitality was in her midst.
I’ve been trying to cook more vegetarian dinners in order to save money and so we can both slim down a bit (I really don’t want to buy a whole new post-partum wardrobe). Tonight I improvised some vegetarian stuffed bell peppers that I don’t want to forget, so I’m posting the recipe here:
Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers
- 4 bell peppers, top cut off, deseeded, and bottom leveled
- 1/2 cup white rice
- 1/2 cup brown rice
- 2 chicken boullion cubes
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cumin (depending on how much you like the taste)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 2 jalapenos, deseeded and chopped
- 1 small can cubed tomatoes
- Half a red onion, chopped
- 1/3 cup mushrooms, chopped
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used fat free)
- Salt to taste
- Lime juice
- Panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook the rice to package specifications, putting one boullion cube, one tbsp olive oil, and half the cumin in each pot to boil with the rice. Combine both into one large bowl when they’re done.
Put a skillet on medium head on a burner with a bit of oil in it. Combine onion, jalapenos, and chopped bell pepper in the skillet. Add salt, and cook until tender.
Throw the mushrooms and a big handful of cilantro in with rice. Combine drained tomatoes, onion/pepper mixture, and cheddar cheese in with rice as well. Give a couple squirts of lime juice, and stir everything until well combined.
Arrange leveled bell peppers in a square casserole dish and fill each with mixture, making a dome of filling on the tops. Sprinkle tops liberally with panko. Pour a bit of water in the bottom of the dish around the peppers (so the bottom of the dish is covered). Cook on 400 for about 10-15 minutes, until panko browns. Turn down to 350 and cook for about a half hour – or until peppers get kinda wrinkly (it all depends on your oven). Serve with cornbread and iced tea!