Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Warm Winter Meal

I went all out for Switzerland tonight. I had saved cooking Switzerland for a night that I was home and my dad was not. All the recipes I found were quite cheesy, and I knew that everyone in my family would love them. (Excluding my cheese hating father.) The other reason I chose Switzerland for a night that I was home was because my mother and I traveled to Switzerland together the summer after my senior year of high school. It was a lovely country, and I wanted her to be a part of my recreated Swiss meal.


To start off, I want to share a little bit about the alpine country of Switzerland. My mom and I found Switzerland (at least the part we saw of it) as quiet and quaint. We loved it, and my mom said it was her favorite part of our trip. There is much more to Switzerland other than skiing and hiking. There are tons of amazing museums, beautiful old churches, Roman ruins, and tons of other cool things that you should check out. Stay away from the tourist traps and enjoy the Swiss culture. You won't regret it. Here are some cool facts about Switzerland:
  • Switzerland is home to the Romansch language spoken in the canton of Grischun. Along with Romanasch, French, German, and Italian are the national languages.
  • They use Swiss Francs as their currency instead of the Euro.
  • There are over 1500 lakes.
  • They have an amazing (and really dense) system of railways.
  • The traditions of yodeling and playing the alphorn are still alive today.
  • They have the only government with direct representation. Any citizen can overthrow a law with the majority vote.

The cuisine of Switzerland is very diverse. It reflects the neighboring countries of Italy, Germany, and France in the different regions boarding these countries. There is also a distinct Swiss cuisine that focuses heavily on cheese and potatoes. I think I hit the uniquely Swiss cuisine aspect right on with all the cheese and potatoes that I used. Switzerland is also known for it's fine dining. It is ranked number two for Michelin restaurants out of the entire world. Like everything else in Switzerland, my mom and I found the food to be super expensive. I guess deliciousness comes with a high price. Just don't order the Basel salad if you don't like raw hot dogs or pickles. I speak from experience. :)


I just had to make Swiss fondue because that's what Switzerland is known for. Fondue is a winter treat, so my mom and I did not get to try any while we were in Europe two summers ago. I've always wanted to try fondue, and I thought that my Swiss meal was the perfect opportunity. Fondue was first created by poor Swiss peasants who could enjoy the warm dip during the winter months. It was a meal in itself. If those poor Swiss peasants lived in the US, they would have had to find some other meal. My first disappointment surrounding the fondue came when I tried to buy the emmental and gruyere cheese at the store. They were over $10 each for just a little bit. $20 for half a pot of fondue? I think not. Thankfully I found a fondue package at World Market for a premade fondue mix. I know that using packaged food during cooking through the world is a little shameful and embarrassing, but I had no other option if I wanted my fondue. Making the packaged fondue was surprisingly easy, but serving it was not. My second fail was the lack of a fondue pot to use to keep the cheese warm. Oh, well. I figured that we would gobble the fondue up before it had a chance to cool off. Disappointment #3 was the extremely strong presence of the white wine in the cheese. We couldn't eat it, and ended up throwing it away after a few bites each. It was just too strong. My mom wouldn't even let the kids eat any. I was so upset. It's a good thing that the rest of our Swiss meal was so good....


I do want to share a few fondue etiquette tips before I move on. Just because my fondue experience was less than stellar does not mean that you should completely abandon it. A tone of Swiss people love it, so it can't be too bad. Maybe we just did not like it because it came out of a package. We generally don't eat all that much processed food, so we're used to the good homemade stuff. Anyway, you should never double dip into the pot. Put the bread on your fork, dip it into the cheese, and then remove the bread to your plate before eating it. If a man happens to drop his bread into the pot, he has to buy everyone else drinks. (Good thing we were all girls tonight, and 4 out of the 5 of us are underage.)


This dark rustic loaf is a good choice to go along with fondue. It is typically made out of wheat flour type 1050, but you can't really find this type of flour outside of Europe. Unfortunately to average American grocery store does not carry such a wide variety of flours. To replicate the type 1050 flour which is slightly darker than unbleached flour, I used a little whole what flour in the dough. We were all pleased with the results. More bread was eaten than fondue.....

375g (about 3 cups) all-purpose flour
125g (about 1 cup) whole wheat flour
4 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
1 ¾ tsp salt

Use an electric mixer to mix together the yeast, water, and half of the flour. Beat on high for thirty seconds, and then let it rest for five minutes. Repeat the process of beating and resting three more times. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for one hour.

Once the dough has risen, add in the salt and mix vigorously in your electric mixer until it is well incorporated. On the slowest speed, add in about ¼ cup of the remaining flour at a time until a soft dough has formed. You may need to add up to ¼ cup more of warm water. Knead vigorously for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and put the bowl in a warm place to rise again for an hour or two until it has doubled in size.

Gently knead the dough and roll it into a snake. Roll the snake up into a snail, cover, and allow the bread to rise for a final 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and bake the bread on a stone for 20 minutes. Turn the pan and bake for another 20 minutes until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.


This soup was the highlight of the meal. Everyone loved it, and I wished that I had made more. Originally I had my doubts about my mom and sisters liking the soup because of all the onions, but they loved it as much as I did. Sydney and I fought over the last bowlful. Basler Mehlsuppe is like reverse French onion soup because the soup is poured over the bread and cheese instead of the crouton being placed on top of the soup. This "flour soup" is a traditional dish from the city of Basel served for Fasnacht. I thought the hearty soup would be just as appropriate for a cold December day as during carnival. I just wish that my mom and I had visited Basel during Fasnacht so that we could have sampled an authentic version of this amazing soup.

Basler Mehlsuppe
serves 4
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter
4 cups beef broth
½ cup red wine
1 parmesan cheese rind (not traditional, but delicious)
4 thick slices of bread, toasted
½ shredded sbrinz or gruyere cheese

Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add the flour and toast until golden brown. Set the pot aside. Heat the butter over medium heat in a pan. Once the butter has melted, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until the onion is translucent and golden. Whisk the onion and flour together in the pot. Slowly whisk in the beef broth, making sure there are no lumps of flour. Add the red wine, cheese rind, and seasonings to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Place a piece of the toasted bread topped with 1 tbsp of cheese into four bowls. Ladle some of the soup into each bowl and top with the remaining cheese.


My mom ordered rosti one night in Switzerland, and she loved it. Although she claims to not remember this, I wanted to make the rosti again for her and the rest of us. Rosti are like huge potato pancakes fried in butter. Flipping them over can be a little tricky, but mine was a success tonight. I should have added a little more salt and pepper because the rosti did not have much flavor, but other than that it was enjoyed by all. (Except for Carson who refused to put it in her mouth.)

serves 4-6
2 large russet potatoes
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the potatoes and a pot of water to a boil. Cook until not quite tender. (About 10 minutes.) Allow the potatoes to cool and peel their skin off. Grate the potatoes into a large bowl and season to taste. Heat the butter over medium heat in a 10” skillet. Pat the shredded potatoes down into the skillet. Cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Flip the rosti onto a large plate and then slide it back into the pan, uncooked side down. Cook for another 15-20 minutes until the other side is browned as well.


Alpine macaroni stood out to me while I was researching Swiss recipes. My mom and sisters love mac and cheese, so I wanted to try this Swiss rendition. The diced potatoes added in along with the onions gave it a unique twist. Harper really liked it. My mom and Sydney were not a fan of the onions, but still liked the rest of it. I had actually quartered the amount of onions that were supposed to go in it, so that they would like it better. It also was a little bit drier than your typical American mac and cheese. My mom said it was not quite creamy enough. All of this being said, everyone still really liked the dish.

serves 4-6
½ pound macaroni pasta
½ pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup shredded gruyere cheese
½ cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the butter over medium high heat in a skillet. Add the onion and cook until it is nicely browned and crispy. Throw in the garlic during the last 5 minutes of cooking the onions to sauté it. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta and potato cubes according to the directions on the pasta box. Pour half of the pasta and potato mixture into a 9”, 2.5 quart baking dish. Top with half of the cheese and then half of the onions. Pile on the rest of the pasta followed by the cheese and onions. Evenly drizzle the cream over top. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and cook the pasta for 15 minutes.


This simple applesauce stood out from my mom's typical recipe because of the addition of a little butter. Butter can do a lot to improve flavor, as the Swiss seem to know. They love to serve this applesauce along with their macaroni. Sydney loved it on top of her rosti. She said it helped give the bland potatoes a bit of flavor. Carson also loved the applesauce and literally licked the bowl clean. 
2 apples, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water

Heat the butter over medium high heat in a small pot. Add the apples and sauté for 5-6 minutes. Whisk the sugar and water together. Pour this mixture over the apples, stir, and cover. Bring the apples to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 30 minutes. Mash up the apples into a thick apple sauce. Serve with the Älplermagronen.


Another Basel dish, brunsli are like a brownie- cookie hybrid. They are a common Christmas cookie that you can find in Basel during the holidays. They were decent, but the slight hint of cinnamon and cloves threw everyone off. Harper really enjoyed them, though. She likes anything chocolaty and sweet. 

Basler Brunsli
makes about 2 dozen
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
dash of cloves
1 egg white
powdered sugar, for rolling

In a food processor, process the chocolate chips with the cocoa powder, granulated sugar, ground almonds, cinnamon, and cloves until everything is ground up fine. Whisk the egg white until frothy. Mix the egg into the chocolate mixture. Roll the dough out onto a surface sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll it out about ¼ inch thick. Using 2-3” heart or star cookie cutters, cut the dough into cookies. Arrange on a baking stone about an inch apart. Allow the cookies to rest for two hours. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until the tops are firm and the bottoms are golden. Allow the cookies to cool on the stone before removing.
Overall, Switzerland was a success. The fondue was a flop, but everything else turned out really well. It's a good thing, too, because I started cooking at 9:30 this morning and did not finish until dinner was on the table at 7. Thankfully everyone was pleased with the results. Switzerland yielded a very homey and warm winter meal.

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