Monday, December 21, 2009

The Sauerbraten Sagas - Part II: Shopping & Initial Prep

The Sauerbraten Sagas - Part I: The Menu.

So, for the full scope of this saga, we have to back up a few days. Sometime last week I decided to do a Christmas Eve dinner for family, which in this case is an assortment of in-laws (funny story there, I'm actually still on great terms with all of the soon-to-be-ex's family). I sent out a few emails and lo and behold, people can come!

I'd been thinking about Sauerbraten a lot lately, and since the in-laws have a goodly amount of German in them (like me) I figured that a German-ish meal would be ok. Not everyone likes German food. Their loss, IMO. But apparently, this sounds good to the people involved. So, I'd been perusing Sauerbraten recipes for a while and noticed that a lot of them suggested cooking the roast in an enameled dutch oven.

If you know me at all, you know that I've been lusting after an enameled dutch oven like a Le Creuset for a while. When I'm in my right mind, I can not justify a $300 pot during the height of my spending season (A kid's birthday plus the Christmas hoopla? You've got to be kidding me). But last week I noticed that Macy's had an insane sale on Martha Stewart enameled cast iron cookware. I had a coupon for 15% off and thought to myself, "Why not?"

So I did.

Once I got it home I read the reviews.


There's a reason they say, "Act in haste, repent at leisure."

The reviews were evenly split: people either loved them or or hated it. I guess the quality control on some of these Made in China products is sketchy. Yeah ok. but what got me was the card inserted in the box giving tips on maintaining the enamel. One of the tips that caught my eye and caused my jaw to hit the floor was this gem: "Do not cook or store acidic foods in order to preserve enameled surface."

DoubleYoo-Tee-Eff? If you know anything about cast iron enamelware, the entire point to it is to compensate for cast iron's pesky propensity to react with acidic foods. Everything else about cast iron is pretty damn awesome, so they coat it with a layer of enamel so it's no longer reactive and you can basically cook anything in it. Sure, except Martha's pots.

So I was bumming. I thought that I could probably cook the meat in my crock pot because Sauerbraten requires a long slow sort of braise, and what could be more perfect for that than a crock pot, right? So what if it's not 100% traditional, if it produces good results. I posted about it at Chow and heard back from a very content Martha Stewart pot owner, so all may not be lost yet. We shall see.

My next dilemma was finding some of the more exotic ingredients for the marinade, specifically, juniper berries and allspice berries. I swore to myself I would have everything bought for the meal today. Let's see how I did.

Shopping & Prep with Babs:

  1. Marshall's

    I hit this place because I'd read that the Home Store in Marshall's sometimes has Le Creuset pots at deep discounts. What? A girl can still dream!

    Result: Nothing bought.

  2. Bed, Bath and Beyond

    I wandered in there to price Le Creusets, but they had none. They had Emerilware and Frontagnac or something. I asked if they had a spaetzle maker, but alas, no. If I want one of my own, I have to drive down to the store in Vestal, near Binghamton. The crazy thing is, that's not too far for me to drive for a cooking gadget. Yes, you may call me a bit of a gadget-whore. My SIL is bringing hers, so no worries.

    Result: Nothing bought.

  3. Liehs and Steigerwald

    This is that German deli and butcher ship I'd found online. They prepare their own Sauerbraten spice blend, so I was hoping to get some when I picked up the cut of beef for the roast. Sadly, they only had the spice mixture at the other store, which is closed on Mondays. They did trim up the most beautiful eye of round roast I've seen for me, so not a trip wasted.

    Result: a big honking cut of meat.

  4. Spice Rack, Inc

    This place was allegedly on the same road as the German deli. They allegedly sold spices. Who knew, because I could not find them. I drove the block twice and could not find any signage or sight of their store. At this point I despaired of finding allspice berries.

    Result: Big, Fat Nothing.

  5. Wegman's

    I'd looked online earlier at their website and saw that they stocked juniper berries (Yay!) but not allspice berries (Boo!) I only had a few things to get there, but when I got there, on a whim, I thought I'd go look for allspice berries anyway. I FOUND THEM! They were hidden in the natural foods spice section, NOT the regular old baking section.

    *victory dance* <-- I really did that in the spice aisle at the store; what's more people saw me and probably didn't think anything of it.

    Result: VICTORY!

  6. Price Chopper

    I was driving back to Syracuse and realized I'd kill for a Diet Coke and small grinder, so I found myself at yet another freaking grocery store.

    Result: Diet Coke and a mini-grinder.

  7. Salvation Army

    I am having more people over than I have plates for, so I thought I'd go to Sal's Army and see if I could pick up a decent plate or two for cheap.

    Boy, did I luck out. I got 8 Oneida plates and 6 matching bowls for $8. They almost match my current stoneware.

    Result: VICTORY!

  8. Home

    When I pulled into my driveway, I smelled skunk-stank. (We have a colony of city-skunks in my neighborhood) and I immediately thought of my cat: small furry 4-legged obnoxious critter = skunk or Cheetah. I realized that I had forgotten cat food and kitty litter.

    Result: Back to the store.

  9. Price Chopper

    Got the same cashier surprised to see me back soon.

    Result: The damned cat should have no complaints.

  10. Home

    Hung out for a few hours with the kids.When they left to go with their dad, I thought to clean out my fridge in anticipation of sticking 6 pounds of marinating beef in there. I found that the cauliflower had already gone over to the dark side. Much muttered cursing later, I hopped in the car.

    Result: Just a quick trip to the store and a cleaned out fridge.

  11. Price Chopper

    Rushed in and got a cauliflower, and some more semi-sweet chocolate morsels and hazelnuts, because you never know, I may decide to whip up another batch of Crisis Brownies tonight.

    Result: Success.

  12. Home

    I got home and decided now was the time to make the marinade and get the meat going. I poured the red wine vinegar into my measuring cup only to find that I was 33.3333333% short. By now I have abandoned the muttered cursing and moved straight on to really loud, creative cursing.

    Result: Hop back in the car and shoot down the damn hill to the damn store.

  13. Price Chopper - the 4th trip that day

    I stalk in, grab a big bottle of red wine vinegar and get the same cashier who does a double-take and asked me "Forgot something?" "No. More like 'ran out of something!'" We laughed, I paid, I left.

    Result: This had better be my last goddamn trip to the store, a store, ANY store today!

  14. Home - for the 5th time? Or something, I've lost count.

    Got the marinade simmering, a glass of wine poured, then the meat marinated and IN THE FRIDGE!!

    Result: SUCCESS!

Coming soon: How the meat cooks and the rest of the meal unfolds.

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