Oktoberfest still alive and well in Arkansas

Adrienne Freeman Originally Published September 26, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 25, 2013 at 12:07 p.m.
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Adrienne Freeman

Wiener schnitzel, a misnomer in English, actually has no wieners but is lightly breaded and fried veal (or chicken or pork) pounded thin and served with lemon. Adding kale with shallots and capers, rounded out by a somewhat familiar warm potato salad, is a great way for the family to celebrate Oktoberfest.

Americans are a celebratory bunch. While the United States has an ample set of its own national holidays, the original melting pot is happy to adopt celebrations of other nations as well — especially those that involve food and drink. Cinco de Mayo is full of tacos and tequila, while St. Patrick’s Day means corned beef and cabbage for lads and lassies alike.

Although heavily advertised by beer companies, less is known about the fall holiday festival Oktoberfest. A quick review of the Internet reveals that the German celebration is currently enjoying its 180th year. Held annually in Munich, Germany, it is more than a beer fest; it is actually the world’s largest fair, hosting more that 6 million people. The 16-day marathon starts the first Saturday after Sept. 15 and continues until the first Sunday in October. It began as a tribute to the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig in 1810 and continues as a celebration of Bavarian culture and traditions.

Although beer is a big part of the menu, German food shines as well. Pork, roast chicken, cabbage, noodles and sausages are all part of the feast.

The fare that is probably most familiar to Americans is sausage. More than 1,500 different types of sausage, or wurst, are made in Germany. Most are made of ground pork or beef with spices and stuffed into natural casings. The sausage is then smoked and fully cooked in a water bath.

Arkansans celebrate Oktoberfest heartily. Get started with the Ladies of the Knights of Columbus, aided by the Knights of Columbus, in Jacksonville on Oct. 5 for their nod to the Bavarians. In Franklin County, visitors can snap up a schnitzel at Wiederkehr Village when the 50th annual Weinfest fires up on Oct. 12. Extend the excitement and catch Beer, Brats and a Band, set for Oct. 17 in Hot Springs Village in Garland County. All events feature traditional German food, drink and music. Cincinnati, Ohio, claims to hold the “largest authentic Oktoberfest” in the U.S.; it draws about 500,000 people to its two-day celebration.

If you can’t make it out for a brew or brat, try these traditional recipes at home. Are you surprised that Wiener schnitzel has no wiener, or wurst?

WIENER SCHNITZEL

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds veal cutlets (chicken or pork can be substituted)

½ cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1 teaspoon minced parsley

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 pinch ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons milk

1 cup panko bread crumbs

6 tablespoons butter

1 lemon, sliced

Directions:

Set up a dredging station by lining up three pie plates or shallow dishes. Place flour in the first dish; mix the eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg and milk in the second; and mix the Parmesan and bread crumbs in the third dish.

Place each veal cutlet inside a gallon-size plastic bag, seal and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet or rolling pin until the meat is about 1/4 inch thick.

Coat each cutlet with flour, shaking to remove the excess. Then dip the cutlet into the egg mixture, remove excess and press in the bread crumbs to coat. Place coated cutlets on a plate and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the breaded cutlets until browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a serving platter, and pour the pan juices over the cutlets. Garnish with lemon slices.

KALE WITH SHALLOTS, GARLIC AND CAPERS

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds kale (about 2 bunches), cleaned

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup finely chopped shallots

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons drained capers

Coarse kosher salt

Directions:

Remove kale leaves from hard stems by folding in half and running a sharp knife down the rib. Tear kale into medium to large bite-size pieces.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, and sauté until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and capers; stir 1 minute. Stir in kale, and sauté until tender and heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer kale to a large bowl and serve.

BEER AND CHEESE SOUP

The beer and cheese pairing is a German gem. Use a traditional or immersible blender to smooth the soup. Any beer and/or good melting cheese can be substituted, but dark beer and sharp cheese give this soup a deep flavor.

Ingredients:

3 bottles dark beer

1 pound Emmenthaler or Gruyere cheese, grated

1 small onion, diced

1 small leek, cleaned and diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 small carrot, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons dried thyme

1 rib celery, diced

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

2 slices rye bread, cut into cubes

Directions:

Heat a medium stockpot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery and leeks, and cook until the onions are translucent.

Once the vegetables are softened, add the rest of the ingredients, except the bread. Simmer the soup for 45 minutes. Add the cubed rye bread, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

At this point, the soup will be blended until smooth. An immersion blender or regular blender can be used for this task. If using an upright blender, work in batches until all the soup is processed.

Put the soup back into the Dutch oven, and heat the soup and serve immediately, garnished with pretzel sticks or rye croutons.

WARM GERMAN POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

½ pound sliced bacon

3 pounds waxy potatoes, such as thin-skinned red or white

1/3 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon dry mustard

3 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup beer

½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Cook the bacon until it is crisp, and drain on paper towels. Chop the pieces coarsely, place in a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a large pot, cook the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender but not mushy. Drain, cool slightly, and slice (unpeeled) into thick rounds. Return to the empty pot.

While the potatoes are still warm, gently mix in the reserved bacon, onions and parsley. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix up the mustard sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients. Add the potato-bacon-herb mixture while gently stirring. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm.

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