The first typically Swiss dish Dominique prepared for me was Zürigschnätzlets and Rösti. Veal in a mushroom sauce with potatoes.
He cooked this for me when I was visiting him in Bielefeld, Germany, where he was working on a project.
(Yes, Bielefeld does exist. Yes, I’ve been there. Does that mean I’m part of the conspiracy? 😉 )
I’d never before, to my knowledge, eaten veal. Admittedly, the animal lover in me cringed a bit. But it was delicious. Tender, small cuts of meat in a creamy mushroom sauce. And who can argue with shredded potatoes, much like hash browns, for dinner.
As I inch forward in my efforts to learn German (and Swiss German and the Bernese dialect of Swiss German) I realized what a great tool food can be. Especially when it’s as tasty as Swiss food. Cheeses, from the stinky to the creamy. Meats, from sausages to steaks. Hearty dishes that combine those meats and cheeses with potatoes and in every way imaginable. I guess it helps to be sandwiched between France, Germany and Italy. Tons of great food flowing in every direction.
I decided to dig a little deeper into some Swiss recipes. I get the benefit of living with a Swiss man who loves to cook. I can ask him as we prepare meals the names of ingredients in German and Swiss German. (And hope I remember)
If you want to learn more about a culture and aren’t lucky enough to live with a native, don’t forget the books and blogs. Dominique bought this book for me for Christmas. A Taste of Switzerland, by Sue Style, is full of stories and beautiful images by John Miller outlining the background of several foods and food categories.
I found this little tidbit about mushrooms, fascinating: Like hunting season in the United States, there is a quota and a season for mushrooms. There is also a town expert who will inspect your take and tell you whether or not your basket is full of flavorful fungi or poison.
So in my search for Swiss German through gastronomics, I decided to start with Zürigschnätzlets and Rösti.
The name refers to Zurich but the dish is well loved throughout the country.
“Züri” is for “Zurich” and “gschnätzlets” is for small cuts of meat. Rösti is shredded potatoes. (You can serve these plain, or, in other dishes, cover them with cheese, ham and an egg for a complete meal.)
Ingredients for 2 servings:
Veal (Kalbfleisch) – 1 pound
mushrooms (Champignons) – 1/2 pound
cream (Rham) – 4 oz.
onion (Zwiebeln) – 1 small
garlic (Knoblauch) – 1 clove
white wine (Weisswein) – to taste
beef bouillon (Bouillon de Boeuf) – 1/2 cup
cornstarch in water (Maisstärke)
lemon juice (Zitrone)
tomato to garnish (Tomaten)
Start with the Rösti. The shredded potatoes should be cooked in one giant circle, making a nice golden crust on both sides. If you’ve got some skills, just give a flip of the wrist and flip the potatoes to the other side.
Toss the veal in flour and sear on high. Add salt and pepper.
Transfer to a dish and keep warm. Use the same pan to saute the onions on medium until the onions are soft and shiny.
Add mushrooms, garlic clove, squirt of lemon juice, a little pile of paprika and some wine.
Add cornstarch, cream and bouillon. Add extra water or wine if needed.
Add back veal and cook down.
Stir for a minute.
Taste. Yum. Serve.
Ä Guete! (The Swiss German equivalent of bon appetit)