Real German Cuisine Challenge: Berliner Frikassee

by Christina Geyer on May 25, 2009 · 9 comments

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This week’s challenge was Berliner Frikassee (Berliner Fricassee).  Normally, when I think of Berlin cuisine, I think, “I’m not really that hungry.”  The fricassee I encountered in Berlin was usually rubbery chicken and overcooked white asparagus in a bland cream sauce.  This recipe was different though, and quite expensive to make.

Chopped vegetables for Berliner Frikassee

Finely chopped vegetables

First, I went to the butcher to order the meat, 300 g sweetbread and 1 kg of veal shoulder (she also got the Spargel for me).  My butcher speaks deeply accented Bayerisch, so it’s always a struggle to understand.  She informed me that she probably couldn’t get the sweetbread in so small a quantity, but that it froze well, so would 500 g be okay.  I said I could handle that.  Over the two weeks between ordering and picking up, she called twice (Bayerisch over the phone is pure torture) to tell me there were some kind of changes to my order.  The first had to do the the veal shoulder.  She asked what I was making and said she could substitute something else.  I didn’t really understand what the something else was, but I figured it was fine (and it was).

Chopped veal for Berliner Frikassee

Chopping the veal into bite-size pieces

Then she called to say that the sweetbread had arrived and it was a 1.7 kg piece.  It was going to cost over 40 Euro.  I hung up and decided Rainer could pick up the meat on Saturday and deal with this.  After the enormous veal knuckle, humongous lamb leg and now this, I was starting to get the impression that the butcher thinks we have a lot of money and she was maybe taking advantage of me.  Sometimes I feel this way in my encounters with shopkeepers in Germany, especially ones where there is not necessarily set pricing involved.  I wonder if this is how they are with all customers, do they just try to get away with as much as they can?  Or is it because I’m a foreigner and they think I won’t know better?

Well, Rainer went and picked up the stuff and said that we were only taking 500 g of the sweetbread.  He said they complained that veal is hard to get and expensive, which Rainer thinks may be true, but they didn’t really put up a fight and threw in a free sausage.  Still, we’re going to try and find a butcher in Regensburg and see how the pricing compares, because we won’t be able to afford to keep doing these challenges at the prices we’re being charged here – or we’ll have to half or quarter the more expensive recipes.  I hadn’t really taken the cost into account when I started this, but I also think we’ve had a lot of the more expensive recipes so far and maybe we’ll stick to the less expensive ones through summer.

Cleaning the sweetbread for Berliner Frikassee

Rainer cleaning the sweetbread

I browned the veal and vegetables then stuck the pot in the oven.  The house smelled delicious.

I didn’t really know what I was doing with the sweetbread.  I just kind of pulled it apart and if there was skin-like pieces, I tried to pull them off.  I asked Rainer if I was doing it right, he had no idea because he’d never done it, but volunteered to finish.  I was happy to let him.

Because we were supposed to soak the sweetbread to get rid of the blood, I had expected something more, uh, organ-y, but there was not really any blood or anything and it wasn’t gross at all to handle.  It felt a little like chicken livers, but was the color of raw chicken breast.

Berliner Frikassee with Risi-Bisi and Blätterteig-Fleurons

Berliner Frikassee

The dried morels only came in 5g packs that cost 2 Euro, and we needed 50g, so we decided to take the “Chinese morels” that were sitting next to them on the shelf and cost 2 Euro for a 50g pack.  They were actually wood ear mushrooms, but I figured, what the hey, why not?

We made the Risi-Bisi and puff pastry fleurons too.  There weren’t any premade fleurons, so I bought sheets and used a cookie cutter to make them.  For the Risi-Bisi, the type or amount of cheese to add to the rice wasn’t specified, so I just bought a pack of light, shredded cheese.  Janda suggested that cream cheese might be better, and luckily I had some in the fridge, so we used that instead.  (Janda was the only one willing to brave the sweetbreads, all our other friends politely declined our invitation to come over this week.)

I thought the dish was delicious (and the house smelled amazing).  Rainer says it’s one of his favorites so far.  I would not use the wood ears though, they were rubbery and the texture detracted from the dish.  I wonder how the morels would have been.  I’ll find out in next week’s recipe, I guess!  I also don’t think the sweetbread added anything to the dish (yes, I ate it).  If you’ve got some extra cash floating around and want to invite over and impress your gland eating friends, they’re a great addition, but I think in any other situation, just save your cash and leave them out.

Another idea Janda and I both had, was instead of the mushrooms, just throw some cherry tomatoes in at the very end.  I found the dish a little lacking in color and think tomatoes would go well and add some brightness.  As for kid-friendliness of the recipe, it depends on the kid.  Oliver ate the meat and Spargel right up (he didn’t like the mushrooms, though he usually does, but I can understand that).  I imagine that squeamish kids might not like the idea of eating sweetbread though.

The kids eating Berliner Frikassee

Oliver ate sweetbread too!

Other participants (will be updated throughout the day):

Next challenge!

  • For Monday, June 1: Leipziger Allerlei (Leipziger Potpourri) – described as “vegetables for gourmets.”  Fresh veggies are a must for this dish.

Coming up, I’m gonna try to go with some lower cost dishes, as we’ve done quite a few expensive ones so far.  Berries will be in season soon too, so I’m looking forward to some summery desserts.

If you haven’t done a challenge, feel free to join in anytime you want.  You can do it as a one-time thing, or join up every week.

  • Janda

    Hi Christina,
    First, congrats again! It was an honour to spend the day with you. Thank you again for inviting us. We had a really fun time and a great meal.
    I have never had sweetbread before, but as I said, I am game to try anything. Thinking back, I think the texture was possibly a little like Scallops.
    I am so glad we managed at last to visit you at home! Although EP couldn’t make it this time, we would certainly try to visit you another time.

  • Ed Ward

    About the morels, you should realize that dried ones absorb loads of moisture, which makes them heavy by the time they’re ready to use. Thus, I bet two of those packs, three at most, of dried ones would have provided enough mushrooms for the recipe. And the flavor would have been far superior, too! Ah, well, next time.

    Ed Wards last blog post..Today’s Tension-Filled Adventure

  • Tammy

    I’m glad it turned out well (sorry Matthias chickened out).

    I think your butcher problem may be a small town butcher thing. Matthias’ mom has had similar issues with her butcher, which is why we had a 20 pound turkey for six people over Christmas. She had ordered a 12 pound one. With a turkey, she couldn’t just take part of it.

    Tammys last blog post..Bavarian Make Over

  • Christina Geyer

    @janda: It was lovely having you over, thanks for making the trip! And I think scallop-like is an accurate description of the texture of the cooked sweetbread.

    @ed: No, the recipe called for 50g of *dried* morels. I’d never used them before, but I’m sure they would have been much better than the wood ear (Rainer suggested the substitution, and he’s had morels, so I blame him). Next time I might use just a couple packs of the morels. I saw a stand downtown selling fresh ones, but didn’t look at the price since I thought they’d be more expensive than dried. But next week’s Leipziger Allerlei calls for fresh morels so I’ll find out about it.

    @tammy: It was pretty tasty, so Matthias totally missed out. I would agree about things coming in certain sizes, but like with the lamb leg, I was in a butcher shop downtown and saw smaller ones for sale (still big, but smaller than what she got us).

  • Ed Ward

    50g of dried morels would make this recipe morels with sweetbreads sauce! Gotta be a typo!

    Ed Wards last blog post..Books In The ‘Hood

  • Yelli

    I really wanted to do this recipe this week! However, I have been so busy I didn’t even have time to get to the butcher and now we have “guest marathon June.” The pics look beautiful.

  • CN Heidelberg

    Hehehe, “gland eating friends”…love it. Sorry to miss this week; we were away and so I never got around to ordering any thyroids. I’m not sure about next week, it looks excessively complicated, so it will depend on how dedicated to food I’m feeling this weekend! I am already so far behind on my blog!

    CN Heidelbergs last blog post..Intermission

  • Jientje

    I agree, 50g dried morels would have been FAR too much, they probably meant 50g of FRESH morels, that would be right, because they don’t weigh much! The recipe looks delicious!

    Jientjes last blog post..A Thousand Words In Idioms, I and J

  • Christina Geyer

    @ed and Jientje: That’s what the book says. 50 g of the dried morels did seem excessive, but I used 50 g of the wood ear and the mushroom/rest-of-the-stuff ratio was fine.

    @yelli: Good luck with the guest marathon!

    @cn heidelberg: I wasn’t expecting a lot of people to join in this week, given the glands and such. The Leipziger Allerlei does look pretty complicated with cooking everything separately. I’m leaving out the crawfish cause there’s no chance of getting them fresh here though, that saves me a couple steps.

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