Hosting an Oktoberfest Party

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal MattersAfter the usual reluctance I’ve started to accept fall. It’s not a season I dislike, but letting go of summer is always hard (have I mentioned I like eggplant and tomatoes?). But I also want to embrace the here and now, so we decided to throw an Oktoberfest party (and there is nary a nightshade on this menu). Besides sending out an invite, collecting firewood, and making mustard, the prep happened the day of. All the food was made beforehand and put out so guests could eat as they arrived and sampled beer.

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

The Menu

Timeline

The only thing I made before the day of was the mustard which I started on Tuesday (soaking the seeds) and then finished Wednesday.

The party started at 7, so I shopped in the morning and got home around noon. First order of business was the apple cake, which needs 90 minutes in the oven. Then I made the potato salad, followed by the pretzel dough so it could rise. I puttered around setting some things up, sliced cabbage for the slaw, then rolled out the pretzels, boiled the water and preheated the oven. The pretzels were then boiled, painted with egg, and salted. Once the pretzels were in the oven, I put the sausage in baking sheets and punctured holes for the fat to drain out. After the pretzels came out of the oven I turned it up a bit and put the brats in to cook for about 30 minutes (remove them when they are a little brown on top). While the sausages cooked I made the hot slaw. I just set out all the food so people could graze, but this could be a sit down dinner as well.

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

Notes

The flavor of the German potato salad was great. I overcooked my potatoes a bit so they were not the cleanest chunks, but the party did not seem affected by it.

I doubled the pretzel recipe and made half-sized pretzels, so I had 32 total. I was expecting about 15 people, and wanted everyone to be able to have 2 (there ended up being a few leftover, maybe 10). The dough rose just as it was supposed to, and was super easy to work with while rolling them out. I didn’t have pretzel salt (because I didn’t buy any….) and just used coarse salt which was a little intense.

This is seriously spicy mustard. I halved it because 5 cups of mustard seemed like a whole lot and it was a smart move. I am a spicy mustard lover, and just a tiny dollop of this is fine for me.

The brats were pretty hands off as I just stuck them in the oven. If I had a grill I may have used that, but the oven was already on and I needed to be in the kitchen so roasting was plenty easy. A chicken and apple sausage would be a good option if you don’t want all pork. I also read up on traditional Oktoberfest foods and considered roasting a chicken as well, but I’m glad I didn’t because that would have been so much meat. Good alternative for next time.

I wavered about putting the bacon in this but eventually decided to go with it (not my most vegetal of meals…). Caraway is a spice I disliked violently upon my first taste, but recently I’ve tried to be more accepting of. I used just a tiny pinch and felt very open and accomplished. In the end I thought this was very appropriate, and I really liked it paired with the potato salad, brats, and a little extra mustard.

This apple cake is so moist and great for a crowd. I have never bothered peeling the apples, used apple cider instead of orange juice and substituted just a bit of the white flour for wheat. It is a heavy cake, and took more like 105 minutes to bake for me.

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

I left the beer selection up to Will who picked a variety of German and American made märzens. German breweries we were able to find were Ayinger, Erdinger, and Weinstephaner, and then American Oktoberfests came from Sierra Nevada and Switchback. Guests brought lots of other options like Sam Adams, Blue Moon, Brooklyn Brewery and a few we already had. And one person brought a bottle of champagne that we didn’t see until everyone left…off theme, but always acceptable. We set out tasting  glasses and left bottles open on the counter so someone could just sample a beer or take a whole one. If I hosted this as a dinner party I might make it a more formal tasting with rating sheets and everything, but I liked this system with more people.

It was really fun to host a party outside of the times I feel like everyone is having something (don’t expect a Halloween or Christmas party here) with a good theme. I can see this becoming an annual occurrence. Excluding the year that I make it out to Munich, of course.

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Polenta with Roasted Veg and Tomato Sauce

Vegetal Matters - Polenta with Roasted Veg and Tomato SaucePolenta is my new pantry hero and pasta/grain alternative. It’s a multitasking ingredient (I use a medium grind cornmeal that I cook as polenta, bake with, and use as a crispy crust), that makes just as good of a breakfast as it does lunch and dinner (which I can’t say for pasta). I think of this recipe as more of a formula. Make polenta, stir in any cheese that needs to be used up in the fridge (or leave out the cheese and milk for a vegan dinner). Roast whatever vegetables you have around. Top with tomato sauce, or just a little bit more cheese. In the morning reheat leftovers and top with an egg (or the egg could be part of dinner, too).

Polenta with Roasted Veg and Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 cup dry polenta
  • 2-3 cups water (divided)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt + some for sprinkling
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 lb cabbage (about half a smaller head)
  • ½ lb of broccolini or broccoli (cut into small florets if using broccoli)
  • 2 cups chopped kale (any kind is fine)
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce

Heat the oven to 400F. Cut the cabbage into 1 by 3 inch pieces. Toss the cabbage and broccolini on a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss the kale in a bowl with a teaspoon more of olive oil. After the 15 minutes, toss the cabbage and broccoli, and add the kale to the pan right on top. Roast for 5 more minutes.

Heat the tomato sauce over medium low heat while the veg and polenta are cooking.

Whisk the polenta with 1 cup of water, the milk and ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered. Add 1 cup of water and  stir constantly so it does not stick. Cook for 15 minutes, adding more water 1/4 cup at a time if it seems dry or you like polenta on the soupier side. When soft turn off the heat and add the goat cheese. I don’t even bother crumbling it, just stir it in so the goat cheese is covered, but the top back on, and whisk again to incorporate right before serving.

To serve, spoon a quarter of the polenta into each bowl, top with roasted veg and half a cup of tomato sauce (or more if you’re me). Finish with an extra crumble of goat cheese or some grated parmesan.

Soups/Salads

20150114_1858011The beginning of the new year brought frigid temperatures in New England, as if winter wanted to prove that she was really, truly here. I get it winter, I’ve embraced your chill as an excuse to make at least a pot of soup a week. But it’s also January, a month of resolutions and eating at least 1 cup of vegetables to make up for every baked good consumed in December. Hearty winter salads though, with cabbage and kale and toasted chickpeas and homemade dressings. December is always a month of extremes, and this steady soup/salad diet is bringing me back to equilibrium.

Soups

Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables – This is not the traditional French cassoulet, which involves many separate components to be cooked and layered into an earthenware pot for long cooking. It embraces the same flavors and ingredients though, and translates them into a hearty soup that can be put together in 20 minutes, with a cooking time not much longer. As with many Bittman recipes a small amount of meat is used to great effect. I’ve only made it with sausages (the better they are, the better the soup is), but I imagine it would be even more enjoyable with chops or duck as he suggests.

Hot and Sour Soup – My allegiance to Joanne Chang is no secret. I’ll stop worshiping her when she stops putting out amazing, foolproof recipes. There is a lot of vinegar in this, but it is what makes the soup so delightfully sour. This one also comes together real quick, ready to eat in under half an hour. I’ve left out the pork in a pinch, but I like it best when included.

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Mustard, Lemon, and Crispy Cabbage – I’ve been drooling over this soup since Laura posted it last week. Such interesting vegetables and flavor combinations! It did not disappoint, with brightness from the lemon and mustard that we need on chilly days. The cabbage topping was my favorite part, which I can foresee on many a future soup. It’s also vegan, and pairs very well with white wine.

Salads

Roasted Cabbage Wedge Salad – I think savoy cabbage is one of the most beautiful vegetables, and I’ve seen quite a few of them around recently. Plus I love the presentation of this salad, which seems so much more refined than a tangle of greens.

Shredded Kale Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta – I successfully served this to a friend who had never had kale before (another kale lover! rejoice!). Winter tomatoes are on my list of least favorite things, so instead I use sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil) or roasted red peppers.

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame Garlic Dressing – Yes, another kale salad. I could devote a whole blog to them if I was so inclined. I love heartier green salads in the winter months because the greens are much more likely to come from closer by, and they pair so well with soups. Peppers are not in their prime right now, and I think a few colors of carrots would be just as nice.

PS – Lacinato kale, or more preferably dinosaur kale, because it makes me picture t-rex’s scaled in kale (someone! make a t-shirt!), is my favorite for raw salads. It’s more tender than other kales, especially when chopped small in a salad.