A food professional who moves in the rarified world of fine cuisine can still hanker for heartier fare


Wednesday, October 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


By Donna Lee / The Providence (R.I.) Journal Food Editor

Oktoberfest, that exuberant festival of oom-pah music, beer and food, began nearly 2,000 years ago in Munich, Germany.

Karl Guggenmos of western Cranston, who grew up in Augsburg, Bavaria (about 60 miles west of Munich), describes the feasting and frolicking, the gigantic beer halls set up under tents, brass bands of 80 or more musicians, and fairground attractions -- Ferris wheels, roller coasters and merry-go-rounds.

This fall, Guggenmos was named dean of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, after heading the culinary division at J&W in Charleston, S.C.

He moves in the world of fine cuisine, but once a month, chef Guggenmos cooks an old-fashioned Bavarian meal at home. Among his favorites are piquant warm potato salad, tender roll-ups of steak with a creamy sauce, and spaetzle -- golden free-form nuggets made of fresh egg noodle dough.

Another time he might have a pork roast, or bake a whole cabbage stuffed with meatloaf for himself and his American-born wife, Debbie.

In Germany, a land of meat and potatoes, pork is the favored meat.

As Guggenmos cooked for photographs last week at J&W, he spoke of the street food of Oktoberfest, from sausages to sauerkraut. Whole roast pig is grilled on the spit and served with its crisp outer coating and moist, juicy meat.

"Most of the food is cooked on rotisseries," Guggenmos said. "They cook whole fish, mackerel or herring, on sticks over wood-fire coals. You'll see a battery of 100 fish on a pole, veal legs, whole chickens on spits. One tent had a whole ox on a spit, just like in olden days."

Vendors sell giant pretzels. Beer is everywhere.

His cousin married the owner of Hirsch Brauerei, a brewery in the Bavarian Alps. "I seldom drink beer," Guggenmos said, "but if I do, it's Brauerei."

The lid on a beer stein, he explains, has two purposes. It helps maintain an even temperature. And most beer in Bavaria is consumed outside. The lid keeps out bees and flies.

Oktoberfest started as celebration of the wedding of the crown prince of Bavaria, and grew over the years. Over 10 million visitors a year flock to Munich for the 16-day festivities.

The main beer of Oktoberfest is Marzenbier, characterized by its dark color and robust flavor.

Year round, Germans traditionally enjoy sturdy fare: dumplings, potato salad, many kinds of rye and wheat breads, and thick hearty soups.

Potatoes became common in the 18th century, when King Frederick the Great distributed free seeds. Cabbage, kohlrabi and root vegetables -- turnips, parsnips, celeriac -- are staples.

And of course there's sauerkraut. Guggenmos says that the process of pickling cabbage was developed by the Chinese and brought to Germany by the Mongols in the 13th century.

Fritters are popular

Desserts often include fruit, most commonly apples, grapes, pineapple, plums or bananas. Fritters, cookies and pastries with fruit toppings are popular.

Asked about food in today's Germany, Guggenmos said it is hard to generalize, because of regional differences. Germany today is made up of 16 states, each with favorite breads, pastries, meats, hundreds of kinds of sausages and cold cuts.

Traditionally, Germany did not have a lot of short-cooked meats. Veal or pork roasts are more common than chops.

In olden days, there were cattle bred for dairy products and there were oxen for work; very little beef was raised for meat, and it would have been tough.

"The beef I knew when growing up was sauerbraten with a sour cream sauce; near the Rhine River, sauerbraten had a dark sauce with raisins and ginger," Guggenmos says.

He adds that Germans now eat a lot of chicken, which is new. Today's food incorporates many cultural influences -- Asian, Italian, Turkish. There is also a trend to healthier food.

"When I grew up, we never ate corn. That was to feed to pigs. We had cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, root vegetables. But now, Germans eat everything -- including American-style fast food."

For a taste of traditional German cooking, chef Guggenmos shared these recipes. You can also see him this week on Frank Terranova's Cooking With Class show on Channel 10.

BEEF ROULADES (RINDER ROULADEN)

12 thin slices top round beef steak

3 spears kosher dill pickles

1 pound bacon

1 large onion, chopped

Mustard, ketchup to taste

1 to 2 teaspoons salt

1/3 teaspoon pepper

Pinch of Spanish paprika

1/2 cup melted butter

2 cups heavy cream

Beef steaks should be very thin. If they are not, pound them with a meat tenderizer to flatten them. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Spread lightly with mustard on one side, then with a little ketchup. Sprinkle with some onion, then place a long sliver of pickle on the meat. Top with a slice of uncooked bacon. Roll up the meat tightly and squeeze together. You do not have to tie it.

Repeat with remaining meat.

Saute, seam down, in butter, turning to brown all sides. Or sear in pre-heated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, until evenly browned.

Add cream to pan for last 5 minutes and cook until thickened, stirring up browned bits in pan. Cook until meat is done, 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove roulades, strain sauce, slice roulades and serve with the sauce.

Serves 6 to 10.

Yukon Gold or Red Bliss potatoes are best for potato salad because they hold their shape; baking potatoes fall apart. German potato salad is always served warm.

BAVARIAN POTATO SALAD

About 5 medium-size potatoes (boiled to make 4 cups warm sliced cooked potatoes)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery

1/2 cup sliced red onion

6 strips crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Hot beef stock to moisten, optional

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Scrub potatoes and boil in the skin in water to cover until tender. Peel.

When still warm, slice and combine with celery, onions, bacon, salt and pepper. Combine vinegar and oil; pour over potatoes. Toss gently to mix. Moisten with hot beef stock if desired. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Serves 4.

The sauce from the beef roulades is good on spaetzle.

Or toss cooked spaetzle with melted butter and grated Swiss cheese.

Kitchenware stores sell gadgets for making spaetzle; one type looks like a large garlic press. Or press the batter through the large holes of a colander.

Spaetzle should be moist and tender, like bits of egg noodle dough.

SPAETZLE

1 pound (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour

Salt, about 1 teaspoon

3 to 4 eggs

1/4 to 1/2 cup milk

Mix flour and salt. Beat eggs and milk into the flour, to form a moist batter, not as thick as pasta dough. Guggenmos beats the mixed batter with his hand to whip in air.

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil.

Drop bits of dough into the boiling water, using a spatzle maker or pressing batter through a colander. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well and toss with a little butter. Serve hot, as you would noodles.

Makes 4 servings.

This salad, with a lightly sweet vinegar dressing, is popular in Germany.

TOMATO AND CUCUMBER SALAD

6 vine-ripened tomatoes

2 European (seedless) cucumbers

1 medium-size onion

1 bunch chives

Red wine vinegar, corn oil, salt, pepper and sugar to taste

(Approximately 1/4 cup each vinegar and oil and 1 or more teaspoons sugar)

Slice or coarsely chop tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Place in mixing bowl. Add dressing made of vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and sugar. Add chopped chives. Makes 12 servings.