Monday, December 14, 2009

A German Christmas Eve

By Pat Tanner

I’ve known Maren and Werner Pinnow of Hamburg, Germany from when their two young daughters, now grown, arrived for pre-school at the Princeton Waldorf School - without understanding a word of English. The youngsters amazed us all when, within a month, they were comfortably chatting with their classmates. The Pinnows stayed on in the U.S. years longer than they intended, returning home only when they feared their daughters might forever lose touch with their heritage.

I recently got a glimpse into that heritage when I received an email from Maren describing the family’s traditional Christmas Eve celebrations. “On the evening of the 24th we begin by opening presents. Then we have our traditional dinner: potato salad with German sausage. Werner and I had this kind of dinner even when we were little – maybe because it can be prepared in advance and you don’t have to spend so much time in the kitchen. It’s very common, especially in the north of Germany.”

In fact, that dinner sounds just right for any night during the busy holiday season. This year, I will combine German tradition with New Jersey specialties by serving assorted sausages from my favorite farms – Griggstown and Cherry Grove – and whipping up my version of German potato salad, which replaces the usual boiled potatoes with fluffy baked ones. I’ll serve beer from a New Jersey brewery and end the meal on a German note with a platter of pfeffernusse. Who knows: if time allows, I may even make the cookies myself.

Serves 6

5 large baking potatoes
Vegetable oil, for rubbing on the potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 small garlic clove, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (you might want less)
1/4 cup minced parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce each potato once with the tines of a fork. Rub a small amount of vegetable oil over the potatoes and bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. Meantime, combine onion, garlic, mustard, and parsley in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the olive oil, vegetable oil, and white wine vinegar in a saucepan. Heat until mixture just begins to boil (do not let it boil), remove from heat, and carefully pour over the onion mixture. Stir and set aside.

Cut potatoes in half and scoop out the insides, forming chunks. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and combine gently.

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