Thursday, September 29, 2011

Education Nation - Day 4 The Importance of Looking Back

The long and the short of this post is 'know your history'. How many times have you heard someone talking about a current event say 'if they had studied their history, they would have never done THAT'?

I take 'looking back' very seriously. At the restaurant, we are trying to present a real sense of our area. The flavor of the land; an experience you can't get anywhere else. In order to do that, we need to look to the land, but also look to our past generations and see how their foods can influence and inspire the food that we cook and the menus that we write today. Creativity for creativity's sake is simply mental masturbation. Cuisine needs roots, plain and simple. You HAVE to look back in order to look forward. In 'looking back' we are able to explore dishes like 'schnitz und knepp', shoo fly pie, chicken and dumplings, and scrapple. Reading old cookbooks from the area is a great resource, but one of the greatest resources in talking to people about dishes they loved growing up or dishes they were served at a gathering that still resonate in their memory.

One such item is sauerkraut balls. Sauerkraut is one of 'our' things in central PA, having been handed down by German ancestors. Anytime we can do something interesting with sauerkraut, I'm in. The idea of sauerkraut balls actually was put in my head by my dad a couple of years ago. He related a story to me about how great they were and told me bits and pieces of the ingredients. Basically a 'Cliffs Notes' version. After doing some research in old, local cookbooks, I came up with a Sheppard Mansion version. This isn't a 'play on' or 'deconstructed'. It's simply inspired by a classic PA Dutch dish. There's no cute, whimsical term for them either. They are simply 'sauerkraut balls'

So, what is a sauerkraut ball? It's basically a mix of ground Rettland Farms pork, sauerkraut, brown butter, sage, rye bread crumbs, and eggs. Once cool, the mix is rolled in bread crumbs and fried. The dipping sauce is a whole grain mustard cream and arugula adds a final sharp bite to bust through the fattiness. I gotta tell you, these are really good bites of New PA Dutch food. Book yourself a reservation and give'em a try. Yes, you can even giggle when you say 'balls' during your order.

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