Cyrus is a big lover of sauerbraten and he asked to have it for Christmas last year. Thinking about a possible starter, I decided to continue (or, rather, begin with) the German theme. So, jumping to the outcome of my musings, all the well-known companions that I remember having been present – in one variety or the other – at all my mother’s festive dinners in my childhood found themselves combined in this amuse bouche. Luckily (as it turned out), when Christmas Eve arrived there were just enough ingredients for a second round…
Incidentally, this dish gives away my actually Westphalian origin. I already wrote a couple of times in this blog about the Saxonian and Rhenish as well as some North-German influences on my present-day German cooking repertoire which all stem from my childhood. This is largely due to the fact that my mother was the cook in our family and while being born in Saxony she spent her teenage years on the Lower Rhine where she was raised by a North-German step-mother. Its geographic location in Westphalia therefore seldom made itself felt culinarily in our family home’s kitchen, and if I got to experience the regional cuisine of my birth place at all as a child it was through occasional weekend dinners in traditional „Gasthäusern“ offering „gutbürgerliche“ cuisine (roughly translates as „regional homemade food“). And from those meals one memory prevails: That of fresh trout fished at the small farms usually belonging to the hosting Gasthaus whose waters were nourished by the clear waters of the many small streams criss-crossing the Sauerland mountains. I unwaveringly used to pick it as my meal at the afore-mentioned dinners and I always had it poached „au bleu„. At the same time, I equally loved trout when it came along smoked when served as a starter on more festive occasions. Horseradish was/is an indispensable companion. Throw in the most Westphalian of German breads, pumpernickel, and there you go.
Ingredients (serves two):
- 1 smoked trout filet (if you do not happen to smoke your own fish, get something really high quality)
- 2 round slices pumpernickel („Pumpernickeltaler„)
- some lightly salted butter
- horseradish cream („Sahnemeerrettich„, i.e. grated horseradish mixed with whipped cream, some vinegar and salt – buy it in a jar or make it yourself; there are different levels of spiciness – I recommend something in the medium spicy range for this dish)
- approximately 50 grams North Sea shrimps
- fresh dill
- Lightly toast the pumpernickel. Let cool down.
- Spread some salted butter on top. Per serving, place one slice in the middle of a small bowl.
- Cut the trout filet into two halves. Arrange on the top of the pumpernickel slice.
- Use a piping bag or a teaspoon to place a decorative dollop of horseradish cream on top of the trout.
- Sprinkle the North Sea shrimps on top.
- Decorate with a branch of fresh dill. (If you look closely at the picture, you will notice, I had to make do with the deep-frozen version and some fresh parsley – well, I am still kind of proud this remained my only shopping glitch last Christmas.)