Archive for the ‘Manhood’ Category

Sauerbraten   3 comments

Tonight the parish is rejoicing at the prospect of the birth of Baby Joseph, the first infant to be born into our parish since its founding.  To highlight Baby Joseph’s infant manliness, there will be a number of manly baby gifts (check out the photos in the parish photo gallery which I’ll put up in the next few days).  And, the menu for the gala is manly too:  Sauerbraten, made with a recipe I got from the Wise Encylopedia of Cookery, as modified by wisdom gained from numerous appearances of that august repast in my kitchen over the past 50 years (yes, I began serious cooking that long ago!). 

Here, then, is the current version of Sauerbraten as the recipe has stabilized over a half-century.  You sauerbraten purists can keep your comments to yourself.  Any observant web-surfer can verify that the recipe varies considerably in the details of the spices.  The recipe I use is uncommon (from what you’ll see in a survey) in using beer rather than wine in the marinade.

The Meat

Begin with a beef roast (supposedly, the original sauerbraten was made from horse meat!) equal in weight to a half-pound per person to be served.  This recipe is correct for a 3.5 to 4.0 pound roast.  Scale the recipe below as needed for larger amounts of meat.

Sauerbraten works very well with tough roasts (e.g. arm roasts).  I prefer bottom round roasts.  Do not use fatty roasts such as chuck, as these completely fall apart during cooking, and you’ll wind up with sauerbraten-flavored beef stew instead of a roast.

Rinse the meat and pat dry with paper towels.  Rub lightly with salt and pepper.  Set aside while you prepare the marinade.

The Marinade Container

The point of marinade is to soak the meat, optimally on all sides at once.  So, the final marinating container should be something that allows the roast to be covered by the marinade — something like a 2-gallon ziplock bag.  Or a straight-sided utility bucket made of plastic.  Or a 2-gallon straight-sided jar (e.g. a smallish kitchen crock) made of glass or ceramic.  DO NOT USE METAL CONTAINERS.  The marinade is acidic and will react chemically with metals, imparting a horrid flavor (and metal-salts) to the dish. 

For a 4-pound roast, I used a 5-quart, straight-sided bucket I purchased from the cleaning aisle of the grocery store.  Covered with plastic wrap, it’s working quite well.  Also, a 5-quart plastic mixing bowl with a snap-on cover holds a second roast (we’re preparing three roasts for tonight’s feast).

 The Marinade

Place the roast into the container.  If you’re using a very large ziplock bag, place the bag containing the roast into a large mixing bowl to help support the bag as you compose the marinade.

Pour over the meat the following:

  • 2 cups of white or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups of a dark, strong-flavored beer (bock, dark lager; or a hoppy beer such as an IPA).

Add to the container, poking them into the liquid around the sides of the meat, the following:

  • 2 carrots, sliced on long diagnomals to expose lots of the carrot interior
  • 2 medium onions, halved and then sliced into thick slices
  • 3 leafy sprigs of celery tops
  • 3 or 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 12 whole peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground thyme

That’s it!  Add just enough water so that liquid covers the meat.  Cover the container, or close the ziplock bag, and set into the refrigerator for at least three days.  Marinate four days if the roast is large, if the meat is tough, or if you want a spicier roast. 

If you wish to turn the meat once or twice a day, that’s okay.  However, it won’t be necessary if the meat is completely covered in marinade.  Also, the meat will turn a ghastly grey color.  This is normal.  No problemo.  It will look lovely when cooked.

The Cooking

Remove the meat and pat dry with paper towels.  Strain the marinade and place into a dutch oven.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of shortening in a skillet and brown the meat well on all sides.  This is NOT the “cooking” step.  You are giving the exterior of the roast a lovely brown color, and the portion of the meat that is browned will contribute to the final savory flavor. 

When done, pour off the excess shortening, and if there is any meat brownings remain in the bottom ofthe skillet, return the skillet to the heat and add a few tablespoons of marinade to loosen this tasty browning residue.  Once that is done, empty the skillet back into the marinade in the dutch oven.

Place the browned roast into the marinade in the dutch oven.  Heat to just below boiling.  Then put the cover onto the dutch oven and turn the heat down to simmer.  Let the roast simmer in the hot marinade for three hours.  If the roast is large or a tough cut, let it simmer four hours. 

The Gravy

While the roast is simmering, use a rolling pin or a kitchen mallet to thoroughly pulverize 10 gingersnaps.  If the gingersnaps are already crisp, pulverize away.  If your grocer only sells the “soft and chewy” gingersnaps (they’re not Really “snaps” of course), then you should let them sit out on the counter for the three days you’re marinating the meat, so they can dry out.

At any rate, you’ll want the pulverized gingersnaps ready by the time the meat is finished simmering in the broth.

Also set aside an 8-ounce tub of sour cream, so it can reach room temperature. 

After the roast is finished and set aside where it can remain warm, place the remaining broth/marinade in a saucepan and heat to nearly boiling.  Whisk half the crushed gingersnaps into the hot broth/marinade and cook until thickened.  If the consistency is thinner than you would like, whisk in additional gingersnap crumbs in small portions until you reach the consistency you prefer.

Add the sour cream and whisk smooth.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the roast into serving slices.  Platter them, and drizzle gravy onto the slices.  Serve the remaining gravy at the dining or buffet table.

Serving Suggestions

Saurbraten is usually served with plain boiled potatoes.  More ambitious cooks may wish to prepare potatoe dumplings (in the photo above), or fried potato cakes (yummy, but a cook’s assistant is nice for getting everything to be finished at the same time).  A good, strong-flavored beer goes very well.  If you wish to serve wine, pick a robust, chewy red.  Anything less ambitious will be silenced by the sauerbraten’s fortissimo flavors.


Posted October 27, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Manhood, Recipes

How to Raise Boys Who Read   1 comment

My fellow presbyter Ryan Martin alerts me to this column in the Wall Street Journal, lamenting the decline in reading among boys and suggesting solutions for it.  In passing, Thomas Spence deplores and dismisses the “Sweetfarts philosopy” of teaching boys to read by “meeting boys where they are” through an appeal to their “love of bodily functions and gross-out humor.”  He rightly observes:

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far.

Spence pens some important and useful words about why boys today aren’t reading very much or very well.  And, then, he answers the question posed in his column’s headline:

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

All this got me to thinking about the fact that I was a voracious reader by the time I got to kindergarten.  I recall that my brothers (no girls in my nuclear family) were readers too.  This was long before the internet and electronic media.  And, while our home was not exactly filled with shelves of good books (we did have some), our tiny town (population 3,500) had a respectable library, regularly restocked by the circulating collection from the San Bernadino County Library.  So, yes, we had plenty of good books available, and we boys regularly haunted the library shelves for additional copies of books that boys aged 7 to 12 and older would inhale like Sweettarts (no Sweetfarts were available, as our parents, teachers, and librariens weren’t particularly interested in rearing morons and barbarians).

So, was that why I and other boys pillaged the library like Ghengis Kahn pillaged feudal China?  I can’t speak for other boys, but I can speak for myself and my brothers.  It was our parents’ reading to us that got us started reading. 

Especially it was my father reading to us.  I can remember specifically that he read to us Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  He also read the Sunday comics to us out of the Los Angeles Examiner.  And, the Sundays he wasn’t reading them to us, my brother and I were sprawled on the floor, the Sunday comics from that paper spread out before us, while someone on the radio read the comics out loud.  How’s that for radio programming?  A different sort of world, huh? I’m grateful I have a photograph of that scene.

Boys want to be men, and the first and most formative man they ever encounter is their father.  If Dad reads, it’s manly to read and boys will read.  If Dad reads out loud, it’s manly to read out loud, and boys will want to read out loud like Daddy does. 

If you want testimonials and scientific reports on the effects of reading to children, then Google “reading to children” and click on a few of the tousands of links that pop up. Better yet, Google this entire prhase:  “fathers reading to their children” and digest what you find.  Nothing against mothers reading to their children, even to their sons.  But, I suspect that for a boy there is nothing that will shape his inclination to read more than the experience of his father routinely reading to him — from well before the little boy can read anything, all the way into his late boyhood.  Try Googling “fathers reading to their sons.”

Spence’s recipe for getting boys to read is satisfactory as far as it goes. But, it seems to assume that if the distractions (internet, video games, other electronic entertainments) are missing and reading material is present in the form of shelves of good books, then boys will read.

I don’t think so. Boys need more “inducement” than a bound copy of Treasure Island on a shelf. Like everything else that is good, boys who read need to be taught that it is good. And, a good way for that teaching is through the modeling of a father who reads to them.

Posted September 25, 2010 by Fr. Bill in Manhood, Parenting, Proper piety

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