Yesterday I shared a bit about my recent visit to Huntsville, AL for a sneak peek of the annual Hunstville, AL Restaurant Week, a 10 day celebration of the area's eclectic mix of casual and fine dining offerings. Running from August 14-23, restaurant week features fixed priced lunch and dinner deals at 60 local eateries.
As a first time visitor of Huntsville, I was truly blown away by the hospitality of virtually everyone I encountered. Whether it was the staff at the Huntsville Marriott (5 Tranquility Base), the team at the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, or the owners of various local food trucks I encountered at a Sunday morning breakfast event, or the employees of various restaurants I visited, each and every person made me feel so very welcome in the city.
But by far the sweetest of the bunch was Sabrina, the owner of Hildegard’s Biergarten (1010 Heathland Dr. NW), our second stop on the local dining tour. As down-to-earth as can be, Sabrina's passion for cooking the dishes she grew up with in Germany was evident from the moment she joined us at our table. That love continued with each and every plate -- be it the grilled German sausages with homemade spaetzel (which I am anxious to try making at home!), the massive cabbage rolls with brown gravy (a dish that doesn't normally appear on the menu but was a welcomed treat), pork schnitzel with AWESOME fried potatoes and red cabbage, rich and tender goulash, or an amazing selection of desserts.
Now as a Huntsville virgin, I had no real understanding of just how deeply the German roots grow there. As I learned, it all dates back to the 50s when this cotton town turned "rocket city" with the arrival of Wernher von Braun and his team of German rocket scientists. Today, Werner is not only honored at the US Space & Rocket Center but via the dishes served by Sabrina and her team.
In my own homage to Werner, I have developed the following recipe for another German classic, schwenkbraten. Marinated in a mixture of mustard, garlic, juniper berries, herbs and spices, these thin cuts of pork are cooked quickly over direct heat and served along with grilled, marinated onions.
Enjoy the recipe and if you find yourself in Huntsville during restaurant week, definitely plan a visit to Hildegard's Biergarten for the $15 fixed price lunch or $30 dinner!
GERMAN-STYLE GRILLED SCHWENKBRATEN
2 tbsp. coarse grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. juniper berries
4-6 springs of fresh thyme
2-3 fresh sage leaves, torn in to small pieces
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. paprika
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. Kosher salt
4 pork butt blade steaks (approximately 3 lbs.)
1 onion thinly sliced
Combine mustard, garlic, juniper berries, thyme, paprika, oregano, olive oil and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Place onions and pork steaks in a large bowl or baking dish and toss with the marinade mixture until well coated. Cover the bowl or baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Prepare grill for medium-high heat cooking. Remove onions and pork steaks from the marinade, rinse with cold water to remove excess marinade, and pat dry. Place the onions on the grill and cook until they begin to soften, turning them periodically to allow for even cooking. Add the pork steaks to the grill and cook for approximately 5 minutes per side until lightly browned and cooked through.
Remove the pork steaks and onions and serve immediately.