The short story of Oktoberfest is that it originated as a wedding celebration for a German prince. Activities include drinking beer, eating sausages, listening to polka and just generally having a bangin’ time. We’re big fans. This may be because of our lineage - Hillary is roughly 105% German, myself an unknown pedigree, but we both have family members who came through Ellis Island wearing lederhosen and eating pretzels. However, lineage aside, I suspect most people find Oktoberfest to be a good time.
Despite the name, Oktoberfest actually begins in September. Originally, it was an October exclusive, but somewhere along the line it was decided “why not extend the drinking into September, when the weather is a bit warmer?” In Buffalo, almost every Oktoberfest activity happened on September 28th this year. We tried to take part in several of them, with varying degrees of success. The ultimate conclusion was that not enough (or any) potato pancakes were consumed, so we decided to make a mini Oktoberfest meal for dinner.
The things we made were: potato pancakes, chicken schnitzel, and spaetzle.
For potato pancakes, the first step is typically to shred potatoes with a box grater and ring out as much liquid as you possibly can. In our case, we had some frozen shredded potatoes already, so the first step was to run home on my lunch break and pull them out for thawing because I forgot to do it before leaving for work.
Like most recipes, you’ll need some chopped onions…
Once you’ve got thawed (or drained) potatoes and chopped onions, throw them in a bowl with a lightly beaten egg, salt, pepper, and roughly ¾ cup of flour. I’d never made potato pancakes in this way before, so I wasn’t really sure what consistency I needed for the mixture. I got things to the point where they were loosely sticking together, and it worked out ok in the end, so go for that.
Next, start heating oil up to fry these guys in. I use vegetable shortening for this kind of frying, but you could use vegetable, peanut or any other oil with a high smoke point. I also turned on the oven to a low temp to keep them warm while I worked on the rest of dinner.
When your oil shimmers, drop spoonfuls of your potato mixture in and flatten. Let them go until nicely browned and flip.
At some point here, you should be starting to boil salted water for spaetzle. Spaetzle is an egg based noodle, sort of like pasta. We got some pre-made from Wegmans. I assumed making it was similar to pasta, and it is, but it needs to boil longer. I let ours go for 14 minutes or so, when it stopped being super resistant.
While the pancakes fry and the water warms, let’s talk about the chicken schnitzel. I assumed that schnitzel was some sort of special recipe, but after doing some research, it appears that it is basically your standard breaded fried treatment. The traditional schnitzel would be weiner schnitzel, which uses veal. We don’t eat much veal, so we opted for chicken, but I imagine the treatment is identical. You need three containers to pull this off. First, one with flour to dredge, then two eggs beaten with some dijon mustard, and finally some breadcrumbs.
Meat goes through in the same order I listed the components: flour, egg, then breading. When finished, they can go right into the same oil you just used for the potato pancakes.
Every recipe I looked at had you pounding your chicken to an even thickness. Out of sheer laziness, I did not do this, and we had some issues with even cooking. Anyway, fry until well browned and cooked through. Serve with your spaetzle (covered in butter) and potato pancakes. Probably some Oktoberfest beer as well!
1 lb drained shredded potatoes or thawed frozen shredded potatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 egg lightly beaten
¾ cup of all purpose flour
Mix potatoes, onion, flour and egg in a large bowl until of a just sticking together consistency. Drop by the spoonful into heated oil and flatten into a pancake. Fry until browned and flip, cooking second side until browned.
Boil in salted water as indicated by package
2 Chicken breasts
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 cups bread crumbs
Beat the eggs together with the mustard. Heat some oil to shimmering, dredge the chicken first in the flour, then egg mixture and coat with the bread crumbs. Place in hot oil and fry until browned and cooked through. Flip and finish.