Sunday, June 21, 2015

Brägel

It is general knowledge that Europe imported the potato from South America about 400 years ago and that Frederick the Great made enormous efforts to introduce this staple food in Prussia. Potatoes fed Prussia's growing population and made its food supply less dependent on the harvesting of cereal grains.

Frederick inspecting the harvesting of his favorite staple food
that the farmers subserviently present to the "potato king".
Rumors were frequently spread that Frederick's troops were superior to other armies solely fed on cereal grains because of the potato (not spinach!) diet of the Prussian grenadiers.

Frederick on the eve of the Battle of Torgau (1760) that he nearly lost.
Somewhat dreamily he observes a country lass boiling potatoes on an open fire.
Did the miracle tuber perhaps save Frederick's upcoming day?
Potatoes are still popular in Europe. Here in Germany kids in particular adore them in the form of pommes frites (French fries) called Pommes rot with ketchup or Pommes weiß with mayonnaise or even Pommes rot-weiß. Another popular preparation is frying sliced potatoes in a pan.

Following the white asparagus season ending at Sankt Johannis (June 24) restaurants in the Freiburg region seamlessly continue with Brägel weeks in the beginning of July before the chanterelle season takes over. Brägel are not to be confused with Brägele that are generally considered to be like Bratkartoffeln (home fries) as served in northern Germany. And then there are still the Rösti in Switzerland.

Let us work on the difference of all these delicious potato dishes and start with Brägel. Brägel are made from thinly grated boiled potatoes that are formed into a patty, seasoned with pepper and salt, and baked in a pan on both sides using Schmalz (lard).

Brägel (©Hochschwarzwälder Brägelwochen 2015)
This sounds like Rösti, but the Swiss speciality is made instead from raw potatoes.

Rösti (©Wikipedia/Musskelprozz)
Some people take the word Brägele to be a diminutive of Brägel but they are mistaken. Brägele served here in Freiburg are sliced potatoes. The slices are fried in a pan with bacon and onions and are called Bratkartoffeln (home fries) in High German.

Brägele with Wiener Schnitzel (©fudder)
Red Baron's experience is that Brägele are not as tasty as Bratkartoffeln served in the north of Germany. Why is it so? I can only guess. It seems judging from the consistency of the fried potatoes that Brägele are generally made from boiled potatoes whereas in the north Bratkartoffeln are usually made from raw potatoes. This means that Bratkartoffeln come out crustier and have more bite (al dente) than Brägele.

Here are Bratkartoffeln (home fries) I had in Hamburg last year
with gebratene Pfifferlinge (chanterelles sautées) served with Rührei (scrambled eggs).
I have never had Brägel so far but it would be interesting to taste the difference to Rösti.
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