Bratwurst. Spätzle. Sauerkraut. Weisswurst. Schnitzel. These are the classic German foods we can all readily identify. But there’s more to the cuisine than the traditional hearty, meaty dishes that we’ve been conditioned to expect.
Consider the pilzstrudel — a strudel stuffed with wild mushrooms and smoked barley — which is entirely vegetarian-friendly and served with roasted carrots. Yes, you read that correctly: a completely meatless German dish devoid of any sauerkraut on the side. Or how about a fresh salad with forelle (smoked trout), asparagus, and radishes tossed in a horseradish dressing? While it might sound a bit farm-to-table, German cuisine is no stranger to seafood or salads.
Typically, I plan party food according to two basic rules: one, make it delicious, and two, present it in a discrete form that can be picked up and brandished in the course of energetic conversation without spraying crumbs or dip everywhere. But for New Year’s Eve, which I usually spend with a close cadre of friends, I am willing to break the rules for lucky foods. New Year’s style so often seems to highlight glitter and glamor: sparkling beverages, spangle and shine on the clothes, twinkling lights—but the food is down-home, humble but filling and delicious. I simmer black-eyed peas to creaminess with a ham hock in a slow cooker. I leave the pork out of the collard greens in case of vegetarian guests, but I caramelize the onions with a smoky salt and deglaze with wine to make this humble green a little more dressy for the occasion. Soft, round rolls and the various offerings of other guests finish off the meal. Napkins are required. When we eat, I recite a litany cobbled together from memory and the Internet: the green folds of collards represent paper money and prosperity; the pork is a nod to the forward progress of the pig, who can’t walk backward; the black-eyed peas are looking to the future. MORE