Sacher Torte. Wiener Schnitzel. Apfelstrudel. These are the foods that come to mind when I think of Vienna, Austria. Now I include Sauerkraut Strudel.
Immediately following the new year in January 2007, my sister and I took a girls trip to Vienna. On our second day in the city, we spent the morning at the Schonnbrunn Palace and were looking for a scrumptious lunch to warm us up. We found our most prized meal of the trip, a sauerkraut strudel, at the organic, vegetarian cafe called St. Josef. Being from Minnesota, my usual experience with sauerkraut is usually on a bratwurst, and although I love it, I’ve never experimented with the kraut more than eating it with sausage dishes. Not anymore.
St. Josef is a humble, intimate, cafeteria style cafe. The tables were close together, almost making an expectation for the patrons to become friends. The air smelled like sauerkraut, which to me, is a very soothing aroma, especially on a frigid day. The cafe looked like a small cafeteria, nothing memorable, but I immediately felt at home.
We got our grub, dug in, and didn’t talk again until our plates were empty and almost licked clean. My first thought was I FOUND THE SAVORY VERSION OF APPLE STRUDEL! The sauerkraut mixture tasted like candy, the perfect balance of sweet and sour, with a hint of caraway. The crisp dough, the firm, yet tender sauerkraut, the subtle mix of spices, and the dollop of dairy on top gave this strudel a place at the top of my comfort food list. It was so simple and tasty. We both seriously contemplated getting another serving, but there was much more eating to be done.
I’ve made this recipe several times over the past couple of years. When I tell my dinner companions our meal selection, I often get many questionable expressions. Don’t worry. That will change quickly.
Sauerkraut Strudel with Potato Sauce
2 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
14 oz. (400 g) sauerkraut
4 strips of bacon, chopped
4 oz. beef stock
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds (add another 1/4 tsp. if you like a stronger flavor)
1 tsp. pepper
8 sheets of phyllo dough
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Melt the butter on medium-high heat in a medium sized saute pan. Then, add the bacon and cook until slightly crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan, reserving the bacon fat.
Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Then, add the bacon and sauerkraut to the onions and mix together. Finally, add the beef stock, caraway seeds, and sugar and stir well. Continue cooking uncovered for 15-20 minutes, allowing all the liquid to evaporate. Turn off the heat and let the sauerkraut mixture to cool about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out the phyllo dough. Place 1 sheet of dough on a cutting board, brush with melted butter, then layer it with another piece of phyllo dough and press down on the dough. Repeat this process until you have 8 layers.
Spread the sauerkraut mixture along one long edge of the dough, leaving about an inch at each end. Roll up the dough and brush the ends with butter and press the edges down. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter and make four slices on the top to let the moisture out.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Serve hot with the potato sauce. Store leftovers in the fridge, for up to 2 days. Makes a great lunch.
This recipe can easily be doubled.
Serves enough for 2 strudels
12 oz. potatoes (yukon gold), peeled and quartered
2/3 cup milk
1/3-1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in a medium pot until soft. Strain the potatoes and add back to the pot. Then, mash the potatoes with a potato masher or hand mixer. Add the butter and mix with the potatoes. The mixture should be smooth.
Add the milk and 1/3 water to the potato mixture. Use more or less water, depending on how thick or thin you like the sauce.
Heat the sauce over low-medium heat. Add the paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot over the strudel. Store leftovers in the fridge, for up to 2 days.
Pairing Suggestions: I recently served this with a variety of bratwurst and dunkel bier.