When my friends Rachel and Dan throw a party, be it dinner for four or 24, you hightail it over there, guaranteed as you are to share some warm, easy-laugh company, delicious food and tasty drinks. Oktoberfest at their place? Ja, bitte!
Rachel’s a terrific cook, and the sort of expert hostess who thinks nothing of boiling and baking giant batches of hand-made Bavarian pretzels for a houseful of friends. Her Oktoberfest twists were the ideal: golden, chewy, salt-flaked crusts with soft, puffy interiors and a hint of sourdough tang. They were gone as soon as Rachel set them out. I highly, highly recommend her recipe.
Also batting for team Knauss is Rachel’s husband Dan, an avid home brewer armed with a remarkable palate and a PhD in Microbiology. His Hefeweizen, a Bavarian style of wheat beer, somehow tastes more like my favorite Franzikaner than an actual pint of Franzikaner: a balance of spice and citrus and the pleasantly wheat-y flavor of an unfiltered weissbier. (Quit-your-day-job delicious.) And Dan’s Kölsch, a clean, medium-bodied beer with a lightly hoppy finish, was cheered by friends (no slouches in the beer-drinking department, these guys) in such, shall we say, expressive superlatives that I can’t reprint them here.
Suffice it to say, Dan’s 40 gallons of homebrew didn’t last the afternoon.
In case anyone was still hungry, there were grilled Nürnberg sausages and American bratwurst, sauerkrauts, potato salad, an array of mustards and German sweets. I brought along selleriesalat, a German celery root salad cooked in beef stock and tossed with a vinaigrette (recipe follows; I might warn you that breaking down celery root takes a bit of time, and breaking down three takes a bit of patience).
As predicted, it was a wunderbar afternoon, with a busy-buzzy parade of little kids underfoot, bouncy polka music, warm and sunny autumn weather, old friends and new ones. And now I’m wondering how the Knauss family might feel about a Novemberfest? Decemberfest, maybe? Let’s keep a good thing going! Danke schoen, again, my dears.
Selleriesalat (Celery Root Salad)
adapted from Horst Scharfenberg’s “The Cuisines of Germany”; serves 12-18
- 6 C beef stock
- 3 medium-large celery roots (about 5″ in diameter, also known as celeriac), peeled
- 2 C red onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 C walnut oil + 1 Tbsp
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/4 C apple cider vinegar + 1 Tbsp
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 C grated carrot
- two handfuls walnuts, chopped
- 1/4 C parsley, chopped
Peel the celery root and julienne into 3-4″ pieces. In a large pot, bring broth, celery root, onion, 1/4 C walnut oil, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 C apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp salt to a simmer. Cook until celery root is crisp-tender, about 20 minutes. Reserve 1/2 C broth. (Discard the remaining broth, or use to boil potatoes for potato salad.)
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast chopped walnuts 5-7 minutes until fragrant and golden.
Transfer cooked celery root and onions to serving bowl. To the reserved 1/2 C broth, add a pinch each of salt and sugar, 1 Tbsp walnut oil and 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar. Toss celery root with the broth mixture, carrots, toasted walnuts and parsley. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.
Note: celery root is also delicious raw; grate the celeriac and toss with a walnut oil-based vinagrette.