In Bavaria lent is also called “Starkbierzeit” (time of the strong beer). This is for a reason because since the middle ages monks have been brewing extra strong beer, the doppelbock, to make it easier to get over the meatless period of lent. Even in Bavaria only the most dedicated christians observe the biblical call for lent, but nonetheless doppelbock is also very popular with the non-fasting part of the population, such as me.
Doppelbock is a very good beer for cooking because its sweetness stronlgy offsets the bitterness of the hops. In braising doppelbock can replace red wine in numerous cases without problem like with oxtail. As side dishes I will prepare sauerkraut and classic pretzel dumplings, a grander version of the well known bread dumplings.
Ingredients (for 2 to 3 servings):
- 1 kg oxtail
- 1 marrow bone per person (optional)
- ca. 300 ml doppelbock
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon paprika powder
- Bay leaves
- Vegetable oil
- 4 pretzels, preferrably at least one day old
- 500 ml full fat milk
- 1 onion
- 20 g butter
- 1 large egg
- 10 g fresh oder 3 g dried parsley
- Dried breadcrumbs
- 300 g sauerkraut
- 50 g raw or salted pork back fat (lardo) oder or diced bacon
- 1 splash doppelbock
- Preparation 30 minutes (moslty overlapping with cooking time)
- Cooking time: 3 hours or more
Preheat the oven to 120 degrees. Season the oxtail pieces with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof braising vessel and brown the oxtail pieces in batches and set aside, do the same with the marrow bones. Shortly sautee the onions, add paprika powder and continue to sautee for a few minutes. Turn off the heat, put the oxtail pieces on top of the onions and the marrow bones on top of the oxtail. Close lid and put into the oven for at least 2 1/2 hours.
After 90 minutes you can begin with the preparation of the dumplings. In a skillet sauté the dieced onions in butter until just turning brown. Cut the pretzels into small pieces (the harder ther smaller) and put them into a large bowl. In a saucepan bring the milk to a boil and then remove from the heat.
Carefully pour some hot milk over the pretzel pieces and mix. The amount of milk required depends on the moisture of the pretzels. Only add so much that you still think it is too little. Let cool down a bit, then mix in egg, onions and parsley. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, then knead with your hands. Add some more milk if necessary. The dough should be compact and sticky. If it is too soft you can add dried breadcrumbs or wheat bread, or you could just have another spare pretzel at hand.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let rest for about 30 minutes. In a large pot bring water to a boil and salt lightly. With wet hands shape round rumplings, somewhat smaller than tennis balls. The dough should be sufficient for 6 dumplings. Put the dumplings into the boiling water and turn down the heat to a minimum. Let simmer partly covered for 25 to 30 minutes. The water should simmer very lightly but never boil, otherwise the dumplings would risk to fall apart.
While the dumplings are simmering take the braising vessel out of the oven and remove meat and bones. If necessary skim off fat. Pour sauce and onions into a small saucepan. Put the meat back into the vessel, cover and put it into the oven again. Put the marrow bones openly onto a plate next to the braising vessel.
Mix the sauce with an immersion blender and reduce until the desired thickness is reached. You may add some more beer or remaining milk. If you wish you can thicken the sauce with breadcrumbs or flour that has been premixed with a little beer.
Heat pork fat or bacon in a skillet until the fat has largely rendered, then add the sauerkraut and sautee for 10 to 15 minutes. Halfway in, mix in a splash of doppelbock.
When the dumplings are ready serve everything together. The recommended drink should be obvious.