Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

We were recently invited to a friend’s house for a traditional Swiss Raclette dinner. Although I had never heard of such a thing before moving here, I can honestly say that I will be promptly buying my own Raclette machine. Yes, a machine. Just like the traditional fondue has its own appliance, so does Raclette. In fact, most every traditional Swiss dish I can think of has its own appliance of some sort.

Of course, there’s Fondue and the Fondue Pot:

No fancy dipping accompaniments with the traditional Swiss Fondue...just chunks of white bread...and cheese.

In NA, we love our chocolate fondues, but in Switzerland, it's always about the cheese...and more cheese...and well, more cheese.

Spätzli (pronounced “sh-paht-zlee”) and the Spätzli Pan:

Spätzli (also known in other countries as Spätzle, Spaetzli, Spaetzle) is an egg noodle typically prepared like pasta.

You put the batter on the pan and then using the scraper, work it back and forth so the dough shoves through the holes in the pan and drops into the hot oil below.

Even Swiss Tupperware has its own Spätzli device!

Rösti (pronounced “rah-shtee”) can be easily made in a typical frying pan but it’s common to have a Rösti double-pan for easy flipping (yet to see that in action):

Rösti is just shredded potatoes. But instead of having them for breakfast (like we would have hashbrowns), this is a *dinner* side dish.

Using a double-sided pan (also known as a frittata pan) allows you to cook both sides of the Rösti without having to flip the potatoes onto a plate and then back into the pan.

And the glorious, oh-so-yummy and guilt-inducing Raclette Grill:

It's sort of like fondue in the sense that it's melted cheese, but it's not as pungent as fondue cheese...and once it's melted, you scrape it on top of all your grilled veggies.

During winter festivals, street vendors sell Raclette just like this...scraped right off a big block of it. To. Die. For. Literally, this stuff has gotta be bad for your arteries.

And now for some (iPhone) photos of our own Raclette experience with Rahel and Jonas, our lovely Swiss friends!

Warming up the grill! The little handles are individual grill plates for your own piece of cheese. You keep your own just like you would keep your own fondue stick.

Mmmmmm....bubbling cheese...

I love Liam's face in this one...he's not so sure about this scraped cheese thing...

Starchy potatoes slathered in fatty cheese...somehow, in a European diet, it's all good.

This morning, we had these same friends over for a “Canadian breakfast”…whatever that is!  Because they are vegetarians, we were fairly limited (bacon, sausage, ham…you know, the Canadian staples) so instead, I came up with french toast drenched in maple syrup, cinnamon buns, fresh fruit and hashbrowns.  The hashbrowns died an unfortunate death so we ended up having a breakfast that consisted entirely of bread, sugar and icing…with a little bit of pineapple in there somewhere.

My favourite "Clone of a Cinnabon" recipe. Our Swiss friends have never had cream cheese icing and of course, brown sugar is NOT available here...anywhere. So these were a very foreign treat!


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Grocery Shopping in France + iPhone Translator FAIL = Yet Another Expat Moment

Living in Europe is full of amazing adventures (wait until you see Tim’s coming blog on the latest and greatest castle we…uh, stumbled upon…) but it’s also full of frustrating day-to-day challenges.  Being an expat in a foreign culture has been known to draw out a side of yourself you didn’t know you had and at times, can even totally alter your personality.  I find myself being shy and quiet when I’m out and about (…say WHAT?!…) simply because I don’t know the language or the culture well enough to be my usual outgoing, gregarious self. I’m not sure if that’s such a bad thing (you were thinking it too, let’s be honest) but it is rather unfortunate when you can’t take part in the comical conversation in the line-up at the bakery or even strike up some friendly chit-chat with the check-out girl at the grocery store. 

And yet even if you successfully avoid those common interactions with a vocabulary of, oh…twenty words…you still get hammered every once in a while, just to make sure you’re not getting cocky. Today, I was humbled (again) by the ongoing culprit of grocery shopping…

Gets me every time…

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Tim and I planned a traditional Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate our first Canadian holiday as expats.  While most of you were enjoying turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie a week ago, the boys and I were still zombies recovering from the 9-hour time difference.  After a week of adjusting our sleeping patterns, visiting countless grocery stores, specialty food stores and ethnic grocers for the necessary ingredients and up until the wee hours preparing food, we sat down to overloaded plates on Sunday night.

 Tim had to resort to desparate measures for the onion cutting! I was five feet away and still weeping...oh wait, I was crying from laughing so hard!

Tim had to resort to desparate measures for the onion cutting! I was five feet away and still weeping...oh wait, I was crying from laughing so hard!

To join in the festivities, we invited a few friends (okay, we invited our only friends) and set out to provide them with a real Canadian experience.  In total, we had 3 English, 2 Germans, and 5 Canadians crammed in around our IKEA breakfast table jutted up against our friend’s matching IKEA breakfast table (so there is an upside to everyone having the same furniture as you…).

Other furniture coming soon!

Amidst the chaos of making a meal for 10 people, you don't get "before" pictures.

Thanksgiving is of course a holiday commemorating the pilgrims who discovered the Americas and gave thanks for the first harvest, so I knew that Europeans wouldn’t celebrate it. What I wasn’t expecting were the guests who had never tasted pumpkin pie! EVER!  The lack of interest in pumpkin pie means you don’t find the canned stuff in grocery stores here but Tim suggested we boil and puree our own pumpkins…what a great idea! It turned out fantastically and when you think about how easy it is to make pumpkin pie, it’s really not all that much work to make the puree yourself.

I had a chuckle at the English guests telling me that my Brussels Sprouts with Pecan Brown Butter were “simply brilliant”. It just sounded so praiseful with their sophisticated accents and all.  And speaking of brilliant, Tim did an incredible job of his first turkey!  I think the opening line of the recipe directions pretty much sums it up: “2 to 3 days before roasting:”. Say WHAT?! Yeah, you read that right…he started working on preparations for the bird 2 days before dinner!  In fact, it goes further back than that because he had to first find a butcher who could order him a turkey.  After a fair bit of charades and basic German communication, the butcher got on the phone and called a local farmer, secured a turkey of our size and ordered it right there! Now that’s local.

The only other cultural oddity was the comments about my gravy looking “real”. I was perplexed. I’ve never heard of “fake” gravy.  Everyone in my family knows that I take gravy very seriously. The gravy is MY deal. As it turns out, the Swiss don’t even know what gravy is (I mean, who needs gravy when you have melted cheese slathered over everything?) but they typically have what’s called “brown sauce”…an imitation gravy made from a…(GASP!)…package! My mom might be having a panic attack right this very minute.  But it begs the question, if we balk at the brown sauce, I wonder what types of horrific culinary crimes WE North Americans committ?

Tim: How about slices of processed “cheese”?!

Hmmm…good one hun. The Swiss would surely frown upon one-ingredient-from-plastic-American-cheese.  Geesh, there’s only one deli in all of Basel that even sells bonafide Cheddar Cheese!


Roast Turkey with Apple Cinnamon Aromatics

Hazelnut Bread Stuffing

Maple Ginger-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Simple Mashed Potatoes

Brussels Sprouts with Pecan Brown Butter

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

“Real” Roast Turkey Gravy

Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream & Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

All in all, it was a hugely successful Thanksgiving Dinner with great food and fantastic company.  Once we retired for the evening (after hanging out with the English folks, I’m allowed to say words like “retired”, it’s great!), Tim and I reflected on what worked and what we can change for next year when we realized that we forgot to go around the table and share what we’re thankful for! Well, had we remembered, I would have announced that I am thankful for all the support these dear friends have given Tim and I as we make this huge life change. Thank you Martin & Anne, Joel & Sina, and our newest friends, Stephen & Ruth! We appreciate you all.

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Tim doesn’t know this yet but I finally caved today and bought the boys their coveted “french fries, hamburger and dip” (dip being ketchup) at a Swiss McDonald’s. Sssshhhh!

Unfortunately, it was my first awkward I-don’t-speak-more-than-ten-words-of-German experience and I nearly walked away with something called a Cheeseburger Royale that cost CHF 14 (that’s like 15 bucks). Ack!  Eventually, the man and I played enough charades with the menu board and I walked away with my one cheeseburger happy meal. Sadly, the dip was sacrificed (in other words, I can’t say ketchup in German and my arms were tired) but the boys were man enough to take it.

While there, I saw an advertisement for their “feature” burgers throughout October/November. The McFondue (bun+stinky white cheese+”meat”+more stinky white cheese+bun), the McRaclette (I don’t even know what is on this thing) and the McRösti, which I have to shamefully say looked kind of appealing.

Life in the Swiss Lane Side Note: Rösti is a Swiss dinner side dish that is more like a breakfast side dish in NA — it’s basically shredded potatoes that you fry up after squeezing them out of a tin foil pack. Don’t knock it ’till you try it!

But back to the burger…the McRösti’s got bacon, burger, Swiss cheese and to top it all off, a deepfried hashbrown. I might just try to make that one at home. Stay tuned.

McDonald's Swiss Burger Features

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