When I saw the cover of Alpine Cooking before it came out, it quickly rose to the top of the list of books I needed to get my hands on. I was fortunate to get a preview when I was asked to write a quote for the book jacket and was thrilled to find the inside of the book was even more compelling than the cover. While it’s hard to compete with the Matterhorn, pictures of locals contemplating a melted cheese sandwich, or a wooden châlet terrace with place settings soon to be heaped with hearty mountain fare, brought the alps right to me.
Covering Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and France, author Meredith Erickson takes us through cheese caves, ski slopes, restaurants, fondue pots, snow-caked ski boots, and villages that are all part of the European Alps. As Meredith noted in the book, if you’re cooking in the Alps in the winter, there isn’t a lot of fresh produce available. There may not be any at all. (Those who live in winter climates who shop at their local farmers’ market can relate to five months of squash, potatoes, and onions.) So jam fills in.
I had a fantastic Salzberger Nockerl at Bâtard in New York City last year, where Julie Elkin’s clouds of meringue swooped and swirled marvelously over a compote of gently cooked but still fresh-tasting strawberries. So I am excited to find a recipe in Alpine Cooking from the Bärenwirt Tavern in Salzberg that I wanted to try.
Some recipes for Salzburger Nockerl have you make a fruit compote, bake the meringue in a baking dish, and serve the fruit compote or sauce on a plate with some of the meringue. This recipe has you bake the meringues over jam, which I have no shortage of. Still, I didn’t have the cranberry jam that the recipe advised and that I’ve seen other European recipes call for, which I assume are lingonberries, since cranberries aren’t easy to come by in Europe, especially in the alps. (Unless they have cranberry bogs up there!)
You want to use an intensely flavored jam, preferably one that leans toward the tangy side, made with something red; raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb, etc., would be my preference, to contrast with the sweetness of the meringue. I did omit the 1/2 cup (125ml) of milk in the recipe that gets poured over the jam before it’s topped with the meringue since I didn’t need any more liquid underneath the meringue, preferring to focus my thoughts, hopes, and snow-capped dreams, on the fruit jam peeking out underneath.
Another thing I tried was waving a blowtorch over the top after it was baked because I love burnt meringue. Unfortunately, one of the peaks caught on fire (hey, you try holding a torch to brown a meringue while trying to snap pictures of it), so I wasn’t as successful as I thought I’d be. But if you like extra-brown meringues, you could give that a go or turn on the broiler during the last minute or so of cooking.
Adapted from Alpine Cooking; Recipes and Stories from Europe’s Grand Mountaintops by Meredith Erickson There are various ways to make Salzburger Nockerl. This one is from the Bärenwirt Tavern in Salzburg. If you’re the kind of person that likes desserts heavy on the meringue, like Île Flottante or Floating Islands, this dessert is for you.
Europeans don’t traditionally use vanilla extract, as Americans prefer to either use vanilla beans or vanilla sugar, which is sold in little packets. I have a little jar of sugar that I stick used (rinsed and dried) vanilla beans in, which worked fine. Meredith says you can scrape the seeds from one vanilla bean into 1/2 cup (100G) of superfine sugar and let it infuse for a few days. I tried making this with pure vanilla extract, and it worked fine. Feel free to use that or vanilla bean paste. Superfine sugar is sometimes called “baker’s sugar” (in France, it’s called sucre en Poudre).
You can make your own by whizzing granulated sugar a few times in a food processor or mini-chopper until the granules are pretty okay, which take a few pulses. Lastly, I skipped adding milk (1/2 cup, 125ml), which the original recipe said to pour over the jam before topping with the meringue before baking. I found it a little too liquidy. Also, I baked mine more extended than the 9 minutes indicated by the original recipe. I don’t mind runny soufflés, but mine was cooked to my liking at around the 13 to 14-minute mark.
Servings 6 servings
If you like this recipe, then I would suggest that you should try this recipe too: Roasted Tomato Soup with Corn Salsa Recipe
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