Meal 98: Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is one of two doubly-landlocked countries, meaning that every country it borders is also landlocked. So it was entirely unfitting, then, that we held this meal at a party house on the Oregon coast, as part of the celebrations of Laura's 30th birthday.

Sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland, the cuisine is emphatically Alpine Germanic, with dairy products dominating. While this meal wasn't as grand or as eagerly anticipated as Laura's previous birthday feasts of Canada, France, and Italy, it was surprisingly tasty and satisfying. Then again, maybe it's hard to go wrong with so much cheese, cream, and butter!

What a fun crowd for celebrating this birthday: Molly, Ellen, Bryce, Laura, Craig, Kristine, Tim, Sebastian, Chelsea, Haley, Derek, and Alondra!

Spargel vom grill | Grilled asparagus | Recipe

Asparagus is a classic spring vegetable, though I didn't manage to find the fat, white asparagus that's much more common in Europe. So we doctored up plain ol' skinny green asparagus with "spring herbs" (in this case, dandelion greens I plucked from the yardm green onions I grew over the winter, and parsley from the store), plus a smear of butter, and wrapped them in foil and grilled them. (Have you ever seen an indoor grill on a kitchen range? It was kinda weird and uneven, but it worked!) I'm a fan of asparagus, but I really liked this version: the herbs, butter, and grill-steaming all really worked nicely.

Kaninchengeschnetzeltes | Rabbit in cream sauce | Recipe

I should have realized it'd be hard to find a rabbit on Easter weekend! After calling around to a half dozen butcher shops, I found what may have been the last bunny in Portland in a Whole Foods freezer.

I'm glad I didn't have to revert to the backup plan of just using chicken, because this dish really brings out the subtly rich flavor of rabbit, especially with the tweak I made in preparation. See, the recipe calls for cooked rabbit but doesn't say how to cook it, so I browned and braised it in champagne (left over from the previous night's party!), and subsequently boiled down the braising liquid to contribute to the cream sauce.

The dish is rich, soft, creamy and meaty, so the accompaniment of a poached pear half filled with tart jam is a cleverly tart and toothsome contrast. I couldn't find cranberry preserves (other than the stuff in a can, that is), so I went with lingonberry, which was awesome. All in all, a pretty time-consuming and decadent dish, but tasty!

Käsknöpfle | Cheesy mini-dumplings | Recipe

What a crowd-pleaser! Better known by the common German word spätzle, these little squirts are halfway between dumplings and noodles, and you use a special apparatus to form little strands from a mass of dough which then fall into boiling water. It's a fair amount of work to make, but fortunately we had an enthusiastic expert on hand who'd learned to make them when living in Germany. Thanks, Ellen!

I couldn't find the traditional sura kees anywhere, nor was I successful finding advice on a substitute, partly because its English translation, "sour cheese," happens to be a marijuana strain so the search results weren't helpful. I ended up with a grab bag of Alpine cheeses: Emmental, Gruyère, and Fontina. It probably wasn't as sour as it should have been, and we may have put on too much cheese because the recipe didn't specify...nope, no such thing as too much cheese, it was fantastic. We also made one little variation on the recipe by throwing the whole mess under the broiler to brown the top a bit, and then returned to the recipe to shower the top with crispy-fried onion slices. So tasty!

Ribel | Milky cornmeal gruel | Recipe

This was supposed to be a milky, crumbly version of polenta. To keep it vegan we made it with almond milk, and in the chaos of getting ready for dinner, forgot the part about baking it. It wasn't bad, but it was just kinda like regular polenta.

Öpfelküechli | Apple fritters | Recipe

"Don't worry, everyone, I'm about to flambé." Famous last words before a splash of cognac turned into an eight-foot column of flame!

These batter-dipped apple slices were tasty enough, but frankly not worth the effort. Especially since we had no way of coring an apple that would keep it intact as rings, it was just really tedious to batter and fry every little piece — like, making a whole apple pie would have been less work. But without the righteous two-second fireball.