13 November 2021

Weekend Cooking: Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a Cookbook

Book cover of Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a CookbookToday's cookbook is one of the prettiest cookbooks I've gotten this fall. The cover and the stunning photographs of the completed dishes and the gorgeous French countryside completely caught my attention. Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a Cookbook could almost be a coffee-table book, but I'll be shelving it with my go-to cookbooks. Thanks to Abrams and the Abrams Dinner Party for the review copy.

The Spirit of Alsace is in effect two cookbooks in one. The first half contains Kreuther's family recipes and other traditional dishes from the Alsace region. The second half consists of recipes from Restaurant Gabriel Kruether. It's the home-cooking section that calls to me the most.

Before I get to the recipes, I want to draw your attention to some of the features you'll find within the covers.

I loved reading the chapter in which Kreuther tells us about his childhood, how he became a chef, and the journey that led his opening his own restaurant in New York. At the end of that chapter he talks specifically about Alsatian cuisine and about some of the recipes found in the book. There is also a note about ingredients and measuring, which will help lead to success. Throughout the cookbook you'll find features that go into depth about specific dishes and ingredients. Finally, don't miss the section about Alsatian wines, which includes pairings with the recipes. Kreuther also shares some of his favorite regional towns and restaurants.

Photo of a loaf-shaped cake from Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a CookbookNow on to the recipes. As I said, the traditional Alsatian dishes are the ones I most want to try. Here are just a few I've flagged:

  • Flatbread with Fromage Blanc, Onions, & Bacon: this is described as an "iconic staple of Alsace"
  • Farmer's Beer Soup: this simple onion and broth soup is delicately flavored with a smoked ham hock (it's really good!)
  • My Brussels Sprouts: the recipe calls for bacon and half-and-half
  • Red Wine-Braised Red Cabbage: see recipe below
  • My Onion Tart: described as a thin quiche
  • Potato Galette: really upscale potato latkes, which I plan to make for Hanukah
Of course you'll also find recipes for fish and meats; there's a short rib stew that caught my eye. One more note: don't skip over the recipe introductions. Here's where you'll learn the story of the dish and find variations and tips for success.

The star of the first half the book, though is the baking chapter. I pretty much want to try them all, from the braided bread to the kougelhopf, red wine cake, spiced bread (almost like gingerbread), apple tart, pain perdu, white wine mousse, and all eight of Kreuther's mother's holiday cookies. The Gsundheitskueche cake (see photo) is light and subtly flavored. I can see why this is the "cake that every farmer would always have on hand for visitors." I bet I make this again and again. I took the photo when I removed the loaf from the pan; once cooled you can dust with confectioner's sugar or top with a simple glaze. Supposedly this will last a week in an air-tight container. I wouldn't know because we finished it off in a matter of days.

Photo of a white soup from Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a CookbookThe second half of the book contains recipes from Restaurant Gabriel Kreuther. They're geared for the more ambitious home cook. The recipes are involved and require advanced techniques and exact plating. I'm unlikely to make any of these recipes, but I enjoyed reading them. On the other hand, this section contains recipes for stocks and jus, which I would try, and has a whole section on vegetable purees, which would be fun to make and use.

Recommendation: Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a Cookbook is perfect for anyone interested in learning more about Alsatian cooking. Kreuther's family and regional recipes are easy to follow, and I plan to try many of them, especially the baked goods. The second half of the book is a bit intimidating (at least to me), but the information contained in those pages about the recipes' origins and the techniques used is interesting and useful. Put this cookbook on your holiday gift list or check it out from the library. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

I decided to share the braised cabbage recipe because I think almost all of you can eat this (vegetarians and vegans will need to do a bit of tweaking). I've braised a lot of cabbage in my life, but this was particularly good. I think it's the addition of wine and waiting to add the apples. I didn't have any chestnuts on hand, but I bet they'd really elevate the final dish.

Red Wine-Braised Red Cabbage
Photo of braised cabbage from Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, a CookbookServes 6
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) schmaltz or butter (I used less)
  • 2 cups (220 g) sliced onion
  • 6 to 8 ounces (200 g) bacon cut into thin strips
  • 1 red cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced
  • 3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 30 grinds pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 cup (240 ml) red wine
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 12 slices per apple (I didn't peel the apples)
  • 24 cooked, peeled chestnuts (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350F (175C).

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the fat and onions. Cook until the onions are softened, then add the bacon and continue cooking until it's lightly browned.

Add in the cut red cabbage in three layers, seasoning each layer with 1 teaspoon of salt and 10 grinds of pepper. Add 1 cup (240 ml) water, the red wine, vinegar, sugar, and bay leaf. Cover the pot and bake for 60 minutes, less if you like the cabbage to have a bite. Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the apples and/or chestnuts. Return the pot, covered, to the oven and cook for 30 minutes more to finish. Take out of the oven, stir, and taste, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.

Note: The scan and recipe are used in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. Two photos are my own.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


Vicki 11/13/21, 6:37 AM  

The cover is beautiful and the recipes sound really good!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 11/13/21, 11:19 AM  

The Alsace region of France is an interesting region to highlight for its cooking. I am especially intrigued with the baking recipes.

Jackie McGuinness 11/13/21, 11:22 AM  

AHA I popped over to the library and they have this book, although there is on a wait list, but I added it to my list so I can check it out soon!
That cake looks delicious!

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 11/13/21, 1:40 PM  

I must check my library! Thanks for the recommendaton.

Tina 11/16/21, 1:19 PM  

This is the kind of cookbook I like flipping through for scenery and then making note of the great recipes to try. Sounds like a winner.

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