Switzerland’s Gifts to International & American Cuisine

When people think of Switzerland they think of mountains, skiing, clocks and watches, William Tell and “Heidi.” Asked about Switzerland’s contributions to international or American cuisine, most people think of cheese, chocolate and fondue. But there is so much more to Swiss cuisine, as I found out when I attended a fabulous lecture by Ambassador Martin Dahinden at a meeting of the Culinary Historians of Washington and got his terrific book “Beyond Muesli and Fondue: The Swiss Contribution to Culinary History.” The book is divided into sections based on information about famous Swiss chefs and their recipes. The book also talks about the role of cuisine in diplomacy.

Switzerland’s cuisine comes from many different regions and has many different origins. Switzerland borders France, Germany and Italy. Swiss chefs have played an important part in culinary history from medieval and Renaissance times. So many of the treats and dishes we enjoy today, whether street food or fine dining, have Swiss origins.

Delmonico’s became one of the most famous restaurants in America in the 19th century, and it was started by two Swiss brothers who had a confection shop in Switzerland. Their recipes included Baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg, and of course, Delmonico steaks. They also served dishes named for famous people: Sherman Soup and Pudding Ulysses S. Grant.

Another Swiss, Oscar Tschirky, spent many years as maître d’hôtel at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan. He came to America at age 17, looked for work and later became a citizen. After a succession of jobs, he landed the position at the Waldorf in 1893. In 1896, he published “The Cook Book” by Oscar of the Waldorf. The dish he is most famous for today is the Waldorf Salad. He also gave us Filet a la Oscar, Chicken Waldorf Style and Eggs Benedict.

Waldorf Salad

Serves 4

1/2 cup julienned celery
2 apples, peeled and julienned
1/2 cup halved grapes
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons toasted and chopped walnuts
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup walnut oil
White pepper and salt

To make the salad: In a bowl, mix together the celery, apples, grapes and walnuts.

To make the dressing: Combine the yogurt, crème fraîche and lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk in the oil, slowly, until mixture is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad when ready to serve.

Delmonico Steak

Serves 4

2 prime rib-eye steaks
Sea salt
Black ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Meat Butter
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 small fresh bay leaf
1/4 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened

Pat the steaks dry and season with salt and pepper.

Place the olive oil in a frying pan on high heat until the oil starts to smoke, then add the steaks. Sear the steaks on one side for 3 minutes, then turn over and sear the other side for another 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of butter and swirl the pan around so the butter melts into the fat released from the meat. Spoon the melted butter on top of the steaks, basting them all over for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Take the steaks out of the pan and let them rest, covered with aluminum foil, for 5 to 6 minutes.

To make the meat butter: Place the salt, bay leaf and thyme in a spice grinder and grind until it all turns into a powder. Place the softened butter in a bowl, add the salt mixture to the soft butter and mix to combine. Put the butter mixture on a piece of plastic wrap and roll it up to form a log. Place the log in the refrigerator to harden. When hard, cut slices and leave out at room temperature to soften again just before use.

Slice the steaks against the grains and divide equal portions on 4 plates. Place a slice of the soft meat butter on top of the warm meat and let it melt into the meat. Serve with your favorite starch dish and some vegetables.

Editor’s Note: Want more of Kaufman’s Kitchen? Find more of Sheilah’s culinary treats at www.cookingwithsheilah.com.

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