Hike an Alp or Two


When Austrians want to journey up one side of a mountain and down the other, or to fortify those who will, they prepare an encouraging one-skillet meal replete with what’s necessary for the day’s exertions.   Thus, they invented Tiroler Gröstl, a stamina-building combination of diced potatoes, onion and bacon, traditionally topped with a lightly cooked egg, and named after the Tirol, a mountainous province in the Alpine heartland.

Nowadays, actually, those engaged in all manner of activities eagerly accept the provisions, no matter whether the day’s ventures include hiking, skiing, bird watching, directing one of Mozart’s symphonies, or plain old tourist-ing.  Indeed, the Austrian Tourist Board presents today’s recipe on its website, perhaps imaging the dish as something visitors shouldn’t miss.

Certainly, preparing a Gröstl is a worthy endeavor, and sampling it produces a warmly energetic enthusiasm.  It is hearty, for sure, without being overly heavy.  After all, Tiroleans created something that would help them climb the peaks, not make them sleepy.  Those enjoying Tiroler Gröstl in the morning then brought cattle up to summer pastures in the afternoon.

To North Americans, the dish seems suited to breakfast, what, with its bacon, eggs and, effectively, country fries, but Austrians (and tourists!) savor Tiroler Gröstl day-round.  Historically, it started as a hodgepodge of the previous day’s leftovers, eventually evolving and unifying to its current form.  And the egg?  Theories vary, though it seems likely cooks pondered what to do with the one egg remaining in the pantry.

As such, and because this journal won’t abandon its cultural biases, a breakfast Gröstl becomes.  What better way to fuel up for what lies ahead?  As mentioned before, a good dose of greens and a touch of spice lightens the fortifications.  Take on the energy necessary for what you have planned, whether it’s writing a report, washing the car, or climbing to 2,000 meters by mid-afternoon.

****

Tiroler Gröstl

(Austrian Potatoes and Bacon)

  • 1-and-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 pound smoked bacon, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped (*1)
  • 1 pound potatoes, cut into one-inch pieces (*2)
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1-and-1/2 teaspoons hot, sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley (*3)
  • 1 lightly cooked egg (optional)

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover them with water.  Place the pan over a high flame and bring to a boil.  Reduce flame to medium-low and simmer for five minutes. (*4)  Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Set aside for later.

Place a large skillet over a medium-high flame.  Pour in the oil.  When it shimmers, add the bacon and onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is golden-brown, about ten minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and onions to a separate plate.  Add the potatoes to the skillet and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the caraway and paprika and cook. stirring constantly, for another minute.

Stir in the bacon and onions. Turn off the flame, sprinkle with parsley, top with a lightly cooked egg if desired, and serve.

NOTES:

1 – A large shallot would be even better, Wolfgang Puck.

2 – Any waxy variety will do.  I chose Honey Gold, both for its smooth texture and for its bright color.

3 – Again with the parsley?  When will they learn cilantro is the civilized option?

4 – Remember, you’re using potato pieces, not whole tubers; consequently, they don’t take nearly as long to cook.  Besides, heating the potatoes in the bacon fat will finish the cooking process.

7 thoughts on “Hike an Alp or Two

    1. Thanks, Jenn! After neglecting breakfast shamefully once, I’m taking on a new appreciation. Not to where you are yet, but progress is clicking along quickly.

      As for pork products, sure the Germans (of whom Austrians are one) do love them, but…we’re Americans. And we do love turkey. Why not? It is of the New World, after all. Be a patriot for our hemisphere’s products and go for turkey bacon!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s exactly the question which brought this recipe to life right here. I don’t know, truth be told. Who wouldn’t yearn? Maybe those without taste buds. Or those who think this whole “enjoyment” thing is totally overrated.

      Thanks for speaking out for the rest of us, Crystal!

      Liked by 2 people

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