Hans Rockenwagner grew up in southern Germany and has spent more than three decades cooking in kitchens from Germany, France and Switzerland to Chicago and Los Angeles. Rockenwagner is known for his individuality and innovative dishes and since opening his first LA restaurant, Rockenwagner, in the '80s, has become known as a chef who has defined the city's restaurant scene.
Here's how to make a few of his signature dishes, with some tips from the chef himself: jägerschnitzel, roasted cauliflower with pomegranate, raisins & hazelnuts, classic spätzle, roasted orzo risotto with summer vegetables, linzertorte bars and das martini to drink!
Many Americans think of schnitzel as a specific dish, usually veal or chicken, that is pounded thin, breaded, and pan-fried. That version, which is very good, is called wiener schnitzel, or Viennese-style schnitzel.
But in Germany, schnitzel is a broad category for the way meat is cut. The word literally means "cutlets." there are countless variations using different types of meat and all sorts of preparations (even a "natural" schnitzel, meaning naked with no breadcrumbs), and sauces, from cream to tomato-based.
Jägerschnitzel, or "hunter's schnitzel," has always been one of my restaurants' favorites also. I wrap my version of this classic dish in prosciutto-like black forest ham to give it a nice, meaty crust.
Pound the chops a little thicker, more like ½ inch (don't worry about the bone-just focus your pounding on the meat) and use whatever market-fresh onions and mushrooms you find.
How to pound meat for schnitzel place 1 veal, chicken, or pork cutlet at a time in a large food storage bag (do not seal) or between 2 pieces of waxed paper. Bang meat with a heavy skillet or the flat side of a meat pounder until about ?-inch thick. It should be almost doubled or more in size, depending on original size and thickness of meat.
4 (1-inch-thick) bone-in pork chops (5 to 6 ounces each), pounded for schnitzel to about 1/2-inch thick coarse sea or kosher salt, to taste freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 paper-thin slices black forest ham or speck
1 Cup flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 shallots, finely diced
4 medium cloves garlic, sliced in half
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed, or ½ cup pearl onions, peeled
2 cups mixed mushrooms, such as chanterelle, oyster, and/or shiitake
1/4 cup dry white wine
½ cup brown veal stock or brown chicken stock warmed
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, chilled
generous splash heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1. Season the chops lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Wrap 2 slices ham around the middle of each chop like a package, covering most of the meat. Lightly press together edges to seal and dip each chop in flour to coat both sides, shaking to remove excess.
2. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1-tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 chops and sauté until golden brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes to brown opposite side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and remaining chops.
3. Add shallots and garlic to same pan and sauté over medium heat until just beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add spring or pearl onions and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms begin to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Deglaze with wine, scraping up any brown bits on bottom of pan, and cook until wine almost evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add veal or chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and return pork chops and drippings to pan. Continue to cook over medium heat until chops are only slightly pink in center, flipping once, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness. Place chops on serving plates and use a slotted spoon to transfer vegetables on top (a few smaller vegetables can remain in pan).
4. Heat remaining jus to a simmer and whisk in butter followed by a splash of cream. Season sauce with salt and pepper and sprinkle parsley on top. Spoon sauce over chops and serve immediately.
Roasted cauliflower with pomegranate, raisins & hazelnuts
½ cup golden raisins
juice of 1 medium orange
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 ½ tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt, divided, more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, more to taste
1 tablespoon honey, warmed for seconds in the microwave or on the stovetop
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 large or about 2 to 3 small heads cauliflower (2 ½ to 3 pounds total)
1 cup blanched hazelnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
¼ cup parsley leaves, torn in half if large
1. In a small bowl, combine raisins and orange juice. Cover and soak at room temperature overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 400°.
3. In a medium jar, combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, cinnamon, allspice, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, honey, and lime juice. Shake well and set dressing aside.
4. Divide cauliflower into medium florets. You should have 8 to 10 generous cups. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Roast until florets are tender when pierced, stirring occasionally to evenly brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a large bowl.
5. Strain raisins and discard juice. Add raisins to cauliflower with hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds, parsley leaves, and about ¾ of dressing. Toss well and season with salt, pepper, and additional dressing to taste. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Spätzle are a staple in southern Germany. The dumpling-like noodles are essentially the German equivalent of homemade pasta, only much more forgiving. The entire point is to make noodles that are not uniformly shaped for textural contrast. You'll find short and stubby knöpfle ("little buttons"), more delicate long strands, and every shape in between. Every cook in Germany has a preferred technique for shaping spätzle, with all kinds of gadgets to help you. My favorite method? The old-fashioned way: by hand.
Shaping spätzle Spätzle press or potato ricer: a spätzle press looks like a giant potato ricer or garlic press. You put the dough in the chamber, and then squeeze the dough out the opposite end into boiling water. A ricer also works well, but don't use a food mill with a grinding plate. It compresses the dough.
A spätzle grater, box grater, or colander: with the soft, almost batter-like texture of the dough, using a spätzle grater or the large holes on a box grater can be trickier to master but works well once you get the hang of it. Some people also swear by the colander method. You press the dough through a colander (not a fine-mesh strainer) with medium holes. The only trick is finding a colander with the right-size holes. They need to be about ¼-inch wide.
Handmade spätzle: making noodles by hand means the batter is never compressed, so the noodles are lighter and have more surface texture. It's also very easy to do, just quickly "shave" small flecks of dough into the boiling water to make the noodles. You can use a traditional spätzle board and scraper, which is a small wooden board along with a tool similar to a bench or pastry scraper. A small cutting board and a pastry scraper or offset spatula also work well.
Make the dumpling-like noodles a day ahead, and dinner takes all of a matter of minutes: just sauté the boiled spätzle in butter and top with parsley or whatever chopped herbs you prefer. To vary the dough, add a few tablespoons of fresh herbs or small seeds like caraway, poppy, or sesame. If you've never made spätzle, scraping and boiling the noodles is really very easy after that initial test run. The dough is very moist, almost like thick pancake batter. Small wooden cutting boards work best, but if you have only a large, heavy wood board, a plastic board can be easier to hold over the water. Just be sure to wrap a kitchen towel around the handle of the pot to avoid melting it.
Makes 4 servings
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons coarse sea or kosher salt, divided, more to taste
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
6 large eggs
½ cup whole milk
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, basil, or mixed fresh herbs
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the flour, break eggs into the middle, and add about half of the milk. Use a fork or wooden spoon to incorporate eggs by beating in a circular motion. Gradually incorporate flour toward center with eggs first, then flour toward the outer edges, as you would making pasta. As the batter becomes dry, add remaining half of milk, continuing to beat in same motion. The mixture should look like thick pancake batter and have few lumps. Let dough rest for 10 minutes while you bring water to a boil.
2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. Fill a large pot halfway with water, add remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Snugly wrap a kitchen towel around one handle of the pot, being careful that the towel is not close to the flame.
3. Just before cooking, beat dough with a fork or spoon a few times to aerate. Scoop out dough with a ladle or measuring cup and place on the end of a spätzle board or medium cutting board. Loosely shape dough into a long rectangle about 4 inches wide. Rest cutting board on kitchen towel over boiling water. Use a spätzle scraper, pastry scraper, or blunt knife to quickly scrape thin ribbons of dough off the board and into the water. Shake scraper or knife above water if necessary to "flick" off dough. (don't shave dough pieces too large or spätzle will fall apart as it boils). If batter spreads out to edges of cutting board, use the scraper to guide it back toward the center.
4. By the time you finish scraping dough (30 to 45 seconds), spätzle should have risen to the top of the water. With a long-handled skimmer, immediately transfer spätzle to ice bath. Bring water in pot back to a boil, and repeat with remaining batter. Strain spätzle from ice bath, gently shake to remove excess water, and transfer to a food storage container for up to 2 days.
5. When ready to serve, heat a large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter, heat until foam begins to subside, and add half of spätzle. Sauté until beginning to turn golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip and brown on the opposite side another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and repeat with remaining butter and spätzle. Toss with parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
Roasted orzo "risotto" with summer vegetables
Oven-roasting the orzo ahead of time makes quick work of a weeknight meal. Consider these vegetables a guideline, and vary them by the seasons.
1 pound orzo pasta
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ pound mixed mushrooms, such as oyster, crimini, and chanterelle, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt, more to taste
1 medium shallot, diced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
2 sprigs thyme
¼ cup dry white wine
about 5 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, warmed
kernels from 1 medium ear of corn
8 to 10 small brussels sprouts, leaves only
1 small or ½ large bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
½ cup frozen peas, thawed and drained
3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup grated parmesan, divided
small handful pea tendrils
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350º and place rack in middle of oven.
2. In a small bowl, toss orzo with 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix well to coat each grain. Spread pasta in single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until dark golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes, stirring every 4 to 5 minutes to evenly brown. Watch closely the last 5 minutes to avoid burning. Allow pasta to cool completely and store for up to 2 days at room temperature.
3. In a medium dutch oven or stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt to taste and transfer to a plate.
4. In same pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add orzo and thyme, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, and then deglaze with wine. When wine evaporates, add 2 cups vegetable stock and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook until liquid is almost evaporated, stirring frequently. Add corn, brussels sprouts leaves, asparagus, and 1 cup stock. Continue to cook pasta, stirring frequently and adding 1 additional cup of stock whenever liquid is almost evaporated, until al dente, 24 to 28 minutes.
5. Add thawed peas, reduce heat to low, and gradually stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, then ½ cup parmesan. Remove thyme sprigs, add pea tendrils, and season with salt and pepper to taste. If pasta seems dry, add a little more stock. Divide risotto among serving bowls, and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup parmesan. Serve immediately.
Makes about 16 to 20 bars
2 cups finely ground hazelnuts, also known as hazelnut flour
1½ cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, more for the pan
1¼ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon lemon zest, packed
2 large eggs, divided
¾ cup good-quality raspberry jam
1 tablespoon port, if needed
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place rack in middle of oven. Butter a 9" x 9" baking pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and lightly butter the top of the parchment.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together ground hazelnuts, flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and lemon zest on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Scrape down sides of the bowl, add half of hazelnut-flour mixture, and mix on low speed until batter just comes together. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Place 1 rounded cup of batter in a medium, sealable food storage bag. Press out the air and seal the bag.
5. Spread remaining batter into prepared baking pan and roughly smooth the top with your fingers. Freeze for 15 minutes. If jam is very thick, place it in a small bowl and whisk in the port. Spread jam on top of the chilled batter.
6. Snip about ½ inch off one bottom corner of the food storage bag to create an opening about ¾-inch wide (don't worry about exact measurements). Starting at one corner, gently squeeze the bag to pipe a diagonal line of batter down the center of the torte to the opposite corner. Pipe another diagonal line on each side of the centerline so you have three evenly spaced, parallel lines. The crosshatch windows should be much wider than an American-style pie; the batter is so thick, it spreads while baking (that's also why piping fewer lines on the bottom helps). To make a crosshatch pattern, pipe a diagonal line of batter down the center of the torte again, this time connecting the opposite two corners. Pipe two diagonal lines on each side of the center line. Use any remaining batter to connect any broken sections.
7. Place pan in oven and bake until edges are light golden brown and crosshatches in the center feel lightly springy to the touch, 34 to 38 minutes. The torte should be very moist; it will continue to set up as it cools. 8. Place the torte on a rack to cool for 15 minutes and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the torte. Allow to cool completely and cut into 16 to 20 bars or squares.
Makes 1 drink
1 ounce elderberry liqueur
2 ounces gin
¾ ounce freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
Meyer lemon twist for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and add the elderflower liqueur, gin, and lemon juice. Shake vigorously until the sides of the shaker are frosty, about 20 to 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass garnish with the lemon twist serve