Sometimes, we seek to make old, better. With that in mind, this is LRF’s “better than old-school” version of zwiebelfleisch (onion roast.) The sauteed onions & German-spiced sauce with the roast are traditional. But the pork roast isn’t simmered in a pot-full of German-seasoned stock, the preferred method in zwiebelfleisch recipes I studied from 1900 on up to recent classic German cookbooks. The truth is, no matter how many times I sought to achieve a perfectly succulent roast by simmering it in stock, it wasn’t as juicy as I wanted it to be. This recipe however, yields both a delicious, German-seasoned onion-sauce with noodles, and a very-juicy pork roast.
I am actually in good “zweibelfleisch tweaking” company. The Red Star Inn, one of the longest-surviving Chicago restaurants profiled in John Drury’s 1939 “Dining in Chicago,” served a zwiebelfleisch that was actually a frugal retread of the restaurant’s sauerbraten (!) Marinated in a vinegary spice and onion mixture for five days and then roast to doneness, some smaller pieces of the sauerbraten would fall off the larger chunks of beef. “So this was a way to use the little pieces we couldn’t serve in the sauerbraten entree,” explains John Riggio, the chef who cooked for the final chapter in the Red Star Inn’s 1897 to 1982 run. “We would take those small pieces, slice them, cover them with gravy, sauteed onions and melted gruyere and cheddar cheeses, and serve that as zwiebelfleisch.” Click here for the full Red Star Inn Sauerbraten Zwiebelfleish story (pictured at left) and recipe.
But shaping this page’s recipe, speaking with German cookbook author Nadia Hassani, I learned that the majority of zwiebelfleisch recipes in Germany use pork, perhaps due to availability, while American renditions more often call for beef. Our version adapts Nadia’s Sachsisches Zwiebelfleisch stock recipe and German seasonings from her Spoonfuls of Germany book. The roast portion of recipe is based on extremely-low-temperature roasting experiments tested by America’s Test Kitchen maven Christopher Kimball. (They really do yield a very tender and juicy result.)
Rather than ladle the gravy made from the stock over the meat with the buttery onions, we tossed both the gravy and onions with the noodles, and then served alongside the meat. A very satisfying, cold-weather dish!
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Stock for German-Spiced Gravy Ingredients
- 1 1/2 lbs pork knuckle bones
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 turnip, peeled and chopped
- 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion, peeled, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp allspice berries
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp caraway seed
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 tsp mustard seed
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
- 4 cups water ( or a bit more–enough water to cover all ingredients )
Pork Loin Roast Ingredients
- 3 to 3 1/2 lb center cut boneless pork loin roast, with thin layer of fat on one side
- 2 to 3 tsp freshly ground sea salt, or, kosher salt
- 3 strips bacon
Egg Noodles Ingredients
- 1 package very-broad egg noodles, cooked
Onions and Gravy Ingredients
- 2 medium onions, peeled, halved and sliced thinly, top to bottom, into slivers
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup water
- For gravy: 2 cup of the reserved stock
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp four
- Rub salt into pork roast and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- Make German-spiced broth: Brown soup bones. Add all remaining stock ingredients to pot. Cover with 4 cups water. Heat just to boiling; immediately reduce heat to very low and simmer for 2 to 3 hours until vegetables are very soft. Pour stock through fine strainer. Reserve.
- Make roast (NOTE: while pork is roasting, you will make the onions, gravy and noodles): Pat roast dry. Over low heat, render the fat from three strips of bacon in dutch oven or heavy roasting pan. Brown all sides of the pork roast in the fat. Preheat oven to 225. Add 1/2 cup of the spiced broth to the dutch oven with browned roast and bacon fat. Place dutch oven–uncovered– in oven and roast for 1 and 1/2 hours. Turn oven off, leaving roast in oven for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
- To make onions: Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in saute pan. Add slivered onions and slowly saute. Add 1/2 cup water and continue cooking until onions are transparent, soft and golden–not browned. Remove to a dish.
- To make gravy: Melt 1 Tbsp butter in saute pan; sprinkle with 1 Tbsp flour and whisk to brown a bit. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of strained broth to make a nice gravy.
- Prepare noodles according to package directions.
- Toss noodles with onions and gravy. Slice roast in 1/8-inch slices and serve along with noodles.