Fleisch in the Pan

On a recent road trip that included a pass through North Dakota, we spent all of our time on the lookout for a local German dish called fleischkuekle (pronounced flesh-keek-luh). Ok, so maybe we didn’t spend all of our time on that; some of our time was spent debating the right pronunciation of Roosevelt (National Park), and another chunk was reserved for arguing with our on-board GPS.

Anyway, since we never did find fleischkuekle, we decided to make it at home. A few clicks led us to a recipe from North Dakota State University (for graduate-level home economics, perhaps?). The dish originated in Mercer County in the west-central part of the state, in small German communities like Stanton–the county seat with a population of 366. “Fleisch” means meat in German, and nearly 9,000 people in the state of North Dakota speak only German (!).

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While fleischkuekle is clearly a regional dish, the ingredients are pretty straightforward–meat filling and a flour/buttermilk/sour cream crust. We used ground beef, but any ground meat would work well. We also substituted fresh sauteed onions instead of using minced onion seasoning.

For the crust, I had to hunt for the buttermilk at the store, and I wondered how easy it was to find back in the day on the prairie. But traditional buttermilk is what’s left behind after churning butter out of cream—something that probably happened a lot on farms across the northern plains. Buttermilk is low in fat and a bit tart, perfect for a crust. I did add a bit more than the recipe suggested.

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One thing that is different about this recipe is that you don’t brown the meat first. The raw meat mixture is wrapped in the dough and then deep fried (we used canola oil) at around 350 degrees (a thermometer helps). Each one came out golden brown and crisp, and the meat is quite tender. According to the internet (so you know it’s true), North Dakota diners serve it with pickles and ketchup on the side.

This dish was surprisingly easy to make, and it’s the best recipe that I’ve made that I can’t pronounce…and that’s saying a lot considering that my knowledge of German is limited to “ein biere, bitte.”

Guten Appetit!

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