Vor etwa drei Jahren...oops, About three years ago, I took a trip to Germany with my high school German class. One day, while travelling from Berlin to Munich, we stopped in Dresden to sightsee and eat lunch. While most people chose more Americanized places, one of my mates, Erik, and I had gotten in the habit of wandering around to find more "authentic" restaurants; our German was good enough that we could actually read the menus, and not just say, "Number 5, Coke". This particular day, we happened upon the Sophienkeller im Taschenbergpalais*, a cozy place with a medieval atmosphere, situated a floor below street-level. After annoying our first waitress with my inability to understand rapid-fire, mumbled Deutsch, we got a waitress who spoke a few words of English.** I ordered the "Sächsiche Kartoffelsuppe", or in English, Saxon Potato Soup.
As soon as our food arrived, Erik couldn't peel his eyes away from my soup. It was thick and creamy, with chunks of fresh-grilled German saugage in it. I had a tough time restraining myself from licking the bowl. When I returned to the US, I quickly set about figuring out the recipe. I tried several German potato soup recipes, but none were quite what I was looking for. I started from scratch, and this is what I came up with:
Depending on your method of cooking the sausages, you might want to do that before you start the rest of the dish. Grilling, for example, would probably take longer than the method I use. In any case, what you'll want to end up with is slices of sausage about 10-15mm thick, or maybe thicker.
Wash the potatoes and dice them into fairly small chunks, leaving the skins on; that's right, you're leaving the skins on, so be sure to give them a careful scrubbing. Clean and chop the onions into smiliarly-sized pieces. Toss all the chopped 'taters and onions into your soup pot, along with your seasonings and enough water to reach just below the top of the veggies. Bring this concoction to a boil, stirring occaisonally.
Note: This is where I cook the sausage, but if you've done that ahead of time, wait until the soup comes to a boil before tossing them is. Slice and pan-cook all of the links, reserving a touch of the grease. Because my sausages are usually frozen when I start this, the soup has by now reaches a boil and is ready for the sausage rounds. Toss them in, along with the bit of grease you reserved, then stir.
Reduce the heat to medium/medium-high, then go do something else. Seriously, this will take a while; just remember to come back and stir every now and again. If I'm cooking for a group, I'll usually slice and cook another sausage or two, so that I have something to garnish the soup with. When the potato pieces are soft and squish easily, combine the flour and milk to form a paste; if your soup is too thin, making the paste thicker will suck up some of the excess moisture from the soup. Add the milk-flour mixture to the soup, stirring until well-blended; this will add a creamy aspect to the soup. Around this time, you should probably remove the bay leaves, as their work is done, and they aren't very tasty themselves.
Let the soup cook a few minutes more, then break out your food processor, blender, or whatever you call it. This step isn't necessary, and I usually omit it if cooking for only myself, but it gives the soup a nice consistency and helps to blend everything together. Run a good bit of the soup through the processor, being careful to leave out the sausage pieces. Be careful! This step thickens the soup, and once you introduce it back to the heat, any bubbles that form will not hesitate to throw scalding biomass all over you. This hurts like hell, but tastes pretty good.
Let cool a bit, and serve. Green things work well as garnishes, as do seared sausage bits. This amount of soup feeds one high-metabolism university student for 6-7 meals, and I once fed all of my university-student neighbors (about 10 people) with an 8-potato,3-onion version. I've no experience cooking for normal people, but I'd guess this would feed a family of four for ever.
Let me know how your soup-making experience goes! If you experiment, let me know, and I'll add your adventure on down below. I have the feeling cheese would work well in this, to add to the creaminess, but I don't know what kind or where to begin experimenting.
The Story, Part II
After we finished eating, Erik and I were in a bit of a dilemma; in the States, after you've eaten, the waiter usually brings the check out automatically. Did the Germans do the same thing? We waited for about 10 minutes, discussing this between ourselves, before concluding that, indeed, in these foreign parts, one had to ask for the check. Seeing our waitress nowhere around, I was elected to play the part of the Ignorant American Tourist and go ask someone about paying. I found the hostess, who fortunately spoke English: "We've finished eating." "Yes?" "We'd like to pay." "Yes?" "Where do we pay?" "Yes?" Language barrier 1, Me 0.
I returned to the booth, where we resumed trying to give these people money. After a bit more discussion, we motioned for the waitress. After trying "check" and "bill" (both with and without German accents), I tried, "Wir möchten bezahlen, bitte." This got the point across and she returned a few moments later with our respective bills. At the top of each was hand-written the word "die Rechnung", "the bill." Needless to say, we were not cheap with her tip.
* - I figured out the name of the place after some extensive Googling, part of which involved navigating a street map of Dresden, trying to figure out exactly where Erik and I wandered. The website for the Sophienkeller is available at http://www.sophienkeller-dresden.de/.
** - It turned out that she had asked me "Mit Kohlensaeure?", "With carbonation?" In Germany, if you order "Wasser", as I did, you get what Americans call club soda or sparkling water. She was making sure that I wanted this and not tap water.