In German cuisine there are favorite foods and meals that fall into the category of home cooking, Hausmannskost, but are also hugely popular as Kneipenessen, bar food, in village pubs as well as up-market bistros throughout the country, and one of these is Strammer Max which is basically a warm open-faced sandwich.
Made from a slice of rye or a rye/wheat flour bread, country bread, either toasted and buttered or fried in butter or oil, it is seasoned with salt, pepper and sometimes mustard, covered by slices of cured ham, topped with a fried egg, and is quick, colorful and nourishing.
No doubt it was a meal that had been served long before acquiring the name 'Strammer Max', which literally translates as 'stiff or tight Max', a description first heard in the eastern German state of Saxony in the 1920's from where it traveled further east to Berlin, and quickly became part of that city's food culture.
It is a satisfying meal as well as a quick and easy recipe which has spread countrywide to become a fixture of German food culture and can be found in any collection of German recipes and on a wide variety of all-day menus, from fast food outlets to upscale restaurants.
Strammer Max has cousins and regional variations, including a Stramme Lotte with cooked ham, Strammer Otto where the ham is replaced by slices of beef or salami, Bavarians use a slice of Leberkaese, which is a type of very finely ground meatloaf, the Rhineland has Kruestchen, where a Schnitzel, breaded cutlet, is topped by fried egg and often accompanied by French fries or Potato Salad, while a specialty of Cologne is a small portion of goulash as the topping.
THE ORIGINAL STRAMMER MAX RECIPE
INGREDIENTS for four portions
8 Slices of Country or Rye Bread, thickly sliced
8 Medium Eggs
8 Slices Cured Ham
Salt and Pepper
The bread can be either toasted and spread with butter or fried until just crisp in butter or oil.
At the same time melt some butter in a pan, add the eggs, they do taste better cooked in butter, until they are the consistancy you prefer.
Place two bread slices on each of four warm plates, in Germany this is often served on wooden platters which are like circular chopping boards, and season with salt and pepper. Mustard can also be added.
Cover each of the bread slices with ham.
Top the ham with fried eggs
Chopped Chives, Gherkins, sliced Tomatoes or chopped Scallions can be used to decorate your plate or platter, while thinly sliced red Onion Rings, slices of Cheese or Tomato are sometimes added to the ham before the open sandwich is topped with fried egg.
And it not unknown to see freshly grated cheese sprinkled over a Strammer Max, although that is not strictly traditional.
If you are making the Rhineland's version, Kruestchen, with a breaded meat cutlet, cook the Schnitzels first and keep them warm. After topping with the fried eggs sprinkle with paprika, and to be absolutely authentic they are then accompanied by French fries or a potato salad.
It is easy to make and Delicious to taste!.....and there are lots of variations to play with so have fun with Strammer Max, a German Food Classic
Illustrations courtesy de.Wikipedia
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