Himmel un Ääd, also written as Himmel und Erde in some parts of Germany, translates as “heaven and earth.” This simple comfort food consists of apples (heaven) paired with potatoes and onions (earth), all topped with a savory meat. The most common meat pairing is black pudding or blood sausage, but as someone who eats very little meat, well, I’m not quite there yet. I chose bacon instead.
I’m having a bit of fun with the name of this dish, and am pairing the recipe with a few photos of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom). I can’t honestly say that Cologne is one of my favorite German cities so far – it’s not the cleanest city I’ve seen, and current subway construction near the city center makes Cologne painfully difficult for visitors to navigate by car. That said, parts of the city have a certain laid back, international flavor vaguely reminiscent of New York, with the almost indescribably beautiful backdrop of a massive, eight hundred year old Gothic cathedral.
Himmel un Ääd Ingredients (Makes 1 large platter, perfect for a Sunday buffet table!)
3 pounds yellow potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 pound thick sliced bacon
2 pounds sweet onions, sliced thin
3 pounds crisp apples, washed and sliced thick
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper
Step 1) Place quartered potatoes in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft, 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Step 2) While potatoes are cooking, fry bacon slices in a large pan. When bacon is crisp, remove from pan (don’t wash the pan!) and set aside on paper towel to drain.
Step 3) Add sliced onion and sugar to pan with the bacon fat. Sautee onion in bacon fat over medium heat until onions are soft and lightly caramelized. Using a slotted spoon, remove onions from pan (do not wash pan!) and set aside.
Step 4) Add sliced apples to pan and fry over low-medium heat. If pan is sticky, add a tablespoon of butter.
Step 5) While apples cook, drain potatoes and mash. Himmel un Ääd “purists” leave the mashed potatoes as is. I like to add about 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup of milk, and a bit of salt and pepper. You decide.
Step 6) Assemble your Himmel un Ääd platter. Arrange mashed potatoes in a half-circle on one side of the platter, and arrange the fried apples in a half-circle on the other side of the platter. Arrange the caramelized onions in a small circle in the center of the platter (overlapping the potatoes and apples), and finally arrange your bacon strips over the top of everything else. Voila! Enjoy!