Watching, Breathing, and Eating the World Cup 2006

For us, Germany – and every other country involved – is coming to austin

Speaking from the culinary point of view, last weekend was a great success, although some of the scores were not necessarily to our satisfaction. I mean, how could Mexico not beat Angola? And France got fully ripped off when the referee didn't see a clear goal that would have given them the victory. Regardless, we've enjoyed the last two weekends stuffing ourselves with new and exciting dishes and saturating ourselves with futbol.

Because of time constraints and the fact that I also want to watch the games instead of spending the entire time in the kitchen (lesson learned from my ambitious menu for Week 1), for Week 2 I recruited help from some of my friends who came to watch the games. My friend Alena Reznickova-Jimenez, from the Czech Republic, brought her grandmother's recipe for a potato dill soup garnished with whole hard-boiled eggs that was to die for. Thanks to my status as a ridiculously regular customer, I have become quite good friends with Eric and Martine Pelegrin from Bistro Le Marseillais, who are also doing the World Cup culinary roulette, offering items from different countries on their weekly online menu. Last week they brought an entire Brazilian feast of feijoada with the works, and I made caipirinhas with the last of the boutique cachaça I brought back from Brazil. The Pelegrins also provided some of their amazing patês to represent France (this week they are featuring dishes from Spain).

For traditional Australian fare, I turned to Boomerang's for some delicious meat pies served the Aussie way, with tomato sauce (ketchup to us) on the side. We also consumed ridiculous amounts of Willy's micheladas, vinho verde, and Pilsner Urquell.

This weekend's matches bring us to the round of 16, when it's do-or-die for every team. We have only two matches per day, but they promise to be exciting on the field and at the table. Here's what we will be enjoying at my house this weekend.

Saturday, June 24

Germany–Sweden, 10am

My husband Will Larson spent almost 3 years living in Germany, and has introduced me to the German traditional breakfast of hearty breads, cold cuts, smoked hams, cream cheese, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, butter and jams. I will add some smoked fish and pickles, make more aquavit (which was very successfully received on Week 1) and turn it into a German/Swedish smorgasbord. My friend Christine Schiller, a native of Southern Germany, also suggests German pancakes. Her recipe:

Christine's German Pancakes

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon flour

Oil for frying

Place eggs in a bowl and whisk with a wire whisk. Blend in salt, sugar, baking powder and milk and mix well. Sift flour into mixture and mix well until there are no more lumps.

Heat a non-stick pan, add oil, and ladle batter into the middle of the pan. Distribute the batter evenly swirling the pan around and cook over medium heat. Flip pancake when the batter begins to separate from the bottom of the pan, is partly browned and no longer liquid on top and cook the other side. Keep pancakes warm on platter until all batter is cooked. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, or top with applesauce or jam.

Argentina–Mexico, 2pm

When it comes to watching futbol, Argentina is my equivalent to the Lakers and the Patriots: my most hated teams. The way Mexico has been playing, I hold little hope. However, Mexico and Argentina are old rivals in Libertadores Cup games, with Mexico holding the advantage on overall wins. I am not scared. I will be nervous, though. And drinking. I need something easy to make. So, we will have a sliced grilled beef salad with heirloom tomatoes from my garden and a chimichurri dressing, paired with some Malbec or Torrontes (Susana Balbo Críos ... mmmmmmmm ...).

For Mexico, I will make chilapitas: small, crispy masa cups originally from the city of Chilapa, in the State of Guerrero. I learned to love these crunchy treats at an early age, since my uncle René is a native of Chilapa and he often brought them back to Mexico City. They are usually filled with refried black beans and various toppings like crumbled chorizo, shredded chicken or beef, homemade salsa and cheese. On Saturday I will use queso de Chiapas, creamy, crumbly cheese from that southern Mexican state. My friend Fernando Hernandez is bringing his famous and delicious enchiladas. I will make some homemade sangrita to chase some reposado tequila that my brother brought me from Mexico City. Lots of Mexican lager will be imbibed. And although I am not religious, I may light some Mexican saint candles for this one.

Sunday, June 25

England–Ecuador, 10am

While I do not dare predict the outcome of the match, culinarily speaking, it is a no-brainer. I am making Ecuadorian ceviche, whose many variations are quite different from Mexican ceviche. In fact, the debate continues among food historians as to the true origin of the dish, many claiming the South American country as the epicenter of the ceviche world. The recipe I found calls for purple onions, lime juice, orange juice, and parsley instead of cilantro. I will be using tilapia as an inexpensive yet tasty fish alternative.

Representing England, we'll have one of my favorite British comfort foods, shepherd's pie, with some of Mic's mushy peas (which turned out to be quite tasty) that I have in the freezer leftover from Week 1. There will be plenty of Bass Ale to go around, too.

Portugal–Netherlands, 2pm

Oh, boy, this will be an incredible match. Portugal, famous for its fresh seafood, will be represented this time with shrimp sautéed in olive oil with garlic and chile flakes, and a fava bean salad with fresh tomatoes and cilantro, a recipe I found in the cookbook A Taste of the Mediterranean, which I use often. Again, vinho verde will be the drink of choice. My favorite is Casal García, available around town for about $6.99. Aliança is also a good choice, but there are many others and all are inexpensive.

To represent the Netherlands, I will have an assortment of Dutch cheeses that I found at Central Market. Leidenkaas, or Leiden cheese, is a traditional farmhouse hard cheese made from cow's milk. I found a wonderful variety studded with cumin seed. Graskaas is seasonal cheese only available in June. The milk taken from the famous Beemster cows during the last two weeks of March is the creamiest and the only milk used to create this Gouda-type cheese with a vibrant green rind. Dorothea is the amazing creation from Anna Van Dijk, made from the milk from her herd of 500 goats in Eindhoven, Holland. The variety I found contains marigold petals and nettle leaves. The marigold, also known as calendula or pot marigold, was widely used in medieval and renaissance Europe to cook broths and stews, and it adds a piquant touch and a beautiful gold speckled appearance to this cheese. We'll round things out with a nutty, sweet Amsterdam reserve aged Gouda. Of course, we'll have plenty of Dutch brews to go around.

Stay tuned for next week's quarterfinals menu and the semifinals and final the following weekend. What will I make for Ghana this time?

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World Cup 2006

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