Young chef Thomas Penz puts a culinary spin on traditional Tirol staples. His innovative style of cooking uses fresh and local ingredients and an inventive twist on classic favourites. The result is a spectacular menu of dishes you won’t soon forget, from Tirolean Grey Cheese Soup over Vegetable Groestl to Apple Fritters. Try these recipes if you want to get the wow factor into your cooking!
Thomas Penz has an affinity for producing flavourful seasonal dishes utilizing the highest quality ingredients and local produce—fresh from his own vegetable garden or from Innsbruck Markthalle. His cuisine is a reflection of the history of Tirolean cooking, infused with today’s culinary vision. The award-winning 22-year-old chef prepares fresh, locally sourced ingredients together skilfully at his parents’ hotel restaurant in Innsbruck. He has worked at “Noma”, the two-Michelin-star restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was repeatedly ranked as the Best Restaurant in the World and at “Hangar 7” restaurant in Salzburg, Austria. His thoughtfully crafted Tirol fare is rooted in tradition, but never typical. Try his recipes for Tirolean Grey Cheese Soup, Vegetable Groestl and Apple Fritters. Yummy!
“Graukäse” (Tirolean grey cheese) is a strongly flavoured, rennet-free cows-milk acid-curd cheese made in the Tirolean Alps. It owes its name to the grey mould that usually grows on its rind. It is extremely low in fat and it has a powerful penetrating smell.
Cut the grey cheese into cubes. Peel the shallot and chop into small pieces. Heat butter and cook the shallot and the potatoes until golden. Add white wine and let simmer. Then, stir in cabbage juice, vegetable broth and cream and let reduce by one third. Lastly, pour in the grey cheese cubes, taste for salt and season with nutmeg. Mash with a hand blender to create a velvety soup.
Garnish Suggestion: Top the soup with butter sautéed rye bread cubes, chopped chives and thin slices of radish.
Ladle the frothy soup into bowls, garnish if you like, and serve.
“Groestl” is a Tirol staple made with onions, bacon and sliced pieces of meat. When finished, the Gröstl is served with a fried egg. Originally, a hearty sauté of all kinds of meat leftovers that were thrown into a skillet and mixed with herbs and potatoes, this traditional Tirol dish has experienced a makeover and is now extremely popular even with gourmets. Here’s a delightful vegetable version with poached egg:
Wash the carrots and peel them. Juice two thirds of the carrots and bring the juice to the boil in a small saucepan, reducing to 50ml. Cut the remaining carrots with a vegetable peeler. Finally, slice potatoes and celeriac and chop the onion.
In a large skillet, melt butter and cook potato slices at high temperature until golden brown, turning occasionally.
Heat butter in a second frying pan, then cook the chopped onion until translucent. Add beer vinegar and vegetables and roast over medium heat. In the end, add the roasted potatoes and stir well. Add the reduced carrot juice for a delicately fruity and sweet touch. Taste for salt and pepper and season with nutmeg and chives.
Strongly recommended: For a more contemporary touch, serve your Vegetable Groestl with a poached egg. Poached eggs are cooked by slipping them into simmering water, and giving it a minute or so more to firm up. Poached eggs have a reputation for being difficult or finicky. Here’s how to poach an egg easily:
Once cooked, remove from the water and snip off the top of the cling film. Open the top and let the egg slip out.
Peel, core and chop your apples into small pieces. Caramelize sugar in a saucepan, add the apple juice, butter, and chopped apples. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender.
Fill the apple compote into silicone moulds and refrigerate it.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, milk and eggs until a smooth batter forms.
Dip the frozen apple compote in batter, drop into the hot oil and fry until golden on both sides. The result is delicious apple fritters with a liquid filling inside.
Combine sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Toss the apple fritters with cinnamon sugar and serve while still warm.
Photo Credits: W9 Studios, Stephan Elsler