Schusterpfanne (“Shoemaker’s Pan”)

from German Meals at Oma

The origins of this recipe are quite vague, but the name seems to stem from the unusual appearance of the dish when it is made in a casserole and layered in a certain manner. Viewed from above, it resembles a shoe. Traditionally, the meat was boiled as a single piece and put into the middle of the dish. I do mine just a bit differently. I like to cube and brown the meat first, making for a richer and meatier flavor. It’s also easier to serve right from the dish this way.

Serves 4

2 lb (908 g) boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
2 tbsp (30 g) clarified butter or 2 tbsp (30 ml) neutral oil
3 cups (750 ml) beef or chicken broth
2 lbs (908 g) peeled firm pears (such as Bosc), cut into ½-inch (13-mm) slices
2 lbs (908 g) peeled Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ½-inch (13-mm) slices
1 tsp caraway seeds
Pinch of ground cloves and sugar
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease a 9 x 13–inch (23 x33–cm) baking dish.

Sprinkle the pork lightly with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes, working in batches so as not to crowd the meat. Remove the pork from the saucepan and pile it in the center of the baking dish. Pour the broth into the saucepan and scrape up any browned bits.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside. Layer the pears on one end of the baking dish, surrounding the meat on one side. Layer the potatoes on the other end of the dish, surrounding the meat on that side. As you look down at the dish, the meat would be the center inside of the shoe, the pears would be the heel and the potatoes the toes.

Pour the hot broth over the top of the mixture so that it comes no more than halfway up the potatoes and pears. Sprinkle the potatoes lightly with salt. Sprinkle the caraways seeds over the potatoes and the pork. Sprinkle the cloves and sugar over the pears. Lay the thyme over the potatoes.

Cover the baking dish with its lid or foil and put it in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are slightly browned and tender.

Serve the Schusterpfanne directly from the baking dish in large soup bowls, perhaps with a green side salad.

Oma’s Ecke
If you wish, you can make this dish more like a stew. Layer everything together in the baking dish and bake it as directed in the recipe. However, trying to recognize it as a shoe is part of the fun. Do not tell your guests what it’s supposed to look like but let them guess. All will be winners when it comes to enjoying this unusual meal.

Reprinted with permission from German Meals at Oma’s by Gerhild Fulson, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018.

Nada’s Ecke:
I added chopped onions and sliced carrots under the meat to give it a stew consistency. Even though I sliced the potatoes as thinly as possible (and to ensure they would stand upright), they were still partly raw when all the other ingredients were cooked through. And no one around the table could identify it as a shoe…or maybe our imagination was not up to snuff. For leftovers, I microwaved the potatoes for a few minutes and then tossed all the ingredients together for a stew and served it with warm homemade bread – that was a big hit!