“Love on a Plate…” is the slogan for Ruhland’s Strudel Haus, the passion project of Tom Ruhland of Eagan. Those words encompass Tom’s love for fellowship and food as they create community. Tom finds inspiration in food: “Making food for somebody is a very intimate action and an expression of love. That may sound a little heady for a food maker, but that’s what drives me.”
Tom’s journey into strudel started in the late 1990s when the kitchen manager at Cretin-Derham Hall, where Tom taught religion for many years, gave him a case of puff pastry that she had received as a sample. Not having a use for it herself, she shared it with a fellow foodie. “I started playing with puff pastry and over the course several iterations I ultimately came up with a recipe for apple strudel. The dream for me at the time was to have a food product that I could bring to the State Fair and make enough money to be able to put my kids through college.”
After testing the recipe on friends and family, Tom and his brother Joseph bought a concessions trailer to sell at county fairs and other local events. Each year they added more events and strudel varieties. While apple remains, as Tom says, “my firstborn and favorite,” it was soon joined by strudel siblings strawberry rhubarb, spinach feta, and chicken marinara so as to appeal to both sweet and savory-seeking fairgoers.
After winning the Best New Food award at the Steele County Fair for his sauerkraut and brat strudel, Tom had multiple requests to buy his strudels outside the fair circuit. Direct sales are now the backbone of the business through metro area farmers’ markets. Becoming a vendor at the Saint Paul Famers’ Market has had a huge impact on Tom, as he befriended other vendors who are now part of his extended food family. He sources Minnesota-grown products as much as possible. Everything in his strudels is done from scratch — the chopping of the vegetables, the braising of the brisket, the richness of the sauce. He is in the process of moving to his own commercial kitchen, shared with two other producers, who have grown their businesses together thanks to Minnesota’s support of its farmers’ markets.
Now boasting 50 different strudels, Tom credits his son Noah with the consistent high quality and diverse flavor palate of their offerings.
“Noah and I usually create together. It goes out of my head into his head. He is the clarifier. He articulates in his head in terms of weights, measurements, amounts and then writes it down and makes it into a nutritional value. My sister Claudia is the audience. She’s our gauge of whether or not it’s delicious.”
Noah’s degree from the University of Minnesota in nutrition and food science as well as his food curiosity have been an essential part of the company’s growth. Still, Tom would like to increase their direct sales so as to provide full-time work with health insurance for up to five employees. Right now both his son and his sister work with him part-time.
Creating a product that will be shared is essential to Tom.
“The most important part of this company is that we made our product knowing that it will end up on a table and will be shared by people who love each other,” he said.
Tom’s belief in the value of table and community comes from his mom. Growing up in a household of 11, he treasures his memories of the dinner that would be waiting for the family when they came home from Sunday Mass. His mom would have a roast in the oven that was always done perfectly. He returns to pot roast as his adult comfort food. If he’s not cooking himself, he’s indulging in a salted nut roll, even though his adult children chide him for it.
The best way to get in touch is through the website www.thestrudelhaus.com where one can also explore all the sweet and savory strudels. There is free delivery every Wednesday within a 30 mile radius of the St. Paul production facility or Tom’s Eagan home. The roasted vegetable with white bean and the salmon duxelles are personal favorites of my family. Tom also partners with local organizations for fundraising efforts. Each strudel feeds five to 10. The strudels are sold frozen, wrapped in a sheet of parchment paper for one to place on a baking sheet.
Tom shared a Sunday supper recipe for readers to enjoy with those dear to them. Much like waiting for one of his strudels to bake, this dish is worth the wait.
Beef short ribs with carrots, horseradish Gouda mashed potatoes
4 pounds beef short ribs cut across the bone into 2 inch portions
2 cups of red wine, preferably a blend.
32 ounces beef stock
2-12 ounce bags frozen pearl onions
3 pounds carrots, peeled and cut opaque.
3 pounds of red new potatoes washed and unpeeled
8 ounce Eichten’s horseradish Gouda spread
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
Five cloves of garlic
One stick butter
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup flour
1/2 cup Wondra Flour
Lay out beef short ribs on a rimmed baking sheet. Salt and pepper all sides of short ribs. Put flour into a shallow bowl. Lightly coat short ribs in flour. Set aside.
Heat oil in a 6 quart Dutch oven until the surface of the oil begins to smoke. In batches carefully add short ribs into pan, being certain not to overcrowd, and brown on all sides. Repeat with remaining short ribs. Remove from pan and set aside.
Deglaze the inside of the pan with the red wine, scraping up all browned bits. Replace short ribs. Add beef stock, thyme and garlic. Cover. Adjust heat to low/medium and braise for 2 hours. Add carrots and pearl onions and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
While vegetables are cooking, boil potatoes until tender. Drain. Add one stick of butter, 8 ounces of Gouda horseradish spread, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a potato masher or a hand mixer whip or mash potatoes until everything is mixed.
Once carrots are cooked, carefully pour out most of the liquid from the Dutch oven into a sauce pan. Over medium heat, bring sauce to a boil and slowly sprinkle Wondra flour as you whisk into a gravy until thickened.
Serve Short ribs over mashed potatoes.