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Fučka

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 26 November 2012 at 10:58
Fučka
Potato Porridge
 
Recently, we had been discussing various forms of porridge as it relates to farina, oats, cornmeal and other grains. It was right about this time that I discovered another porridge made from another common "peasant" staple, the potato.
 
I found this recipe for traditional Slovak potato porridge, called fučka, on a really great site, www.slovakcooking.com. The fellow who runs the site, named Lubos, grew up in Slovakia and now lives in America. He has an outstanding collection of traditional recipes, with many that are treasured family recipes that he prepared with his grandmothers as he took pictures so he could share them with the world. These recipes and pictures are incredible; I am grateful for his efforts, and those of his family, and plan to sample many recipes. I hope to do them justice.
 
This particular recipe can be found here:
 
 
Lubos describes it as a favourite meal throughout Slovakia; indeed, it is considered by many to be one of Slovakia’s national dishes. The name fučka comes from the word fučať, which means to huff or puff; this is a good description, because as the porridge finishes on the stovetop, it will be wheezing with steam. Lubos also commented on the peasant roots of this dish:
 
Quote Fučka is one of those foods that surely originated during the times when the pantries were less plentiful than today. It’s a super rich and filling dish.... You won’t be hungry again for half a day after one bowl [of] this. If you want to put your family on a little financial diet, try serving this porridge few times a week. You could save some real money!
 
I will say this now, and head off any possible misunderstandings: this dish is pronounced FUH-chka; the "č" is Slovak is pronounced like "ch" in English.
 
This dish is very, very easy to prepare, and I took plenty of step-by-step photos to help anyone who wants to give it a try. I stuck very close to Lubos's recipe and method, doubling it in order to feed a family of six, with leftovers for lunch for a couple of days. I began with 8 potatoes and some flour:
 
 
I also gathered some other ingredients:
 
 
Left to right: thick-sliced bacon, 3 small onions, sour cream and - my twist - some minced garlic. I was dismayed to find that I had no "real" garlic on hand, so I used pre-minced garlic, which is almost as good. Not pictured is the milk that I used.
 
Mise en place always comes first! I peeled and halved the onions, then cut them into slices:
 
 
Next, I sliced the bacon; I used 6 ounces, which is half the package:
 
 
I then measured 3 or 4 cloves' worth of the pre-minced garlic:
 
 
And then we were ready for the potatoes!
 
 
I cut them into 6ths or 8ths, depending on size, and dropped them into a pot of cold water that I brought to a boil:
 
 
I brought them to a boil for about 10 or 15 minutes, until I was able to run a knife through them with no resistance, then drained them and made sure to reserve the potato water, as I would need some later in the recipe.
 
Once the potatoes were drained, I added the garlic along with some salt and pepper:
 
 
And gave them a good mashing:
 
 
Note that I did not add any butter; I am guessing a little would be alright here, if you want - but since none is called for in the recipe, I did not add any. Keep in mind that our goal here is not mashed potatoes; this is just a step in making potato porridge!
 
Next, following the ratio given in Lubos's recipe, I added 1.33 cups of flour (1/3 cup for every 2 potatoes):
 
 
And mashed everything some more until it was thoroughly incorporated, looking about like this:
 
 
Interestingly, at this point, we could mix in a couple of eggs, roll out the resulting dough, cut it into dumplings, drop the dumplings into boiling water until they float, and you will have my wife's grandmother's halušky:
 
 
This, in my mind, shows the versatility of Slovak peasant cooking, and of the potato itself; so far, we've created the foundation for two great dishes found in peasant cooking (mashed potatoes and halušky), but we're going to take it another step and create a third!
 
I returned the potato/flour mixture to a cooking pot and, once again following Lubos's amounts, I added 1/2 cup each of potato water and milk for every 2 potatoes (in this case, 2 cups of potato water and 2 cups of milk). I stirred to mix well, and then set the pot on the stove:
 
 
If the porridge is too thick, you can add a little more milk and/or water, but those amounts should get you pretty darn close.
 
From here, I brought the porridge to a boil and then reduced to a simmer, stirring constantly to keep the porridge from burning or sticking to the bottom, in order to reduce and thicken it until it huffed, puffed and wheezed.
 
Meanwhile, I was also cooking the sliced bacon over medium to medium-low heat in order to make bacon bits for topping the porridge:
 
 
When the bacon started to brown up and really render out its fat, I added the onions (add a little butter too, if desired, for an extra layer of flavour):
 
 
And cooked everything slowly until we had really good caramelisation of the onions and the bacon was well-rendered almost to the point of being crispy, but not quite!
 
 
You can actually go a little further here, until the onions are even darker and crunchy; however, I did not want to risk burning them, so I removed the bacon and onions onto a couple-three of layers of paper towels and set them into the oven on "warm" in order to stay nice and...well, warm.
 
By this time, the porridge was good, thick and bubbling merrily, with a creamy texture and a wonderful aroma that promised to go perfectly with the bacon bits:
 
 
One sign that it was just about done were that it would form a skin on top, which I stirred back into the porridge; it also, as advertised, huffed and puffed as it bubbled and wheezed.
 
I checked the porridge for seasoning, and found it to be just about perfect, so I set the pot into the oven while we finished up the last of the supper.
 
Supper? But porridge is for breakfast!
 
Well, yeah, it is - and this is a very popular breakfast dish in Slovakia - but it was suppertime, so I made it as a side dish for supper, and it served very well in that capacity ~
 
My oldest son was handling the main course, and he did very well, pan-frying some pork chops with some simple, wonderful Slovak flavorings, just some salt, pepper, garlic and paprika:
 
 
As the pork chops finished, he moved them to the warm oven, then de-glazed with beer and prepared a simple pan gravy that was very good.
 
When the fučka looked to be just right:
 
 
I prepared one final topping, which was simply sour cream thinned with a little milk, about a half-and-half mixture. I tried taking a photo, but all the white washed everything out, so you're going to have to figure that formula out on your own ~
 
On his blog, Lubos mentions a few other ideas for topping that can be explored:
 
Quote This porridge doesn’t have to be topped with bacon, or even onions. There are other popular toppings, including bryndza (similar to feta cheese) or fried cabbage. Feel free to experiment with whatever you like.
 
Everything was ready, so we served our meal, with peas as a vegetable:
 
 
I considered getting a little fancy, using the fučka as a base, with the pork chop and peas arranged above, and some of the topping on each; however, in the end, I decided that the plate looked pretty nice just like this, and chose not to press my luck!
 
I have to say, considering its sheer simplicity, this meal really provided a lot of bang for the buck, as do so many peasant meals of this type. I would definitely recommend it. As you can see, we served it as a side dish for supper, but a bowl of  it would certainly be a hearty, filling breakfast before a hard-day's work, and also very frugal.
 
 
Simple, real food, prepared with a little love, will always deliver wonderful flavours, wonderful aromas and wonderful memories! The fučka made a perfect side dish, creamy, satisfying and absolutely delicious, with the sour cream, bacon and onions adding to every bite.
 
 
The pork chops also came out very well, and I was pretty proud of my son, Joe, who managed to step out of his own "comfort zone" and try to create something that fit the theme of the meal. His addition of paprika and garlic to the basic salt-and-pepper, along with using the beer as a base for the pork-infused pan gravy, really added a lot to the over-all meal, and I must say, he did very well with this.
 
 
As I mentioned before, we had plenty left over for a couple of days' worth of lunches; they could just as easily have been breakfasts, but I took portions to work and enjoyed them there instead. As is common with so many of these types of dishes, the fučka tasted even better the next day, and the day after. I think a person could also have formed it into patties and fried it as potato pancakes, with the bacon and onion mixed in - talk about delicious!
 
To recap, here's a shopping list of common ingredients (probably already in your kitchen) that will provide everything you need to make a wonderful, versatile Slovak peasant dish that goes well any time of day:
 
Potatoes (one per person)
Flour (1/3 cup for every 2 potatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste
Milk (1/2 cup for every 2 potatoes)
Reserved water from boiling potatoes (1/2 cup for every 2 potatoes)
Homemade bacon bits, for topping
Sliced or diced, onions, caramelised with the bacon, for topping
Sour cream (thinned with about 50% milk) for topping
My addition - minced garlic
 
Very easy to prepare, wholesome and really delicious - who could ask for anything more? My heartfelt thanks goes out to Lubos and his family for sharing this and other Slovak recipes, so that we can all reap the benefits of such wonderful cooking. I hope you give this a try, and enjoy it as much as I did.
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Rod Franklin View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 November 2012 at 14:17
I'm glad you cleared up that pronunciation. That's a dish born of hard livin'!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 December 2012 at 15:20
Tas. I see the apple does not fall far from the tree! Great looking pork chops. This looks like very loose creamy pureed potatoes. Easy kiss, keep it simply simple peasant food. The Slovak website is very interesting. I shall give it a go, after holidays for a Lunch. We are flying to Zurich on 22nd and on 2nd to Bari. Puglia. Then Madrid on 7th. We go back to work on 8th.   Exemplary Pictorial. Thanx for posting. You would be a great history professor.    Just thought about what u told me about potato crepes or potato Blini and filling themwith bacon and creme fraiche and drizzling puree !    Marge.
Volamos a Mediterraneo, un paraiso que conquista su gente u su cocina.
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