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Hungarian Themed Dinner

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    Posted: 08 June 2014 at 20:02
To celebrate Friend Wife’s roots, we decided our themed dinner for June would focus on the cuisine of Hungary. Going in, I knew very little about it. But I had some ground rules. First, every dish we choose would be new to us. Nothing we’d had before. Second, I wanted to spread the meal across any regional differences that might appear through research. And, third, every dish would be as traditional as possible. Plus, of course, the meal, itself, should be in balance, with each course complimentary to the others.

My first surprise was how diverse Hungarian cuisine can be. In a sense, Hungary is a microcosm of Europe. It’s cuisine has layer after layer of influences from other places, with very old Asiatic inputs from the Mongols and Turks, more recent contributions from Germany, Austria, Italy, and other Slavic countries, all super-imposed over the foodways of the native Magyars.

In short, there was no dearth of choices, even with my self-imposed restrictions. Indeed, there were so many possibilities, all of which sounded great, that I kept picking and choosing and changing the menu. In the end, we wound up making five dishes that, I believe, represent all the geographic and culinary nuances of Hungarian cuisine. Here’s the final menu:

Appy: Hortobagyi Palacsina (crepes filled with veal or chicken).
Soup: Palocleves (lamb soup).
Salad: Uborkasalata (cucumber salad)
Main course: Gombapaprikas (mushroom paprikash), Krumpli Galuska (potato “dumplings”), Lecso (pepper-onion-tomato relish)
Dessert: Rakott Metelt (noodle pudding)

The meal was accompanied with an Hungarian farmhouse bread. The recipe can be found here: http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/hungarian-farmhouse-bread_topic3551.html

Hortobagyi Palacsinta

Usually translated merely as pancakes, Palacsinta are thin crepes, made for either sweet or savory applications. This is a savory version. Probably the most popular starter in Hungary, it actually dates only to the 1968 World’s Fair. Originally made with veal, chicken is also popular. We choose chicken for budgetary reasons.

As I researched it, various recipes called for the meat to be “diced small,” “ground,” or “chopped fine.” As a compromise I minced it by hand, which worked out perfectly.

For the porkolt (meat stew):

2 tbls olive oil
¼ cup onions, diced fine
½ lb veal or chicken, chopped (I used hand-minced chicken tenders)
½ cup canned, diced tomatoes
Pinch caraway seeds
1 tbls parsley, chopped
½ cup water
¼ cup sour cream
2 tsp paprika (I used smoked paprika for this recipe)
Salt & pepper to taste

For the crepes:

2 eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup milk

For the porkolt sauce:

Drippings from the porkolt
½ cup sour cream
1/8 cup flour

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent. Add the meat and sauté until browned, breaking up any lumps. Add the tomatoes and water and stir well. Add the paprika, caraway seeds, and parsley. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.

Stir-in ¼ cup of the sour cream. Transfer porkolt to a sieve set over a bowl. Set porkolt and sauce aside.

Meanwhile, make the crepes. Whisk together the eggs, flour, and milk to form a smooth, thin batter.

Lightly butter an eight-inch skillet and heat well. Pour three tablespoons of the batter into the center of the skillet and swirl it around to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Cook for a few moments, until the surface of the crepe is dry. Flip it over and cook just for a few more seconds. Set aside until all crepes are made. There should be just enough batter to make six crepes.

Divide the meat between the crepes and fold them like a burrito. Spray an oven-proof baking dish with oil. Arrange the palacsinta in the dish and set aside.

Combine the porkolt sauce with 1/8 cup flour and ½ cup sour cream, whisking until smooth. Pour the sauce over the crepes and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15 minutes.

Serve hot, with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Palocleves

Hungarians are soup eaters of the first degree; everything from a simple chicken soup to hearty gulas soups to dessert soups like the famed sour cherry soup, are eaten all the time. Indeed, many Hungarians believe that a day without soup is a day without sunshine.

This one was actually originated by a famous chef for the Hungarian writer Kalman Mikszath, who asked the chef for “something to eat which has all the tastes, aromas, finenesses and delicacies in it.” What resulted is the same sort of melting pot that is Hungary itself.

Because Mikszath was from the northern part of Hungary (i.e., Paloc-land), the soup took its name from that region.

12 oz lamb shoulder or leg, cut in ½-inch dice
3 tbls oil
4 oz (1 small) onion, finely chopped
1 tsp Hungarian paprika, preferably sweet
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ tsp ground caraway
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
8 oz potatoes (1 med) cut in ½-inch dice
5-6 oz green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces
½ cup sour cream
2 tbls all-purpose flour
1-2 tbls finely chopped fresh dill

In a large, heavy pot or soup kettle, fry the onion in oil until golden brown. Set aside for a short time, then mix in the paprika and two cups hot water.

Return to the stove, over medium heat, and add the meat, salt, caraway, garlic, and bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 60-90 minutes until meat is tender, adding more water if necessary.

While the meat simmers, cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, ten to 12 minutes. Set aside. Boil the beans in one cup salted water until tender crisp, about five minutes. Do not overcook the beans.

In a small bowl mix the flour, sour cream, and ¼ cup water, whisking well to combine.

When the meat is tender, add the potatoes, beans, and the bean water, then mix in the sour cream thickener, and simmer another five minutes.

Just before serving, discard the bay leaf. Garnish each serving with some of the dill.

Uborkasalata

Cucumber salad is ubiquitous in Hungary, with, literally, hundreds of variations on the theme. Indeed, it seems as if every housewife and chef has his or her own recipe. Some are simple, others quite complex with the addition of red onions, mustard, and other ingredients. Some are overly sweet, while others are pucker-your-mouth vinegary.

We wanted a simple, refreshing salad that would also serve as a palate cleanser. The following met that requirement to a fare-thee-well.

3 large cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tbls sugar
½ cup vinegar
¼ cup water
Salt & pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish

In a small jar combine the sugar and water. Shake to dissolve the sugar, then add the vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Shake well to combine dressing ingredients.

Generously salt the cucumber slices in a colander and let drain at least 30 minutes. Rinse, if desired. Either way, thoroughly dry the cukes. Toss with the garlic, then cover with the dressing. Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.

Not to overwhelm anyone, we’ll continue with the main course tomorrow.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 June 2014 at 08:43
Here is the balance of our Hungarian themed meal.

Gombapaprikas

Given the amount of meat in the appetizer and soup, we decided that vegetarian dishes would be fine for the main dish.

Although I found numerous references to mushroom paprikash, couldn’t find a single actual recipe. No big deal. I just went with my standard paprikash recipe, which I’ve used previously for chicken, beef, and chicken livers. It worked just fine.

Rather than being traditional, just think of this as being in the style of.

1 ½-2 lbs white button or mini-Portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
3-5 tbls vegetable oil
3-5 tbls sweet paprika
½ cup red wine
½ cup sour cream

Heat oil in a heavy kettle. Add the paprika, whisking to combine evenly. Sauté the onions in the oil/paprika mixture until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to give up their moisture.

Add the wine, lower heat, and cook, covered, until mushrooms are tender, about 1 ½ hours if using Portobello’s. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and let the liquid reduce until slightly thickened. Whisk in the sour cream.

Return the mushrooms to the pot and reheat over very low heat until mushrooms are heated through. Do not let it boil.

Krumpli Galuska

Imagine a cross between spaetzle and gnocchi. The result is Krumpli Galuska---small potato dumplings flavored with sauerkraut.

You can process the potatoes in a food processor or blender, or grate them by hand. Doesn’t seem to affect the end result.

Most of the original recipes I looked at use oil and butter to fry the kraut, but I thought lard would be a better choice and went with it for the extra flavor.

3 large potatoes
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large can or jar sauerkraut
1 egg
¼ cup oil and butter (or sub lard)
Salt

Peel and dice the potatoes and grind them to pulp in a food processor or blender. Add the egg, a couple of teaspoons salt, and enough flour to make a stiff batter.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, run the batter through a spaetzle maker or colander. Cook each batch slowly, ten to 15 minutes, stirring gently, occasionally, to prevent clumping. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Rinse until the water runs clear. Transfer to another bowl and set aside until all the dumplings are made.

Drain the sauerkraut and wring in a towel to remove as much water as possible. In a large skillet, heat the oil, add the kraut, and sauté until browned. Be careful, as there will always be some retained water that will cause the oil to spit.

Add the dumpling to the sauerkraut with additional butter if desired. Mix well, heat through, and serve.

Lecso

What Ratatouille is to France, and Capanata is to Sicily, Lecso is to Hungary. It’s a condiment, a snack, a side-dish, even a main course. The basic dish combines tomatoes, onions, and peppers with paprika. But Hungarians ring all sorts of changes on it, the most common being the addition of sausages.

According to Hungarian food authority June Meyer, Lecso is an ancient dish that originated in Serbia.

One cautionary note: Although many types of peppers will work with Lecso, do not use green bells, as they tend towards bitterness and will likely turn to pulp.

2 tbls lard or oil
2 med. Onions, sliced
1 lb yellow sweet banana peppers, seeded and sliced
3 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced\
½ tbls sugar
½ tbls salt
1 tbls paprika

Heat the lard, add the onions, and cook over low heat five minutes. Add the pepper slices and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and paprika. Cook ten to 15 minutes more.

Adjust sugar and salt to taste.

Rakott Metelt

We’re not big on desserts in this household. But this was a perfect ending to the rest of the meal, sweet, without being cloying.

Rakott Metelt translates as layered noodles. They’re not really layered, though. the ingredients are mixed together, transferred to a baking dish, and baked, rather like the similar luchen kugel of Jewish cuisine.

The literature suggests that Rakott Metelt makes a fine breakfast food. I can personally attest that the literature is correct.

1 lb wide egg noodles, cooked until tender, drained, and allowed to cool
4 oz (one stick) butter, melted
2 cups creamy cottage cheese
2 cups sour cream
4 large eggs
½ cup sugar
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup sliced almonds
Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat a9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender combine the butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, and sugar. Puree until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine the noodles with the cheese mixture and raisins until well combined. Transfer to the prepared baking pan. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with almonds. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven.

Cut into squares and serve, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, while still hot. This may be served at room temperature as well.









But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 June 2014 at 22:47
Outstanding menu, Brook - I am impressed! 

I have tried the cucumber salad, and really enjoyed it. I also regularly make a form of the galuska - not exactly the same, but Slovak in origin and therefore similar.

I really like the look of all of these, Brook - I'd like to try them all, and can't really even pick a favourite. The palocleves might need to be substituted with venison, but other than that, there's no reason that I couldn't re-create the menu of an autumn or winter day ~

Thank you for sharing!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 June 2014 at 05:49
I believe the palocleves would work wonderfully with venison.

There will be a tendency to want to increase the amount of meat. But it's not really necessary. You could up it, successfully, to a pound. But I wouldn't go any further than that.
But we hae meat and we can eat
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 June 2014 at 19:01
That would work perfectly, since my deer is all packaged in one-pound packages! Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote africanmeat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 June 2014 at 12:14
O M G it sounds amazing .
what a great job .
Ahron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 June 2014 at 13:35
Thanks, Ahron. Coming from you that's especially welcome.

How was your trip to the States?
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 October 2017 at 15:49

Amazingly impressively exceptional ..

I had come to check in the Hungarian section as I would like  a Goulash recipe .. 

Do you have one ?

Thanks again ..  Definitely would like to prepare a couple of these dishes ..  




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