Might not look like much (hence the name), but man is this good. If it would have been up to me I would have called this “Meat Stew” for obvious reasons on the ingredients list, but this is a traditional Hungarian stew, is fabulous and slightly decadent, and is especially tasty on a winter’s day. As with many recipes, there are several versions of this dish out there, but this is what I have always had growing up, and I think it is the more “classic” rendition, but I’m not an authority on the subject so who knows. Also like most soups & stews, it gets better as it sits longer in the fridge (to a point of course).
1-1/2 lb. fatty pork stew meat or spare ribs (boneless)
1-1/2 lb. fresh brisket of beef (not corned beef)
1 lg. cabbage
1/4 lb. smoked bacon (Optional)
~ 3TB oil
1 lg. Red Onion, diced
1 bunch tarragon
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 – 1/2 C white or red wine vinegar (depends on taste and how much liquid you ended up using).
Sour Cream to taste (1C seems to me the bare minimum)
In a large pot place the beef and pork. Fill with cold water to cover meat plus a little. Add a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Remove from heat, reserve the broth, and set meat out on a cutting board to cool until you can cut it into ~ 1″ cubes.
Meanwhile, cut the cabbage in manageable wedges and place them on a rack in the sink, salt them and pour about a kettles’ worth of boiling water over them. If such racks are not available you can always just toss them in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes and then drain them. If you are using bacon, cut it into pieces.
In a large pot, heat the oil and then toss in the onions, sautéing until they are translucent. Take off the heat and place 1/3 of the cabbage on top of the onions in a layer. Salt & Pepper. Place the beef cubes and 1/2 the bacon if using. Spread 1/2 the remaining cabbage as the next layer, then add the tarragon (I just use the leaves from the bunch). Add the pork and the rest of the bacon. Finally, cover with the last of the cabbage. Salt and Pepper.
Skim most of the fat off the top of the saved broth and pour it over the layered ingredients. If it does not reach the top add some water being mindful you don’t dilute the broth too much. Bring to a simmer and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes. Taste it as it will likely need more salt and pepper. Add the vinegar and set aside to cool. Add the sour cream and stir.
It is good to serve with another dollop of sour cream in the bowl from this chef’s perspective. Enjoy it with a chunk of good bread and a glass of white wine. Or a color of your choice.
By Narcissa Lyons
As the snow whispered around the car, the tires not confident in the several inches of snow, I made it around the corner to the store for a few things before heading to the gym. As will happen on many a route, I passed a bar. I glanced in the parking lot to confirm what I knew I would see–that it was far from empty. Continue reading
By Narcissa Lyons
I have been citing this song by Bob Dylan for the last twenty years or so to help emphasize a point, and it seems I have been doing it incorrectly. I never listened carefully enough, apparently, since the meaning is quite clearly not what I thought, though I think Bob would not mind how I have been twisting it just a sly sly. The real meaning is pretty crystal. Continue reading
Basics by “The Café”
Finessing By Narcissa Lyons
This sounds like it might be a heavy soup, but isn’t. The amount of cheese is minimal but adds a nice smokiness and texture. It’s possible adding a dollop of sour cream to your portion might make it even better since sour cream invariably does. Below serves roughly 4 hungry peeps.
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 onion chopped
2 carrots peeled and cut into small pieces
4-5 roasted red peppers, sliced*
4 cloves garlic minced
2 cans reduced sodium chicken broth (14.5 oz cans)
1 bunch fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup smoked Gouda cheese shredded, plus some for garnish
Home-made garlic croutons**
Chopped bacon bits (optional)
Heat olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots, roasted red peppers, garlic, chicken broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from heat. Using either an immersion blender (love this thing) or a traditional blender, puree the soup. Once pureed and at home in the saucepan again, add the cheese. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with some of the shredded cheese, croutons & bacon bits. Enjoy.
*If you haven’t roasted peppers before, it’s easy and they are very good to have around to toss into almost anything (pasta, sandwich, fantabulous on their own). Plus you should do it any time you think your peppers might not be tasty raw any longer. Simply take 4-5 peppers or whatever depending on you, and slice off the sides, tossing the innards. You do not have to wash since you’ll be peeling off the skin. Place them on a cookie sheet, skin side up, and put under a high broil setting. You want to take them out when the skin looks as below, approx. 10-15 minutes. Once cooled off, peel the skin and discard the skin. It’s OK if you don’t get every last shred of charred skin since that adds to the flavor. Layer the pieces of peppers in a wide cereal bowl ideally so that layers are: peppers/TBSP EVOO/salt to taste, peppers/EVOO,etc. Each time you put the oil on, rub into the peppers so they all have the benefit.
**If you don’t have them or feel like making them, store bought will do the trick obviously.
Level of Difficulty: Very Simple
Breakfast pasta–that’s what I call it for apparent reasons but better for lunch or dinner. It is similar to Pasta Carbonara but has no peas, plus a few other subtle differences that, per me, make it much tastier. Anyway, here you go.
By Narcissa Lyons
I was going to write my first article here about pigs. I almost don’t have enough good things to say about this fat, delicious animal (and I will forcibly forget that they have been known to eat us right back if given the chance). But then I came across a site I have come to love, even if I know my own patience limits me from recreating a few of the recipes I read, and this site reminds me about all that is pleasing and beautiful about food–the simplicity of food’s beginning and of its gathering to eventually end up on a hopefully discerning and appreciative palate, but I’ll point you there later.
Food, the buying of it, the listing of it, the discussing of it, the assembly and presentation of it, smelling, tasting and mixing of it, the sweet satisfaction of putting it on the table in front of people you love with the knowledge they will mostly swallow it down while doing more important things like talking, laughing and OK, arguing – is what is The Dine. And part of that is certainly the sharing of the task. Cooking, chopping, emulsifying whilst talking about the very mundane or the excruciatingly great gossip on a mutual friend or hated stranger, anything at all – this becomes part of the mixture. Even the occasional explosion of the chef (figurative) under pressure is part of the event’s make-up because while fixing the fixin’s has its pleasure aplenty, there is mayhem in the kitchen! And exponentially more so with the body count, er.. the quantity of guests. It is not easy to cook for a lot of people, and if a “helper” makes the slightest slip at the wrong time (during said explosion), get the hell out simple as that. My mother was famous for this. And I think two of my sisters inherited the quality but to a less frightening degree (sorry Panni, Paulette but tis true, maybe more Panni). Everything would be fine, someone setting the table, someone asking who wanted red or white, etc., but my mother, coming out of the kitchen, might notice that a place setting was incorrect in some way or another. A shriek fest like that you don’t want to see—but I am certain this is not a rare phenomenon to other families either. It’s just a boiling point (pun intended) when the fear that the meal will be an utter failure is foremost on the cook’s brain. My point here since it seems to have strayed is that we who love food want to please those we love with it, to honor the occasion marked so that it is memorable, enjoyable, and really as delightful as possible –and being the one who is responsible for that is not a light thing even if it is only unwritten.
Thanksgiving is not over-rated. Some will say so, they tend to be younger, but they are well aware what they say is just silly. For shit’s sake it’s a four-day weekend and that is money. And the three days prior are just a joy fest talking about it with others, strangers even, just to understand who is hosting, who is buying the organic or the to be triple deep fried bird. “I am not going to cook but I have to bring the deviled eggs”. No one really works. Actually, no one works at all, they just attend their place of business. That is not a secret so I cannot get fired. For that.
The house gets cleaned, items hiding in strange places get washed, guests clarified, wine, beer and all good liquids accumulated. This is the feast of the year. What was my point? That food is about taste, delection and being with people. About preparing to be with people and talking about preparing and talking about the guests we are expecting and what they are preparing, ad infinitum. About talking on the subject because it is a subject and not always can one find that kind of common ground.
And that is what it is. Food is common ground. It is common, sumptuous, aromatic and tactile ground. It invites, in all of its ways, from the simplicity of mac’ and cheese to the complexity and divinity of fois gras with figs and raspberries. Shake my hand and I will shake your hand and we will find what it is we have in common and I know it will taste good. Burger at the dark joint down the street with a respectable long pour on the wine. Common and delicious and down our throats.
As always, be well.
The site to which I earlier referred and is food beauty:
Even if you don’t think you have the talent to make this loveliness, just looking at the pictures nearly puts the soup in your mouth.
Level of difficulty: Simple, just some chopping takes a little time
Makes 6-8 servings
Came up with this on a last minute whim, and then couldn’t remember it so have now made it a few times and results below. In addition to being a really refreshing and pleasing salad, it is a great accompaniment to any kind of pork cut (loin, chop, etc.) if you heat it just a bit.
In a medium sized bowl assemble main ingredients, simply piling on as you prepare.
(1) English Cucumber, skin on (scrubbed clean of course) and seeded. Note that saving the seeds for a later ingredient to a lemon/cucumber and water detox drink means no scraps here. Sliced very thin. Patted dry.
(1) C each cleaned and patted dry black (or red) and green grapes, cut in half
(1) oz. mint leaves, cleaned and patted dry, chopped but not too finely.
1/3 C EVOO
Juice of one lime
1/2 TBS honey
Whisk above well and pour over salad ingredients. Mix gently but well. Add Salt and pepper to taste. Tastes best if it sits for ~ 1/2 hour chilling before serving.
PS – If you want to really kick this up with a sharp dimension, add a thinly sliced clove or two of garlic.
Difficulty: Not easy. Not impossible.
Or at least that’s what I’m calling it. I am half Hungarian, and learned quite a bit from my Grandmother, God Bless her, who is likely going to be skeptical of this rendition from her lofty distance, but anyway, this is a creation I first tasted as the dressing on traditional Hungarian yellow potato salad. I love that salad – rich, creamy, even with only the two ingredients (mayo & potatoes). I then learned to make the mayonnaise myself and realized it had a lot more potential – I suppose like most mayonnaise. Anyway, should you one day make this yourself, it is divine as a sauce for a seafood salad, but nearly perfect as a dipper to cold fried chicken or pork. I could go on but will get on with the task at hand, which is no small task.
I actually had to make this a bit backwards in the sense that the only thing we (family/Hungarians, etc. ) have ever started with is how many eggs on which to base the rest of the recipe. Below are the main ingredients and for the first time I have associated a measured quantity with those ingredients to get to where you will want to go with this, but in the end you will need to play. I’ll explain after the list.
4 egg yolks
1 cup light olive oil or avocado oil or a mixture of both to get to 1 C. (You can use any oil really, but these two are mild in taste, which they need to be, and are healthier in nature)
1-1/2 TB red wine vinegar
1 TB lemon juice (real lemon)
1 tsp. sugar
1 TB yellow mustard
1 tsp. grated onion (pulp really)
The oil will need to be emulsified into the egg yolks, so depending on your choice of blender/mixer, etc., place your yolks into the desired container. The oil will need to be very slowly drizzled at first while the yolks are being mixed, and then a slightly more generous pour as more oil is accepted. Regardless of above quantities, you will want to get the consistency of the egg/oil mixture to that of a rather thick mayonnaise because you will be dramatically thinning it with the other wet ingredients. My typical gage is once I see the mixture coming away from the walls of the bowl for several minutes, it is good to proceed with the rest.
Put the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and mix. And taste. If you are lucky, it will taste perfect initially, and if you’ve never tasted this delightful sauce the challenge might be greater, but the general rule is making sure your tongue is happy with the balance of fat (oiliness) to sour to salt and to sweet, and that it has a light, slightly mustardy-lemon flavor. I have only ever tasted my way to the end. I realize vagueness is fairly opposite to a recipe. Tell me how you do:}