Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How To Make Hungarian Lecsó

It had been several years (like 10) since I had been to Budapest. This past June, I had the opportunity with my wife, Mary, children, parents and in-laws (all Hungarian in varying degrees) return for my 4th visit. We enjoyed the sites, visiting with distant family, eating the food and drinking traditional Hungarian drinks of Pálinka and Unicum, learning how to toast in Hungarian — Egészségedre. That always gets harder as the night goes on.

Lecsó is one of those warming comfort foods that you can find variations of all over Europe. Similar to a ratatouille or vegetable stew this is the version I remember most from my Hungarian grandmother growing up and my father still makes today. You can use store bought kielbasa but the true dish for me is with a style of smoked Hungarian style sausage called Kolbasz.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
  • 3/4 pound Bende Hungarian Brand Smoked Sausage, "Gyulai Kolbasz" or kielbasa sliced into thin rings
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved then sliced into rings 
  • 3 medium tomatoes, skin removed and sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds late season sweet banana peppers (preferably Hungarian but any sweet pepper will do), tops cut off seeds removed and sliced into quarters
  • 1/2 pound hot Hungarian banana peppers, tops cut off seeds removed and sliced into quarters
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup water, more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven. Once shimmering add the sausage and fry until brown about 5-6 minutes over medium heat. Add the onions, tomato, salt and pepper stirring to coat.

Add the peppers and again stir to combine. Over medium low heat cover and cook the peppers slowly for about 30-40 minutes, opening the pan and stirring often. As the peppers cook they will create there own juice and an amazing smell. Once the peppers are soft and wilted it is time to add the rice.

Remember, rice is going to absorb a lot of the liquid in the pan. I start by adding a half cup of water into the pan before I add my rice. So, add your water, stir and then add your rice stirring again. Cover and allow to cook over medium low heat checking and stirring frequently, adding more water as necessary not letting the pan go dry, about 20 minutes more.

Rice should be tender and the overall dish should not be soupy but moist. Sprinkle with a little additional paprika and dinner is served. 

Other variations are made with simply peppers and onions, omitting the sausage and meat for a vegetarian version. This is also traditionally scrambled in eggs for breakfast! As always...

E.A.T. local E.A.T. well

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Collards with Barley Miso Pot Likker & Pepitas

I am certainly not a superstitious person but when it comes to eating on New Year's day there is one thing I am not taking any chances on — prosperity in the new year! The old Southern tradition of eating greens (collards, dandelion or turnip) on this first day is said to bring wealth and prosperity in the coming year.

This year I decided to mix up my go-to greens recipe, adding a little flair by using barley miso paste and pepitas (or pumpkin seeds). What turned out was quite amazing, and resulted in a pot likker with a little different twist.

  • 2 bunches fresh collards, rinsed and leaves ripped from stems, rolled and cut into 1/2" strips
  • Several small pieces of smoked peppered meat or hog jowl, about 4 ounces
  • 1 turnip, sliced into 1/4" pieces
  • 1/4 cup of apple vinegar with a couple of hot peppers or Lillie's Q hot pepper vinegar
  • 6 cups water 
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons barley miso (Mugi Miso)
  • Roasted and salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for garnish
Prep Tip: Collards can easily be ripped by holding the stem at the thick end and then wrapping your hands around the leaves at the base and puling away from where you are holding the stem. This allows the leaves to tear along the stem leaving just the leafy greens. Of course, using a pairing knife to slice down each side also works.

Start by adding the 6 cups of water to a large stock pot. Nestle the smoked meat and turnips inside with the vinegar, then add the fresh ground pepper. Bring everything to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer. Allow the meat to cook for about 30 minutes, which will season the water. Once seasoned, add the ribbons of collard greens and continue cooking for for about 20 minutes over the low simmer.

Once the greens have turned a darker hue they're getting close to being ready. Taste the leaves for tenderness and the broth, adjusting with more pepper as you like. Do not add salt at this time, which can be adjusted after we add the miso.

Add the miso to a small bowl and take a cup of liquid from the collard greens. Slowly pour the liquid into the miso bowl and stir with a whisk until the miso is dissolved and incorporated.

To serve, spoon a portion of collards into small bowl, ladling extra miso pot likker over the greens. Finish by garnishing with pepitas.

Now, sit back and wait for all of that prosperity to hit in the new year! Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2016! 

Don't forget to...

E.A.T. local E.A.T. well

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Roasted Potatoes with Arugula and Parmesan

So good to be back from Italy — it is always great to get away and explore local cuisines and markets but nothing beats having your feet firmly planted in a space where all the tools are your own, namely, my very own kitchen. 

I have had a warming stew or cassoulet on the brain with fall coming in and upon returning home I had received the latest issue of Saveur magazine. In the current issue I found the meal that kept going on in my head — a Chilean dish called braised beef stew with a garlic cream. This dish was absolutely amazing and the side I created could not have been simpler — warm roasted potatoes with fresh arugula.

  • 1 pound small red potatoes or fingerling
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • Parmesan cheese for grating
Preheat your oven to 400° and begin by rinsing, drying and then slicing the potatoes lengthwise. 

Place the potatoes in a bowl or freezer bag and add 1 tablespoon olive oil, stirring or shaking to coat. Add flour, salt and pepper again stirring or shaking to coat. Arrange the potatoes on a sheet pan (careful to separate any that stick together) and bake for 20-25 minutes. Halfway through the cooking process use a spatula to stir the potatoes, scraping any that are sticking from the pan.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the arugula and drizzle with remaining olive oil, stirring everything to coat. Doing so will allow the arugula to wilt and warm slightly.

Spoon the potatoes and arugula into a serving dish...

...and grate parmesan cheese to create a light dusting. Serve this dish warm and if your are making the beef dish the garlic cream sauce also pairs with the potatoes.

Although the traditional recipe called for fries, I decide I wanted to have a starch with a healthy green — and the bite form the peppery local arugula really made this dish. So I suggest hitting up your local famers market for both the potatoes and arugula!

E.A.T. local E.A.T. well


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