Jan 27, 2008

Stuff It!

Another odd bits from my collection. The first postcard is pretty self-explanatory, the second is a bit more intriguing. According to the explanation on the back, the snake is subject of "scientific force-feeding". Looks a lot like stuffing a sausage, doesn't it?

Jan 19, 2008

Korhely Soup

I like pickled things. In Egnlish this Hungarian soup is alternately called Souse's Soup, because of the the the flavor, or Night Owl Soup, because of the legend: supposedly it is to be eaten after a long night of carousing to ward off hangover. In my opinion both translations are awkward. Korhely is an archaic, folksy word to describe a rakish drunkard.

This is a pretty rustic dish, and I don't believe I had it once growing up, so have no family recipe, not that I have many of those anyway. In cookbooks and online I found many different versions from which I put together my version to a very satisfying result.

  • 1 jar of sauerkraut, plus the pickling juice of a second jar
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 spicy sausage (if possible Debreceni)
  • 2 tbs sweet paprika (Hungarian)
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 2-3 slices of bacon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil

Soak the ham hock changing the water several times for at least for 30 minutes. Boil it till tender. Drain, remove meat from bone and chop into bite size pieces.

In frying pan over low heat slowly render the fat from the bacon. Remove the slices and in the drippings sauté the onion till translucent. Pull off the heat and add paprika, stir, add 2-3 tbs water, stir again, then transfer to big cooking pot.*

Add sauerkraut and pickling liquid. Add ham hock pieces and bay leaf. Leave it on stove over medium heat.

Meanwhile prepare roux: Over medium-low heat combine oil and flour. Stir continuously till it turns golden brown. Pull off heat, and slowly, in small increments at first add several ladles of the soup liquid, stir tilll smooth. Transfer into big pot, mix in well. Add sausage. Season with pepper.

Bring to boil, then turn heat down and cook for 10-15 minutes.

At this point you can add sour cream, heat it together and serve. However it is one of those dishes that taste even better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two, and that goes better without the sour cream in it. I personally like adding the sour cream to the individual serving pots, but of course that cools down the soup.

The soup has a intensely sour taste with bites of porky goodness. It should be served with thick slices of hard crust bread.

*It's important to pull the the frying pan off the heat first, before adding the paprika, otherwise the it could burn and turn bitter.

Possible substitutions and omissions

Ham hock could be replaced by other, similar smoked pork parts, or omitted altogether.
Instead of bacon drippings, butter or vegetable oil could be used, at the cost of some flavor.
Those averse to spicy sausage can substitute hot dogs, though this is not something I encourage.
To tone down the sourness ca 2 cups of water can be used instead of the liquid from the second jar of sauerkraut.
To think about it, this dish could be turned kosher or even vegetarian without completely losing its character, but this is also not something I'd encourage.

Jan 10, 2008

Havana from Steamer

This picture is another mystery. I picked it up because I was intrigued by the inscription. There is no writing on the back, and I can't date it, but it is definitely of a very old Havana.

Jan 4, 2008

The Winter Of Our Discernment

Southern California has three seasons. Most of the year is summer. Summer is generally blindingly bright, and some call it hot, smoggy, and it is sort of, but nowhere compares to the hot and humid misery of St. Louis in August. Hot winds are possible, especially if it is an el nino year, but there is absolutely no rain. Consequently next comes the fire season. It starts at the end of summer and generally lasts a couple of month, till the rainy season begins. It is not rainy season like in the equatorial jungle where it doesn't stop raining for month, but this is the only time it rains at all, and "cold spells and some precipitation possible season" is awkward to say.

This is also the season when the locals forget how to drive. Their bewilderment by the strange moist substance makes them react in one of two possible ways: They either pretend that there is nothing different, and completely ignore the year's build up of oil slicks on the now wet roads, or alternately they drive as if they were in a raging snow storm. Either way spells freeway pileups.

Another interesting aspect of the LA winters is that in certain parts of town the streets have no drainage. I think that the idea is that the streets all sort of slant toward the LA "River" and all the rain water finds its way there. It does, eventually, but it's a slow process, and meanwhile the streets turn into a swamp.

Jan 1, 2008

Bread Pudding

This recipe is largely based on the Mexican Christmas Bread Pudding from Sheila Lukins' All Around the World Cookbook, but I made some changes.

1 (ca 1 pound) panettone (or similar fruit studded bread)
4 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup candied orange peel
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 tbs Cointreau (or other orange liquor)
1 tbs unslated butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanillan extract

  • Slice the panettone into thick slices, toast them for a minute or less on both sides under a preheated broiler. Be careful not to burn them. Once cool tear them to large chunks. In large bowl toss them with the half-and-half. Set aside for an hour, tossing occasionally.
  • Toss the candied orange peel and dried cranberries with 2 tbs of the cointreau. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 325˚F. Butter a 13x9-inch baking pan and coat with sugar the same way you'd butter and flour a pan. Shake out the excess.
  • Whisk the sugar, vanilla, eggs and 1 tbs Cointreau till smooth. Add to the bread, along with the dried fruit and mix well.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake till the top is golden brown, about 1 hour. Let it cool.
The original recipe calls for an orange liquor sauce, but it is far too sweet. The bread pudding doesn't need any sauce at all anyway. If anything I would make a sweet and tangy vine sauce.

Happy New Year!

When I was growing up in Hungary, bananas, oranges and tangerines were rarities that were only sold during the winter, when local, seasonal fruit was not available. Even then bananas were especially hard to come by. When a grocery store had a shipment it sold out within hours. I remember one afternoon in Budapest turning a corner and seeing one little grocery store putting out freshly arrived bananas. I immediately got in line and bought several kilos - enough for us and a couple of our neighbors.

I think the banana rice pudding might have been my mother's invention. It is very simple. Make sweet rice pudding with milk, let it cool, fold in banana slices and sweet whipped cream, refrigerate. Should be served cold.