“If you like Hungarian food,
They have a goulash which is very good.
Or if you wish a dish that’s Chinese,
Somewhere down in Column B there’s lobster Cantonese.
Enchiladas, that’s what people eat in Mexico.
Shish kebab is skewered, in Armenia you know.
Then there’s blubber, the favorite of the frigid Eskimo.
Such delicious dishes, no matter where you go.
Chicken cacciatore is Italian.
Kangaroo souffle must be Australian.
Mutton chops are definitely British.
Chicken soup undoubtedly is Yiddish.
Pumpernickel comes from Lithuania.
Hassenpfeffer comes from Pennsylvania.
Wiener schnitzel’s Austrian or German.
Kindly pass the sauerbraten, Herman.
Borscht is what they’re eating in the Soviet.
Wait, I think we’ve got some on the stove yet.
See the Mau Maus underneath the jungle sky.
Jolly Mau Maus, eating missionary pie.
Frenchmen eat a lot of bouillabaisse there.
Dutchmen eat a sauce called Hollandaise there.
Smorgasbord in Swedish is the winner.
In America it’s TV dinner.
So there you have one food from each land.
Each one delicious, each one simply grand.
Mix them all up, in one big mish mash.
And what have you got? Hungarian goulash!”
– Lyrics to Hungarian Goulash No. 5, Allan Sherman
Buenos Aires – Miskolc (“Mishkolts”) is Hungary’s third largest city. 11th of May is the official holiday of the city of Miskolc, Hungary. The city’s council proclaimed this day as a holiday in 1992 and it was first celebrated in 1993. It is the anniversary of the granting of the coat of arms of the city in 1909 by King Franz Joseph. While it’s by no means the only city in the world that has its own holiday, it happened that since Miskolc’s fell this weekend, it gave me an excuse to play around with some Hungarian cuisine. While initially I was considering making a big pot of “Hungarian Goulash”, generally the first thing anyone thinks of when they think about the cuisine of this country, We’ve been moving our dinners away from the red meat world steadily – there are a thousand places in this city to find red meat, and we seem to get a lot of requests for either vegetarian or at least non-red meat dinners. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop making dishes with carne, but at least for now, I’ve been having more fun playing with vegetables, seafood, and poultry. Besides, as a couple of our guests last night put it – one of the things that’s a treat for them when the visit Buenos Aires from the U.S. is just how good the chicken here is! I’d agree.
Hungarian food seems to involve a lot of soups and stews, and you know how I like both. Two that struck me as particularly interesting were the wild mushroom soup and the pasta soup. Starting from there, I decided on a simple approach to combining them into one. I had this picture in my mind – and, being in the midst of fall, there’s a bounty of beautiful mushrooms available out there. I picked out three – rovellón, cremini, and pine mushrooms. The stems, and a mix of garlic, leeks and green onion tops went into a pot with a little fresh thyme to make a rich mushroom broth – I pureed the whole thing in a blender before simmering to really extract the flavors out of the mushrooms – salt and black pepper for seasoning. The mushroom tops were diced and then sauteed in a little bit of lemon-thyme and rosemary infused olive oil until they caramelized. The pasta, a round bead locally called municiones for its resemblance to shotgun pellets, was cooked, and coated lightly with some olive oil, and then left to sit to let it stick together a bit. To serve – I used a ring mold for the pasta, then scattered mushrooms around the cylinder, ladled the strained broth into the bowl and topped with some slivered green onions. For the wine, our house sparkler, Codorniú María Brut.
Okay, this dish gave me some minor problems. It started from a traditional appetizer of zucchini filled with a meat and rice mixture – reminiscent of a stuffed cabbage roll – but knowing that an upcoming course was using a tomato sauce, and cutting out the meat, I played around with the flavors. The problems? Well, the first night, the version on the left – I simply don’t like the presentation – too clumsy. I much prefer the second night’s presentation, except, the sauce kept breaking – I tried every trick in the book and finally gave up. Had I had more fresh dill I would have just started over, but I didn’t, so a broken sauce it was. Que lastima… The zucchini segments are scooped out to create a little dish to mound the filling – a mix of sauteed napa cabbage and white onions, celery and dill seed, then I added rice and water and simmer until the rice was done, seasoned with salt and white pepper. About 20 minutes before service, I put them in the oven on high heat to cook the zucchini and lightly brown the rice filling. The dressing is essentially a mayonnaise flavored with dijon mustard, garlic, shallots, fresh dill and parsley. This paired really well with an Alfredo Roca Tocai Friulano from the San Rafael region here.
It suddenly occurred to me when I was telling folks about this dish, that this turned into sort of a trout napolitana – a preparation that Argentines tend to love – with its own twists. Fresh trout fillets are topped with an imported Hungarian sausage called kolbaz, I assume more or less a version of kielbasa – but much zippier. Then topped with a slice of tybo cheese, which is actually Danish, but flavored with paprika, so sort of fit the theme – it wasn’t until later that I realized that I could have used local Port Salut, which would be fairly similar to the traditional Hungarian Trappist cheese. The sauce, the spicy charred tomato sauce that I made for our pumpkin seed crusted trout last month. Instead of cumin and coriander, I seasoned it with juniper berries and a little dill seed, I also really charred the tomatoes this time to give it a smokier, darker color and flavor. Although slivered almonds would be more traditionally Hungarian, I had the thought that some chopped Brasil nuts would work really well, and they did – and they’ve just come into season here. A nice spicy rosé, the Familia Gascon Rosé of Sangiovese and Malbec, worked wonders with this dish.
Since I’d moved away from the goulash idea, I decided on a chicken paprikash, a personal favorite dish. Normally this would be served atop spaetzle, but normally, it wouldn’t be served after a pasta soup and a rice stuffed zucchini. I decided we’d had enough starch – besides, there was plenty of fresh bread on the table to mop up the sauce – and this dish is all about the sauce. Saute a couple of sliced yellow onions, along with a nice dose of chopped garlic and ginger, until just golden brown. Add a good quantity of smoked paprika, and half that amount of powdered bay leaf – for roughly 4-5 pounds of chicken I used two heaping tablespoons of the former and one of the latter. Continue to cook, coating the onion mixture thoroughly. Add diced chicken breast, mix well, then cover and cook until the chicken is completely cooked, stirring it up occasionally. Add sour cream to coat well, and then a small amount of cold chicken stock that’s mixed with cornstarch to help the sauce thicken. Continue cooking until the sauce thickens slightly and gets glossy. Serve, garnish with a dusting of more smoked paprika. The Calia Alta line has a great Shiraz-Tannat blend that I thought would work well with this dish, and it did.
This is just a minor twist on the poppyseed tortes that I made for a recent private dinner. There were only a couple of differences – substituting kirschwasser for the vanilla to give a faint cherry flavor to both the tortes and filling. Substituting finely diced and then sauteed apples (with a touch of powdered cloves) for the walnuts, and using brown sugar in the topping instead of white. Other than that, it’s much the same. For presentation I topped the tortes with the apple filling, though in retrospect it might have been more attractive with it on the inside, or on the side. Our usual house dessert wine, the Finca El Retiro Tardío matched well with this dish, though I think it’s time to move on and find a new house dessert wine, we’ve been using this one awhile – though it is really good…