Besides those bacon lovelies, some of you may be thinking, that looks like a hot mess. It’s a mess alright. A mess of meaty deliciousness. Hot, most definitely. A perfect Autumn/Winter meal. The meal you want after chopping firewood, helping your friend move, or after a day of sleigh-riding on the golf course. Or for dinner when you are looking to cook something new. Like a Saturday with a deadline. Most likely you won’t have the deadline part. I have that because this is my entry to the second challenge for Project Food Blog due on Sunday afternoon. I made it through round one with 399 other hopefuls, now on to round 2.
With my Russian roots I am always trying to un-blur the lines of Eastern European food. Piggies are claimed by the Polish, Ukranians, and Russians alike, but whose potato pancake is it anyway? Well it’s mine. And yours. I may do sour cream, you may do applesauce. And someone else might do ketchup and lose all of my respect.
But seriously, food is what brings people together, and at the same time, in a healthy home pride way, makes us argue who makes the best piggy. Food tradition melds families and friends, and gives us a common interest.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
I was surprised to find out Romanian, and specifically Transylvanian food, shares more than a border with its neighbors. Food always varies from region to region, and from country to country, but nearby places sometimes share the same diet. I love learning the idiosyncrasies of different food cultures. Even though I have enjoyed the ingredients in the dish I chose, I haven’t had them prepared, or paired in this way. It was one of the richest dishes I have ever had.
Our challenge was to make a classic dish that was out of our comfort zone. French and Italian were off-limits. So of course the first thing that came to mind was Transylvania.
After a dive into Romanian foodstuffs, I was sure this was the region for me. Meat, meat, some vegetables, cakes, pies, stews, cabbage, and more meat. The leaves are turning and I wanted a dish that could turn with them. Enter erdelyi rakott kaposzta. A Transylvanian layered cabbage dish. I hope to offend no natives or transplants alike. I, to the best of my ability, tried to find a recipe as authentic as possible. With few ingredients, and familiar ones at that, it is even more important to get it right. Anybody who has made a tomato sauce can attest to that. If this is wrong I’m not sure I want to be right. I hope I did my part to show that Transylvania is more than just vampires. It’s meat. And sauerkraut. Gratifying, delectable meat and sauerkraut.
Erdelyi Rakott Kaposzta-adapted from whatsforeats.com
4 to 6 servings
- Rice — 1 cup ( I used Arborio)
- Stock or water — 2 cups
- Oil — 2 tablespoons
- Paprika — 2 tablespoons
- Onions, minced — 2
- Pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes — 1 pound
- Spicy pork sausage (Try to use a Eastern European sausage like kolbász, kielbasa or Polish sausage), sliced into rounds — 1/2 pounds
- Stock or water — 1 1/2 cups
- Salt and pepper — to taste
- Sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry — 2 pounds, (I didn’t rinse, so I suggest 1lb in you go this route)
- Hard-boiled eggs (optional), sliced into rounds — 4
- Sour cream — 1 cup
- Bacon — 6 pieces
- Paprika — 1 teaspoon
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the rice, 2 cups stock (I used chicken stock. Ham stock would be great, but I can’t find it in Seattle) and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set off to the side, covered.
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium flame. Add the paprika and stir to just cook through and color the oil, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Do not brown.
- Add pork, and the 1 1/2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add sausage and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add more stock or water if necessary to keep the pan from drying out. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place 1/3 of the rinsed (I didn’t rinse because I love it straight up) sauerkraut in the bottom of a large casserole or baking dish. Spread 1/2 of the cooked rice over the sauerkraut. Then spread 1/2 of the meat over the rice. Lay egg slices over the pork and sausages. Repeat these layers a second time, finishing with a layer of sauerkraut.
- Spread the sour cream over the top of the sauerkraut and lay the bacon strips neatly over the sour cream. Sprinkle the top of the dish with paprika for garnish.
- Place the casserole in oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browned on top.
It’s a dirty pretty thing. It will most definitely be made again.
Plum brandy is traditionally served. I found cheese and pumpkin pie is also on their menu. I went with the pumpkin. A tart. My first pumpkin dessert of the year. I decided to make a brandy whipped cream with a prune compote to incorporate some traditional ingredients with my American cooking roots.
SWEET TART DOUGH (Adapted from BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS, but taken from Dorie’s manuscript, so the wording may be a little different from the way it appears in the book)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
To make the dough: Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely – you’ll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that’s just fine. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
Very lightly and sparingly – make that very, very lightly and sparingly – knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
If you want to press the dough into a tart pan, now is the time to do it.
If you want to chill the dough and roll it out later (doable, but fussier than pressing), gather the dough into a ball (you might have to use a little more pressure than you used to mix in dry bits, because you do want the ball to be just this side of cohesive), flatten it into a disk, wrap it well and chill it for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.
To make a press-in crust: Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be stingy – you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don’t be too heavy-handed – you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don’t want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To make a rolled-out crust: This dough is very soft – a combination of a substantial amount of butter and the use of confectioners’ sugar – so I find it is easier to roll it between wax paper or plastic wrap or, easiest of all, in a roll-out-your-dough slipcover. If you use the slipcover, flour it lightly. Roll the dough out evenly, turning the dough over frequently and lifting the wax paper or plastic wrap often, so that it doesn’t roll into the dough and form creases. If you’ve got time, slide the rolled out dough into the fridge to rest and firm for about 20 minutes before fitting the dough into the buttered tart pan. Trim the excess dough even with the edge of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust. Bake the crust 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack; keep it in its pan.
I used Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe. It’s been around so long for a reason. The tart uses 2 cups of batter which will leave you with 2cups to make another tart, or tartlettes with. Bake at *350 for about 45 minutes, or until the middle jiggle is almost gone.
3/4 cup chopped dried prunes
1 cup Jubeleale – it’s one of my favorite beers and it was my first of the season. It’s raisin undertones pair perfectly. The alcohol blends wonderfully, but it does taste like prunes. If you are not a huge prune fan, or don’t want to use beer, you can use orange or apple juice, or a combo of beer and orange juice. If you further want to cut the prune, add some figs. Add a little orange zest too!
a splash of Grand Marnier
Things to do:
Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool, and serve. This would be great on pork too!
*makes enough for serving with one 9-inch tart.
The Lonely Radish’s Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup brandy (optional), other extract or liquor, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
With whisk attachment, beat on high speed until it’s whipped cream!
* Halve this recipe for 2-4 people.
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