Because of the Magyars’ nomadic lifestyle, they depended on their livestock as a primary source of food, which is why meat is so prevalent in many Hungarian dishes. The Turks introduced paprika into Hungarian cuisine. Hungarians learned to use garlic, onion, nutmeg, and fruits in their cuisine as a result of Western influence. Other common ingredients found in Hungarian cuisine include sour cream, walnuts and hazelnuts, smoked bacon, cabbage, tomatoes, dumplings, butter, eggs, vinegar, and pickled vegetables.
Lunch is the largest meal of the day, and typically includes an appetizer, soup, main entrée of meat served with a salad, and dessert. Sometimes, fruit may be served after dessert. This week, I prepared one large feast based on this progression. In all honestly, I’m not sure how anyone could successfully host such an elaborate lunch on a consistent basis. I worked on this single meal periodically for two days. Thankfully, we enjoyed it and even relished in its incredible flavors!
Appetizer: Savory Crepe filled with Veal, or Hortobágyi palacsinta
The actual translation for this dish is Pancakes of the Hortobagyi, a group of people living in the Hortobagy region of Hungary. I found conflicting information regarding its origins. Some claim that its origin is in the Hortobagy region, while others state that this famous dish’s invention is attributed to the 1958 Brussels World Fair and does not originate from Hortobagy at all. Either way, the dish is delicious.
Soup: Chilled Sour Cherry SoupEntrée: Chicken Paprikas served with dumplings and Cucumber Salad
Because I used Hot Paprika for flavoring in the crepes, I opted to make chicken paprikas with mild, sweet Hungarian paprika. The dish includes chicken cutlets served in a sauce of sour cream, paprika, and onion. (Sound familiar?) In most recipes for chicken paprikas, the notes stated to serve the dish with dumplings tossed in the sauce, so I followed those guidelines and made spaetzle (much more successfully than I did in my week of German cuisine) to toss in the cream sauce.
Serving a simple salad with meat is an imperative in Hungarian cuisine and tradition. One simple salad that consistently reappeared as I reviewed Hungarian salads is Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream. I chose June Meyer’s recipe, which includes a simple dressing of garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt, black pepper, and sour cream. I was surprised at how well this salad complemented the chicken paprikas. Even with its inclusion of sour cream, it provided a surprisingly light and refreshing escape from the heavier paprika cream sauce.Dessert: Chocolate Orange Dobostorte
Despite the fact that I served only one Hungarian meal this week, I am confident that its complexities taught me more about the style of cuisine than I’ve learned in other weeks with several small menus. We enjoyed every dish, and even as I write this blog posting, I’m craving that sauce of paprika, sour cream, and onion. The good news is that we have two leftover pieces of dobostorte waiting in the refrigerator for tonight’s dessert.