Showing posts with label czech. Show all posts
Showing posts with label czech. Show all posts

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gala Parfait: Making Family, and Pie

Thanksgiving. And for the first time since college I decided to branch off on my own for the holiday, take an active role in the kitchen, and cook. A lot.
The plan shaped up, and by day-of the head count had risen to 20 guests. Achievable? You bet!
In fact, I'm certain it will go down as one of the most memorable Turkey days ever. But every success has a starting place. Ours was with these two crucial elements:
1. Some very generous, flexible, and incredible hosts
2. A Table
Two doors and three saw horses snugly filled the living room of Nicolette and Torsten's cozy Silver Lake cabin, creating one long table. Apropos dried flowers, pine cones, leaves, squash, corn, and candles lined the tabletop. We decided that real glassware, silver, dishes and cloth napkins were important - committing ourselves to semi-permanent dish duty. The mismatched napkins and wine glasses honored the makeshift charm that Charlie Brown has forever graced upon the holiday.
The "kids table"... Outside. (Brrr!)
We lit a fire and slowly began preparations for the casual open-house-style arrival of our guests.
Pleased as punch isn't a saying for no reason - 'Tis the season to start mixing up large batch pleasers! This improvised batch went quick, an effervescent concoction of Sofia Blanc de Blancs, Lambrusco, and fresh cranberries.
Always one to astonish, Torsten's bemusing offering of fresh homemade sushi was quite the belle of the appetizer spread.
I took cues from one of my favorite blogs Banana Wonder and gussied up a plain ol' baked brie with pistachios and golden fig preserves.
By dusk, guests began to gather near the warm hearth while finishing touches were put on dinner. [Read: As we scrambled to get everything warmed in the packed oven!]
All of our friends were brilliant in bringing vibrant dishes to add to the feast, melding the newfangled with the classic: truffled mashers, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with pecan gingersnap praline, Brussels sprouts lardons, sauerkraut with gin and caraway (recipe), minted pea purée, Knedliky (Czech raised bread dumplings, recipe below), an autumn salad with edible flowers...
The real unexpected treat came in a cast iron pot from Nicolette's neighbor - Homemade authentic Hungarian Ghoulash! The paprika spiked stew of beef, root vegetables, and sauerkraut was served with dense hand-made pinched egg noodles and a yogurt cucumber salad. Spicy and satisfying!
Paired with a supple 2007 Koehler Santa Ynez Riesling, the meal was just perfection.
As we sat around the table after dinner, Nicolette delivered a round of espressos, in boots of course.
After a short walk in the crisp evening air, it was pie time.
Pumpkin cupcakes and a non-baked cranberry cheesecake joined the fleet of pies, along with Nicolette's no-fail milk chocolate hazelnut panna cotta (recipe here).
I made two decidedly Southern pies this year - An old timey brown sugar pie (recipe here) and a decadent Texas pecan & chocolate pie (recipe here).
Because pie is best a la mode, I whipped up a batch of my favorite ice cream, a simple recipe I developed following my last trip to New Orleans with a fistful of rum pralines to put to good use.

Rum Praline Ice Cream
makes 1 quart of ice cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup The Kraken Black Spiced Rum
4 rum pralines, crumbled (from Laura's Candies in New Orleans' French Quarter - they ship!)

If using an automatic ice cream maker, make sure bowl is completely frozen before starting. Whisk the chilled milk and cream with sugars until completely dissolved. Stir in the vanilla and rum. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions (should churn for about 25 minutes). Crumble pralines into the ice cream during the last minute. Set in freezer for at least two hours before serving.
Last but definitely not least, I want to share the recipe for the Knedliky - which have always been my absolute favorite vehicle for gravy. Growing up in a Czech and Bohemian family, these steamed dumplings were served at every holiday meal, usually in place of mashed potatoes. The fluffy, starchy, steamed slices have become the flavor of home. This was my first time preparing the dumplings, and the recipe below that my sister adapted from various Czech recipes (including Czech It! the Prague Blog) made them come out absolutely perfect.
Note: This made 3 medium sized loaves... About 12-15 servings. The cooked loaves freeze beautifully too!

Raised Dumplings (Knedliky)

1 pkg dry yeast
1 cup milk
½ tsp sugar
1 ½ cups Wondra flour (in the blue can)
2 - 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp baking powder
3-4 slices country white bread
1 tbsp butter

Slice the bread into small cubes (removing the crust if desired).
In a dry non-stick pan, sauté the cubes over medium to med-high heat till they get somewhat toasty. Add pat of butter to the pan and toss with the cubes as it melts. Set aside to cool.

Heat the milk just barely to warm (too hot and the yeast will die) and then add the yeast and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve.

Mix together all ingredients except bread cubes, adding flour gradually until you have a heavier dough. Then add the toasted bread cubes and knead gently with floured hands (or in stand mixer) until combined.

Divide into 3 oblong loaves (each loaf must fit across pot of boiling water, with room to expand). Set on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and/or a tea towel and allow to rise for 45 min-1 hour.
Have ready one or two large pots of boiling water (dumplings double in size). Cook 8 minutes covered, then turn over and cook 8 minutes more covered.

Take out dumpling loaves and place on cutting board. Pierce with fork or knife to let steam out. Roll over and pierce again. Cool a bit and slice using bread knife - or, as one recipe suggested, with a piano wire!

*If you make ahead: Boil loaves and let cool…then wrap well in plastic wrap and store in fridge. Day of, slice dumplings and steam to re-warm.
Drown with gravy and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Voyager Bien: Georgetown, CO

I think I know what's been keeping you up at night. You have NO IDEA where to dine when you go to Georgetown, Colorado next, right?? Well, lucky for you I recently visited the Victorian silver mining town and uncovered my own treasure at the mountain's base.
52 miles west of Denver, on the "C.C." division of the Union Pacific railway, Georgetown is a dusty boom town time capsule nestled between some of the most lofty peaks in the Colorado Rockies. Charming as the historic main drag mercantile and soda fountain were, I began to worry a little about what we would eat for lunch. I foresaw a dry burger from a saloon, but where we ended up was a delightful surprise.
Leave it to my sister, the Iron Planner, to research out the best place in town. To boot the Euro Grill serves the food of 'our people', their menu focusing largely on Bohemian and Czech peasant food (cuisine increasingly hard to come by in the West).
We were almost the only people in the cozy, cabin-like dining room, windows looking out over a rushing creek where a patio deck was being built (oh were they finished!). The bartender -who was from Prague- seemed pleased to have diners familiar with his home, chatting us up while pouring Pilsner Urquel and Warsteiner Dunkel to quench our afternoon thirst.
There are so many tasty and comforting options on the menu, but the server helped me decide finally on the Szegedin Goulash. The flavors were so much more sophisticated than the description "chunks of pork in a sauerkraut cream sauce" makes it sound. The savory and slightly tangy sauce base was imbued with the rich pork flavor, the meat falling apart with the softest touch of a fork. The airy potato dumplings reminded me of the holidays with my family, an ideal side for sopping up the goulash, along with a hefty scoop of sweet and sour cabbage. This is serious Euro comfort food 101. So good!
My sister was tempted by the pork schnitzel, which was fried lighter than I recall from my teenage exploration of Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic (where I had much schnitzel)... But this is not a complaint! It was golden deliciousness. The crispy potato pancakes we got my four year old niece were herbed and earthier than I'm used to, but didn't seem to phase her, eager to finish and get out to play across the street at one of the coolest (appropriately Alpine-themed) park playgrounds I've seen.
Dessert was a couple handfuls of sweet cinnamon popcorn (addictive) and assorted goodies from the old-fashioned Georgetown Valley Candy Company while chasing nieces and strolling the historic streets, breathing the freshest mountain air these Angeleno lungs have encountered in quite some time!
Euro Grill
1025 Rose St. Georgetown, CO 80444; 303.569.2126

Georgetown Valley Candy Company
500 6th St. Georgetown, CO 80444; 303.569.2778

Monday, February 8, 2010

Carnish Culture: Sedmikrásky ("Daisies," 1966)

Easily one of the most incredible films I have ever seen, Věra Chytilová's 1966 Czech new wave darling Daisies is an unhinged romp of youthful excess. Set against the backdrop of the iron curtain, Marie 1 and Marie 2 embark on recklessly epicurean adventures without a care in the world. They have each other, their Nouveau Réalist flat, plenty of pickles, a love of running about town, upscale dining, and older men to pick up the tab (who they hilariously repeatedly ditch as the train departs). The storytelling is as skewed as the varied film techniques, which immediately shred the viewer's perception into ribbons of saturated beauty and arcane comedy. You quickly understand you are at the film's whimsical mercy, and submit - Then for the 74 minutes that follow, ooh and ahh at the labored Bocuse d'Or-like food, laugh at the (extremely talented Ivana Karbanová and Jitka Cerhová's) drunken antics, and marvel at the sheer beauty of the flawless photography.
Daisies belongs high on any artist, food or film lover's MUST list.
Watch a short clip here.
Dobrou chuť!