This recipe is the most involved of any of them I will use, but it is a favorite of so many people. Two major timesavers for this recipe are using the microwave for caramelizing the sugar for the sauce, and using potato flakes to make the dumplings—what a difference! It really is much easier than it sounds! This dish is really a type of Hunter stew, often made in the olden days of venison and traditionally served at festive family meals. The dish consists of tender meat chunks or slices of meat in a slightly tangy sauce, served over wonderful potato dumplings. It is really Hungarian comfort food, filling the house with great aromas. It is the most involved of all of the dishes I will put on this site, however, it is really tasty and well worth the effort. The microwave will be a help, and using Potato Buds reduces much of the work our grandmothers needed to do to prepare this dish. It can be made in phases over a period of days, so that when the big day arrives, everyone will think you have been slaving for hours and hours. They will be so grateful for your efforts, you will be somewhat of a cooking hero/heroine! The secret in doing this over a few days is that the flavors have time to mingle and really improve, plus you can clean up as you go—this one can get get messy. My mother used to do it all in one day and every pot in the kitchen ended up in the sink. Although the description looks complicated and lengthy, there are really only 3 main steps and they are actually very simple:
- Preparing meat:marinating/browning
- Preparing sauce:cooking broth/caramelizing sugar and finishing the sauce
- Preparing dumplings
Two days before serving: Prepare meat for cooking.
Meat: 2 ½ -3 lbs chuck steak or beef shanks, or venison if available. Beef tongue is also very good, but expensive. Coat meat completely with regular mustard, like French’s, not Dijon type, and with olive oil. Brush liberally. Stack meat in a baking dish. Place 3 or 4 bay leaves between the meat pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one day.
One day before serving: Prepare broth for sauce
Brown meat in a big pot, (or use 2 pots). When all meat is well browned, put into a large pot and cover with water.
Add:1 medium onion, grated completely (not diced)1 carrot, grated3 bay leaves
Bring liquid to a boil, and then reduce immediately to a simmer. Continue cooking until meat is tender, usually about 1 ½ to 2 hours. By the way, this really smells good when it is cooking. A cup or two of a good red wine doesn’t hurt either (in the sauce, that is)! When meat is tender, remove to a platter and prepare caramelized sugar. Keep the broth at a medium boil while you prepare the sugar. The liquid needs to be boiling when you add the sugar.
Caramelized sugar:T his is a step that is very easy in the microwave. My mother used to do it on the stove, and we always feared she would start a fire.
Place ½ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water into a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup. Cook on med/high in microwave for approximately 4 minutes. Watch the sugar at all times. It will start to smoke. It should get to be a dark coffee brown, but not black. It should cook past the medium brown, usual caramel color stage. The reason for this is that there is a very pleasant, slightly tangy, bitter taste that you are trying to achieve. If you don’t cook long enough, you won’t get the right taste. Now, if it really starts smoking, carefully remove the cup from the oven and using a wooden spoon (not plastic) stir the sugar. Make sure all of it has melted. Be careful, the sugar is very hot! If you think it needs to go back in, go ahead. Just do so for no more than 30 seconds or less at a time. When it really dark, it is ready. Now, carefully add about a half a cup of the broth to the sugar, stir quickly, and then dump all of it into the boiling broth. Reduce heat, and let simmer for about 10 minutes. You can now proceed to finishing the sauce if you wish to serve it, or refrigerate for one day. I prefer to wait a day. Return the meat to the sauce after you have seasoned the sauce to your liking. This is where the flavors really get it together. The pyrex cup will clean up easily, just fill it with water and let soak.
Up to one day before serving (or make ahead and freeze):Potato Dumplings (Krumplis Gomboc):
In the olden days, we had to cook 2 or three pounds of potatoes, peel and mash, then force through a potato ricer. This was not easy. Then the potatoes had to cool for a day. It is much simpler using potato flakes. I really like Potato Buds. I use the microwave to prepare mashed potatoes too.
Potato Buds mashed potato flakes
1 plus, box Wondra flour, 13 ½ oz.
(Can make early in the day). In a 2 qt. Pyrex measuring cup, boil 1 qt. Water in the microwave oven (16 minutes). When fully boiling, remove from microwave and add enough potato flakes to make a medium mashed potato mixture, stirring constantly. Add salt, but not the milk and butter. (Note, if you try to boil the water in a smaller container, it will boil over when you add the potato flakes, making a big mess). Chill until cold, or overnight. When chilled, add 3 eggs, 1 box Wondra flour (13 ½ oz) and knead lightly on floured board. Add more flour as needed and knead until it forms a nice dough. Roll out by hand into a snake shape. Keep the board and your hands floured. Tear off chunks of dough and shape into golf-ball sized balls. Roll them in flour and shape into nice smooth balls. Keep on a well floured surface until all are finished. A variation of the dumplings is to add croutons to the dough. This is also very good, but makes the dough a bit harder to work with. Have water boiling in large pot on stove, not microwave. A non-stick pot is a good idea. When water is boiling add half the dumplings and boil for 10-12 minutes. They should be firm when done. Stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Check one for doneness before removing the rest from the water. Cut the dumpling in half, salt it slightly, and taste. It should not be mushy. It should have a potato taste. Remove and set aside in single layer on a large platter. Cook remaining dumplings. While water is still boiling, use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan for easier cleanup. Dumplings freeze well in ziplock bags.
Finishing sauce: Before serving, remove fat from top of liquid. Heat and remove meat, reserving all liquid. Take meat off bones. Remove bay leaves as they may have sharp edges. Keep liquid at a medium heat.Roux/rantas: This is the thickener for the sauce. In a small fry pan, melt 3-4 T butter and add enough flour to make the roux. Brown lightly. Add about ¼ cup of the liquid to the roux and then add to pot. Bring to boil. Check thickness. It may need a second batch of roux. It should not be watery. Turn off to cool before adding sour cream. Check seasoning. Add 1 tsp mustard and salt. The flavor should have a hint of mustard with a hint of the bitterness of the sugar. If there is none of the slight kick from the sugar, make another batch of melted sugar and add it to the sauce. The flavor should a blend of bay leaves/ caramelized sugar/mustard. Just before serving, add 1 cup sour cream mixed with 4 Tablespoons flour. Add the sour cream by mixing some of the liquid with the sour cream mixture first, then adding to pot for a smoother sauce. If sauce is lumpy you can use the hand blender to make it smoother. It should now have the consistency of gravy. Put meat back in pot. Heat the dumpling in the microwave if they have cooled, with just a touch of water under them and cover with Saran wrap. An option is to cut the dumplings in half and brown them lightly in butter before serving them with the sauce.
To serve: dumplings in half or slice them. Place two or three slices on a plate in the center. Add a serving of meat. Cover with sauce, making a pool of sauce going to the edge of the plate. This dish is not really difficult. Every pot in the kitchen will not end up in your sink! Preparing it in stages, 2-3 days ahead of time makes cleanup much easier. And the result is well worth it. The sauce freezes well, as do the dumplings. To freeze for longer periods of time, I prepare the sauce but do not add the sour cream until serving time.