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Eastern/Central European Comfort Food Favorites

Baby, it's cold outside!

Sometimes you really need a good dose of sour cream or salted pork to get the proper layer of fat built up for winter.

What are your favorite hearty Eastern/Central European foods and dishes when the weather cools down? Memories...better yet...recipes?

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  1. Shchi is the classic cabbage soup from Russia, and it will warm your cockles (among other things) on a cold winter's night.

    Beer-and-onion braised sausages with a tart German potato salad and a loaf of pumpernickel will put you to rights. Particularly when accompanied by a nice, dark beer.

    And, of course, fondue is unbeatable. Is there a more convivial dish known to man? Perfect for fellowiship on a blustery eve, even if you don't own your own Alpine chalet.

    1. Smoked sausages on a bed of braised cabbage and noodles comes to mind, as does chicken paprikash w/ speatzle.
      A soup with of wild mushrooms and game is also welcome of cold evenings.

      1. Yay! Loving this thread.

        My Babcia's chicken noodle soup with kluski (drop dumplings) -- fantastic...
        Barley soup, too, and of course the ubiquitous cabbage soup; all things cabbage, in fact.

        Hearty cabbage rolls and patyckzi -- pork shoulder and veal cubes, skewered, breaded, fried, then baked... Oh lord. Diet food, it ain't, but when it tastes that good, who cares? ;)

        Sauerkraut stew with onions and pork, or whatever meat is around... yummy baked kugel (my grandmother's version was always just grated potatoes, an egg, butter, bacon... I've never had any kugel with noodles or other ingredients -- I can't even imagine it!)

        Ooh, what else? Pierogi, of course... tossed with butter, a sprinkling of salt, and honestly if there is one food I could eat for the rest of my life and not get sick of, I'm sure that would be it. ;)

        Lately I've had a hankering for potato pancakes! Gotta add that to my list of "must-makes"...

        My grandmother's fantastic pork roast... mustard-glazed, SO simple but meltingly tender and soooo good.

        Making myself hungry here!

        7 Replies
        1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

          Could you elaborate on the cabbage soup? I have some braised cabbage (with carrots and onions) that needs to be recycled into a more appealing (to me) dish.

          1. re: ChristinaMason

            Oh, it's suuuper-simple -- the kind of tihng that's not so much a "recipe" as "put stuff in a pot" -- but I guess that's true of so many of these "old-country" recipes.
            My grandmother used to start with (preferably pork, but beef works) bones, ribs maybe -- whatever's accessible -- make the stock, in goes the cabbage (onion at this point, too, and a clove of garlic) -- a bit of caraway seed, salt, pepper, and let it do its thing for an hour or so.
            Usually thickened a bit with a beurre manie, if I remember correctly, and you can add the meat back at the end (or a bit of diced kielbasa or some such.)
            Childhood comfort food -- no gourmet fare maybe, but warms the soul.

            Love the Hungarian site you posted below -- that pecan-butter pretzel sounds too good to be true!

            1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

              I found another great site, this one a cooking blog on Central European cuisine. It's a good read, so I had to share:

              I especially liked this article on goulash: http://www.emperorscrumbs.com/2009/11...

              1. re: ChristinaMason

                oh.. thanx for the nice words... soon we are moving into US so we will have a new challenge. we will have to cook Central European food with US ingredients.

                1. re: emperorscrumbs

                  That's the fun and trouble of being a globetrotter. :)

          2. re: Whats_For_Dinner

            May we please learn details of the mustard-glazed pork roast too? It sounds very original and interesting.

            1. re: Joebob

              I'll ask my grandmother tomorrow -- if she'll tell me!

              Cool blog, too, Christina! I've got an interesting evening of reading ahead of me.

          3. Sztrapacska which are dumplings similar to Nokedli (spatzle) but made of grated potatoes and flour. They are tossed with bacon bits and cottage cheese and then fried a bit more in the bacon fat.

            1. I'm a fan of Semmelknoedel, or Austrian bread dumplings, which started out as a creative way stretch stale bread. Here's a recipe I've had success with (dumplings only; haven't tried the sauce):


              The ingredients are really simple:

              200 g (7 oz) dry white bread or 6 1-day-old rolls (Brötchen
              )about 200mL (6.8 fl oz) lukewarm milk
              freshly ground black pepper
              freshly ground nutmeg
              1 onion
              1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley
              1 T butter
              2-3 eggs
              flour or breadcrumbs

              1. Also, here's a fun website I bookedmarked with Hungarian cuisine: http://homepage.interaccess.com/~june...

                Can anyone else share recipes? I'd LOVE to try to make some of these...

                1. I used to serve/bartend in an Austro-German restaurant in D.C. The chef was Austrian and actually French-trained in the Bahamas. I forget how he ended up in D.C....greencard lottery, I think. Anyway, he shared his recipe for one of my favorite dishes there,

                  Venison Goulash:

                  "Just sautee chopped onions and the cubed venison in a saucepan, then put the seasonings like salt, pepper, little garlic, rosemary, bay leaf and a little beef base.
                  Add redwine and water to cover the meat, let boil for about 45 minutes and then add some lingonberry to the stew. Just some final taste of seasonings and then thicken it with a little flour and water. Bon Apetite."

                  We always served it with spaetzle, a dab of sour cream, and lingonberry jam. It didn't last long whenever it was the special.

                  1. Gaisburger Marsch, Which is a beef stew with potatoes and fried onions served over spaetzle.

                    It brings back memories of my apprenticeship in a Austrian restaurant with a German chef, we would make this once a week for the crew meal and everyone loved it.

                    1. They actually have a very nice recipe here on Chow for braised red cabbage, I think it's part of the Octoberfest menu. In short, you need to melt bacon, add onion, fry until it becomes yellowish, then add red cabbage, give it time to welt (sp?) for about 5 minutes, then add a combination of apples, hot water, rice wine vinegar, glove, sugar, salt and pepper. I boil it under the lid for 45-50 min, until cabbage becomes really soft. It's so good!

                      1. Gulyasleves (Goulash soup) - good cold weather dish. Link to my recipe below: Man, I love this!! With a sliced baguette and butter.


                        3 Replies
                        1. re: rosetown

                          I recall reading that paprika gives off a bitter flavor when fried. Is that ever a problem in the stage where you brown the paprika-dusted meat?

                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                            CM, I never thought about it, but IIRC I have tasted it immediately after browning and it was bitter. Still, when the soup is finished I notice no impairment. My recipe is an amalgam of other recipes. The dusting, is a technique from an authentic goulash recipe that eschews tomatoes. I believe It was Escoffier who popularized the inclusion of tomatoes in goulash and I think it improves the sleves (soup) immensely.

                            1. re: ChristinaMason

                              It is true. Fried paprika will give you a "bittery" aftertaste. Hungarians add paprika just before you add the liquid. Once you add paprika you stir it into the dish and add liquid.

                          2. A thick and hearty bigos is the perfect winter meal in my opinion. And I love dishes that age like a fine wine. Only plump bites of gołąbki come close to this kind of Polish perfection.

                            I also love the creaminess of chicken paprikash over egg noodles or gulyasleves with fluffy knedliky, but I find myself more often making bowls of tender pörkölt. It is just easier to leave something to meld together on a slow simmer on a cold afternoon. That same line of reasoning also lends itself to supporting Tafelspitz as another contender for terrific winter food.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: JungMann

                              oh my, I love Tafelspitz. doesn't the broth take a good deal of attending?