Earlier this summer we went for dinner at the Hungarian restaurant in Paris with Gergö’s friend M. I was sceptical if he’d like it, because he has very strong opinions on what is acceptable pizza and pasta, for example. And not a lot of pizza and pasta seems to pass the test. Apparently he enjoyed the Hungarian food a lot, though, because on their way home from the office he’d ask what was on the menu for Palaiseau’s Hungarian restaurant from time to time. This weekend we finally managed to have M and his partner over for lunch at the “Hungarian restaurant”.
Gergö made the dish that has sparked at least one mariage proposal by a stranger before: töltött káposzta. It’s minced meat and rice wrapped in cabbage leaves (ideally from an entire fermented cabbage) with sauerkraut and smoked ribs and spicy sausage all stacked in a pot and cooked. It’s one of those dishes that become better with every time you reheat them.
The difficulty of course is finding all the right ingredients in France. Sauerkraut is comparatively easy: it’s called choucroute, usually cooked with wine and often contains pieces of ham. We didn’t find it fresh, but there are cans and jars.
You can tell from the fingerprints in the dust that it’s not part of daily Palaiseau cuisine. Gergö complained that it wasn’t sour enough, but I liked it. The kolbasz sausage we replaced with Merguez and for smoked ribs we had to take regular unsmoked ones. Gergö has come to terms with the fact there is no tejföl / sour cream in France. Crème fraîche really is an excellent substitute.
In Austria you can buy entire fermented cabbages. You can probably buy them in France as well, but not in any of the stores in Palaiseau. And we didn’t plan ahead to search for Turkish delis in Paris.
(Last time we tried to find Hungarian ingredients it was for the traditional Christmas beigli, a poppy seed cake. We didn’t have anything to grind the seeds, so we went looking for ground poppy seeds in Polish and Hungarian supermarkets in Paris. The Hungarian ones had all closed down and the Polish ones didn’t have ground poppy seeds, just the ready made poppy filling. But that contains raisins and is therefore unacceptable.)
Even with regular cabbage leaves the dish turned out great.
If you, like me, are wondering how you stir a pot that full: you don’t. It’s not supposed to be stirred, just gently shaken from time to time as it cooks away (Bond reference not intended).
The huge pot of course meant that we’d be eating it for the entire weekend. I had the last bit, mostly cabbage soup by now, for Monday’s lunch. Afterwards I texted Gergö to tell him it was delicious but eating it for three days seems long enough. Now that I’m describing it in such detail, I’m getting hungry again though.
For dessert we had Topfenknödel / turosgomboc / cream cheese dumplings. Unlike the Austrian version, the Hungarian one is not usually filled with anything, and served with sour cream (no paprika on turosgomboc though).
Considering how fast baguette goes stale, it’s surprisingly difficult to find breadcrumbs and dry bread cubes here. We had experimented with ground zwieback instead of breadcrumbs before when my brother was here for a visit. We also couldn’t find any wheat semolina that wasn’t durum/hard wheat, so barley semolina was used instead. Gergö used fromage blanc for the batter because we couldn’t find the fromage fraîs, which we figured would be the best substitute. They turned out great. And Gergö too much of them as well, so we had some for breakfast the next day.
Everyone here is complaining about the cold, except for me. Maybe Saturday’s lunch is part of the reason why I prefer colder temperatures now?