Happy New Year (2018) … Plain and Fancy

My last post of 2017 is a testament to the diversity of cooking … plain home style cooking made with basic ingredients and fancy dishes that you’ll find in elegant restaurants or serve to special guests at your table.

Paprika Potatoes – a PLAIN Hungarian inspired potato dish commonly served in the home kitchen and often meatless. If you want something more meaty, add the pork sausage of your choice, smoked or cured. Hungarian kolbasz (sausages) are delicious but you can use Polish sausages (kielbasa) or Romanian carnati afumati (smoked sausages).

The dish is not a stew but you may leave it more ‘soupy’ if you want to have something to dip into with fresh, crusty bread.

Paprika Potatoes (Paprikas Krumpli) – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 pound (500 gm) potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 pound (~250 gm) cubed or thinly sliced sausages, cut in half if too big
1/4 -1/2 (1/4 cup) sweet pepper (yellow, orange or red), cubed
1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice or one medium sized tomato, peeled and diced
1 cup ham broth, or water or chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, more to taste
1 1/2-2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion in the bacon fat until it starts to pick up some colour, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced sausage and continue sauteing until it renders out some of the fat and picks up some colour as well, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced pepper and continue sauteing for a few more minutes.

Push the contents to one side and if the pan seems dry, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the cleared area. Add the paprika and toast for a minute or so. Add the potatoes and tomatoes and stir through to coat with the paprika.

Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the contents and then pour the broth over everything. The broth should almost cover the potatoes and sausages. Bring the contents of the saute pan to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Stir gently after 5-10 minutes to make sure that all the potatoes are in contact with the broth.

Test to see if the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and continue simmering if the contents are too soupy. If they’re too dry, add a bit more water and cook for another minute or so.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve.

This is actually a very simple dessert, even though it looks FANCYpuff pastry split and filled with pastry cream. It’s the presentation that makes it special. The French version (millefeuille or Napoleons) uses an icing sugar glaze and a decorative drizzle of melted chocolate. The Hungarian version (kremes) has a very thick custard cream filling, often with gelatin added to give it a firmer texture. I chose a simple Romanian version (cemsnit, krempita or placinta cu crema de vanilie ) with a light dusting of icing sugar on top.

Custard Squares

Puff Pastry Squares – Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8th of an inch thick, cut into desired size (2 1/2 inches by 4 inches) and bake in a preheated 400 deg F oven for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown in colour.

Cool and split in half. Fill as desired.

Tester vanilla custard square

I’m sure I posted the pastry cream filling before but this is a thicker version.

Thick Pastry Cream Filling

2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (or 2 cups if you don’t want it TOO thick) milk, warmed slightly
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces

Beat whole eggs and yolks slightly in a separate bowl.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Stir in the beaten eggs.

Gradually whisk in the warm milk.

Place the sauce pan on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils; boil and stir 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Whisk in the butter a bit at a time. (NOTE: If your mixture is a bit lumpy, strain through a fine metal sieve.)

Place a sheet of saran wrap over the filling so that it touches the surface, preventing the formation of a skin.

Cool to room temperature.

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7 thoughts on “Happy New Year (2018) … Plain and Fancy

  1. Great minds think alike! I am about to make Placinta with vanilla custard tomorrow. Tonight we are joining the crowd on Ocean Drive for fireworks and music, taking with us just a bottle of champagne and some dark chocolate truffles.
    Happy New Year!

    1. LOL

      Raise a glass of that champagne for me too. I’m celebrating at home where it’s warm with a glass of OJ … maybe spiked with a shot of Cointreau.

      Happy New Year!

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