Usually, I take two different approaches when transforming traditional recipes. I either use all the original ingredients, but prepare and serve them in a different (to my opinion more optimal) way. Or, I keep the same presentation, but use very different ingredients. All my Kaiserschmarrn variations belong to the latter category – though they were desserts only. This time I wanted to create a savory version using goat cheese – in a way uniting Käsespätzle with Kaiserschmarrn.
In general, I try to find the corresponding counterparts for all traditional ingredients. For example, the traditional recipe calls for raisins soaked in rum. For the savory version I got inspired by the typical combination in a Bloody Mary, so I soaked sun-dried tomatoes in high-quality gin. Instead of orange or lemon zest and vanilla, I added herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage. Since my goat cheese purveyor – from whom I bought the cheese as well – offers kefir made from goat milk too, I replaced the milk from the traditional recipe by goat kefir. Usually Kaiserschmarrn is dusted generously with powdered sugar, so for the savory version I grated some aged goat cheese on the top. Finally, I poured bell pepper coulis and tarragon oil on the Kaiserschmarrn, which where the counterparts of the traditional apple puree.
Next to experimenting with new flavor pairings and techniques, thinking about classic dishes and transforming them into new and more interesting forms is my biggest passion in cooking. Sometimes I start meditating about a classic dish, its ingredients, the involved techniques and the possibilities behind them. The ideas pop up and evolve during this creative process. Some other times I keep thinking and enhancing distinct single ideas, which I quite suddenly assemble into a new dish or a reinterpretation of a classic. This time I combined several ideas and applied it to a Hungarian classic: the lecho (orignally: lecsó). Traditionally lecsó is a mix of onions, long bell peppers and onions simmered similarly to a stew and served either immediately or stored in glasses for the forthcoming winter. Sometimes lecsó is enhanced with garlic, Hungarian sausage (kolbász), sweet paprika powder or lard. Lecsó is usually served mixed with rice or eggs, or it can be eaten simply with a few slices of bread. I prefer the version with rice and – very nontraditionally – a lot of cinnamon, which works especially well with chorizo-like sausages.
You might ask now: why to serve a lecsó in form of a sushi? Well, I figured out how to make endless variations of nori algae sheet substitutes (the sheets you wrap your sushi into), how the texture of tomatoes and peppers can resemble soft fish meat and how to replace the wasabi by another traditional Hungarian ingredient. With the combination of the ideas described below, serving a sushi with lecsó flavor surely will make sense to you as well. So read on below for the birth story of the Lechosushi.
Ratatouille consists of a well-known pairing of zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and herbs. All these ingredients reach their peak in August and each one of them resembles the pure taste of summer. Unfortunately when prepared as a ratatouille, the classic vegetables lose both their vivid color spectrum as well as their distinct textures. For this dish I wanted each and every ingredient to stand for its own with it’s unique taste, color and texture. Of course in the final result the flavors didn’t melt together as in a classic ratatouille. But served in this decomposed way, many different combinations of the vegetables can be discovered and enjoyed.
During the last month I finally managed to finish a huge project. Some of you, who might have seen me on Hungarian or German television might already know, that for the last 5 years I was working as a research assistant at the local university here in Erlangen. Next to teaching students about the beauty of computer science, I also worked on my PhD thesis. The final oral exam took place two weeks ago, where I did pretty well and so I finally extended my name with a Dr.! Of course the exam was followed by celebrations lasting more than 3 days, which seemed to be a little bit too much: I spent the next few days in bed with a flu.
The first PhD celebration is traditionally held just after the final oral exam with my family and my fellows. Since my colleagues know that I love cooking, I had to come up with some original ideas for my menu. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to cook on the day before my final exam, so I searched for a local catering service willing – and able – to cook the ideas I had in mind. The catering I picked did a tremendous job. Everybody loved the appetizers, main courses and desserts – which were mostly not only vegetarian, but vegan. It’s funny, that unless a dish is not explicitly emphasized as vegan, people don’t really seem to miss the meat from their plates. One of the appetizers was this simple, yet very tasty terrine made of bell peppers and eggplant.
Steak tartare appears quite often on menus in Hungarian restaurants. Usually the beef loin is matured covered in oil and some spices and herbs. This is a necessary step – unfortunately meat is not allowed to be aged long enough because of regulations of the health department. The beef is then minced using a grinder to order and usually served already mixed with spices, onions, garlic, an egg yolk and toast. This is the classic version you get in Hungary, but nowadays more elaborate tartares start to show up. Recently, I had a steak tartare at the Winekitchen, where the beef was finely chopped to order (by hand!) and served with fresh warm bread and mayonnaise made of pumpkin seed oil. It inspired me to create my own summer version of steak tartare.
Terrines are great if you plan something special for your guests but don’t want to spend the whole evening in the kitchen. They can be prepared one or two days before and when the guests arrive, the only thing you need to do is to cut off some slices and finish the other components of your dish. Another great advantage is that they are very versatile. So if there are some leftovers from last nights dinner, you can still use them in combination with other ingredients. Usually terrines are used only as main elements in cold appetizers. This recipe is a nice example for using terrines as accompaniments in warm dishes served as a main course.