January 4, 2010

Rakott Krumpli, aka Hungarian Potato Cassserole

Everyone has their Proustian associations. Smells, tastes, the sight of something—these can all transport us back to the innocent days of our youth.

I have plenty of these associations, but for me there's something else that does it as well, something I was reminded of when I awoke to the sound of people speaking Hungarian at my uncle's on Sunday morning.

The sound of people older than me conversing in Hungarian takes me right back to my childhood, probably because a good portion of that childhood was spent sitting around while a bunch of adults talked in Hungarian. It's as comforting as a steamy bowl of cauliflower soup on a cold day.

But unfortunately, being sort of an adult now, my Proustian moment on Sunday was tinged with sadness. For children, the future is endless, but for us sort of adults, endings are visible everywhere. And what I realized on Sunday was that there is a limited amount of time left in which I would ever be able to awaken to the sound of Hungarian. My grandmother and her seven sisters are all gone, and while the next generation (my mother and uncles) will not be gone anytime soon, it's a wise bet to assume they will all precede me. Plus, they don't speak in Hungarian so much among themselves. It's only with the older generation (some of whom had come over for brunch on Sunday) that it really comes out. And in my generation, none of the cousins speak Hungarian. So at some point Hungarian won't be a part of our family gatherings anymore.

What does this have to do with food, you might ask? Well, one other Proustian benefit of waking to the sound of Hungarian on Sunday morning is getting to eat Rakott Krumpli, the quintessential Hungarian brunch casserole.

I have to confess that I forgot to take pictures of the beautiful one my mother baked, so I took the pic here off of this site. And if you're wondering why I couldn't just make it again and take a pic, let me assure you that rakott krumpli, no matter how delicious, is a dish best eaten only once every few months.

Rakott Krumpli
whole peeled boiled potatoes cooked in plenty of salted water (if it's a main dish, count on about 1 per person)
hard-boiled eggs (about 1 egg per potato)
keilbasa or ham or other type of smoked/cured sausage that can be sliced (can be omitted to make the dish vegetarian)
well-salted white sauce (about two tablespoons per potato)
sour cream (about one tablespoon per potato)
bread crumbs
Choose a baking dish that will hold the potatoes in about 3 layers. Mix sour cream and white sauce together. Slice potatoes and make a layer in a buttered casserole dish. Slice hard boiled eggs and kielbasa and scatter half of them on top. Drizzle with a quarter of sauce. repeat a second time, then end with third layer of potato. Pour remaining half of sauce over. Cover top with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 350 for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until bread crumbs are browned and casserole is bubbling.


Marion said...

I'm all for making risotto the wrong way! Mark Bittman says you don't have to stir it until you have tennis elbow. So I don't. But you are right I've never gotten that al dente middle. I'm gonna try this but I guess I'll have to get a pressure cooker. Stupid question: what happens if you use a rice cooker?

Other question: I'm glad you play fast and loose with the bacon fat like me. I haven't discussed this with my vegetarian but I expect one day we'll have to. What are the ethics of using chicken stock?

Missmasala said...

I use chicken stock all the time when cooking for my vegetarian. Someday she'll wise up, but until then I like to sneak it in. Unethical? Maybe, but I'm willing to compromise myself.

And I think risotto in a rice cooker would come out gummy. But who knows? Should we try it?

Gabs said...

Thanks for the receipe, my father was Hungarian and unfortunately we grew up, knowing little about culture and food but one thing we all did grow up with and thats Rakott Krumpli!!! My mum (who is Australian) can make it beautifully, however as she is unwell, I have to make it for a family function and I was just interested to see if there were any different versions on the net. I was surprised to see you make a white sauce to mix with the sour cream? As in bechhamal sauce? Am wondering what difference it makes? Also we tend to lay strips of bacon over the top rather than bread crumbs, so I am going to give the bread crumbs a shot this time! Also the sausage we use is Polish Sausage, not sure if that is a world wide sausage or not, but readily available in deli's here is Australia. Might try a different sort that though as polish is quite fatty (yummy though!) Anyway off I go to start my krumpli! Thanks for your version of it. Gabs

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