This is a treasured family recipe dating from my ancestral Transylvania kitchen, or so the legend goes. My husband Richard enjoys telling anyone kind (or bored) enough to listen that I trace my bloodline back to Count Dracula.
How insulting! Why does he (and most everyone) automatically associate the stunning Carpathian landscape and rich history of Transylvania to such a frightening character?
Good reason. According to Wikipedia, in 15th century Transylvania there was a prince known as Vlad the Impaler whose horrific punishments inflicted on his enemies in their quest to expand the Ottoman Empire inspired Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula.”
The turbulent history of Transylvania is, in general, strongly contested. Romanian historians claim their ancestors populated the region in the second century; Hungarian historians say when their ancestors arrived in the ninth century, the land was unoccupied. Today, according to Wikipedia, Transylvania rests in the central part of Romania. According to the website UNC Global, Transylvania is central to the creation, cultural identity and national ideologies of Hungary and Romania; the one thing uniting both ethnicities is food.
According to the website Food in Hungary: “The Hungarian national dish is meat stew. People outside Hungary call it ‘goulash,’ but the Hungarians have several different names for it, including pörkölt and tokány … or gulyás.” Like all recipes associated with a national cuisine, goulash has as many interpretations as the rollicking history of Hungary. Commonalities of the stew include onions, meat, caraway and paprika. Sauerkraut is another common addition to goulash.
I enjoy making beef stews and having an excuse to use my cauldron on Halloween. And goulash sounds, well, ghoulish. But polenta? Would serving Hungary’s iconic culinary heritage over a plate of polenta be treason? Not if uniting neighboring cultures is the intention. A bit of Google browsing led me to what one site claims as “… the national dish of Romania, Mamaliga, a mess of corn that is very much like polenta and used to accompany many dishes.”
This Transylvania stew deliciously combines the flavors of Hungary, Romania and Italy with sautéed onions, meat, paprika and creamy polenta, spiked with seasonal pumpkin flavor. The stew man be made up to 48 hours in advance; re-season before serving.
My great aunt, the Countess Dracula VIII, however, is displeased with this fusion. She holds a grudge. (Incidentally Richard, you’d better wear an ascot Sunday night, ’cause guess who’s coming to dinner!)
Disclaimer: This is not a recipe you can whip up in 30 minutes. This is a Polish Grandmother Recipe. And anyone who is a Polish Grandmother, or anyone who has a Polish Grandmother, or anyone (like me) who lives next door to a Polish Grandmother, knows that Polish Grandmother Recipes can’t be completed in less than thirty minutes. But … Full recipe post »
On Sunday’s journey back from Utah (an impromptu trip utilizing a free AMEX companion plane ticket), while poring over photographs taken hiking Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, I lamented that I forget to take my wide-angle lens. Still. I could never capture Ansel Adam‘s American West no matter how many strings of cameras I roped around … Full recipe post »
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