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  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

From Budapest with Love

Food is the gift of choice for family members past the age of thirty at our house.  A gooey cake and ice cream take a back seat to a meal that celebrates our ethnic heritage.  For our son’s recent birthday dinner, I prepared one of his grandfather’s favorite dishes, Székely goulash (gulyás in Hungarian).  My father had loved the rich food of his Hungarian childhood, and this devotion continues to nurture the memory of successive generations. 

Like my father’s family who had immigrated from Russia in the 19th century, Székely goulash is a recent import from Transylvania.  Unlike the traditional gulyás prepared by ‘cowboys’ who herd cattle on Hungary’s southern plains, this modern stew is better suited to a family setting.  In place of the original mix of tough cuts of beef, wild onions, caraway and paprika simmered slowly in a cauldron over a fire, Székely goulash is made with pork, garlic, sauerkraut and sour cream. 


 The attraction of this updated version of goulash is the speed with which it delivers essential flavors of Hungarian cuisine.  Onions are softened in a heavy skillet with garlic then pushed to the sides of the pan. Pork tenderloin nuggets are browned in the center then covered with a little flour and lots of sweet Szeged Paprika (sold in a red tin at my local Jewel) and caraway seeds.  It takes less than 15 minutes for the lean pork to cook through after a meat stock is added.  Stir in sour cream, and Voila! (or whatever they say in Hungarian) 

Boiled potatoes or egg noodles are the traditional starches that accompany this stew, but I prefer to serve a slice of steamed yeast dumpling.  The dough is easy to assemble and doubles in size in an hour.  I nestle the risen dough in the steamer basket of my pasta pot over simmering water and steam it for about 20 minutes.  The loaf rises impressively and slices easily fresh out of the pan. The yeast dumpling acts like a bread sponge and soaks up the rich juices of the Székley goulash.  Their combined flavors stimulates a wealth of childhood memories of an ephemeral past.



Link to recipe

  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

Potatoes in the Spotlight

January’s frigid temperatures and grey skies don’t get me down.  I chase the winter blues by searching culinary discoveries to share with my students.  My ingredient of choice this past month was none other than the homely potato.  It’s so easy to become complacent about the potato, as in “you want fries with that?”   It was time the potato took its turn as a culinary star.
When it comes to vegetable make-overs, I troll through cookbooks I’ve collected over the years rather than rather than try my luck with random Google searches on the internet.  In truth, I was on the lookout for a treasured 20 year-old paperback devoted entirely to potato recipes.  Its author, Joël Robuchon, is said to have won his first Michelin star in the 80‘s at his Paris restaurant, Jamin, with a simple potato puree.  I felt I would be in good hands.
The book’s recipes for Potato Tart and Potato Soufflé suits my purposes perfectly.  Each dish makes a spectacular entrance, drawing ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ of appreciation at the table.  I wondered, could a humble potato deliver the anticipated pleasure relying simply on eggs, butter, flour and milk?  Then I remembered Chef Robuchon’s famous Potato Puree contains just four ingredients: potatoes, cream, butter and salt.  It was worth a try.
Before starting to cook, I translated the recipe directions and metric measurements into their English equivalents.  Although the directions were helpful, they were, by necessity, concise.  The book’s authors assume the reader has a grasp of basic French culinary skills.  That’s where I come in.  These recipes made them great recipes to teach.
On a recent Saturday morning fifteen students joined me in the well-appointed kitchen of  Chicago’s Alliance Française kitchen.  We prepared both the potato tart and the potato soufflé with ease.  The speed with which our results were consumed confirmed my conviction that the potato can definitely take its place in the spotlight.  Links to the recipes follow.
Potato Tart 
Potato Souffle
Recipes adapted from Le Meilleur et le plus simple de la pomme de terre. by Joël Robuchon and Dr. Patrick P. Sabatier, Editions Robert Laffont, S.A. 1994

  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

My Croquembouche


There are times when healthy eating gets boring.  All things in moderation, they say, even moderation.  We all need a moment of excess; some of us need it daily.  Occasionally, excess takes the form of a breathtaking sweet à la belle cuisine Française.

Two hundred years ago a great confectioner, Auguste Carême, built an awe-inspiring edible empire of temples and pyramids with  marzipan, nougat and caramel.  In a moment of dangerously high self-esteem, Carême proclaimed pastry "the highest form of architecture”.  They're all gone now, eaten, crumbled, all Carême’s grandiose pièces montées (mounted pieces) save one: le croquemebouche

Few francophiles have seen much less tasted a croquembouche.  This tower of cream-filled choux pastry is reserved for momentous occasions such as a wedding reception, a communion or a baptism.   What makes is this stunning dessert so rare?   I recently took the opportunity to find out at a Lenôtre pastry school in Paris.  

Here are my notes....

Read more: My Croquembouche