Hortobágyi Palacsinta (Meat Filled Crêpes)
(Pronunciation: Whore-toe-bah-jee Pa-la-cheen-ta)
Ladies and gentlemen, this is my signature dish. It features a nice handful of most of my favourite ingredients (paprika, sour cream, veal, lard), it’s Hungarian but it’s not a “traditional” dish so there’s a lot of room for creativity, and nobody’s recipe or presentation method is the same.
I understand Hungary isn’t very well-known for it’s cuisine. After cooking this dish about 4 times until I was able to come up with my own amazing recipe and preparation method, I found out why; Hungarian food is, for the most part, comfort food; easy to prepare, traditional recipes that don’t usually vary too much per household and don’t require much effort or skill. French cuisine is sometimes considered to be the most classy, or at least the most well practiced style among top chefs, but can the average person really name any traditional French dishes besides Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, and Soupe à l’oignon? Probably not. In fact, all those recipes are only popular outside of France because of Julia Child’s TV show “The French Chef”. There are pretty much no “traditional” French recipes (and if there are any that may qualify, I guarantee they’ll vary greatly by household and region) because the French are very passionate about their food and are constantly evolving and making improvements to their dishes so nothing stays the same for too long. Authentic French restaurants gain their authenticity not by serving authentic French meals, but rather by their ability to be as creative as possible. The idea is, if you want a French-style restaurant, you’re going to have to make sure there are as few similarities as possible between your menu and another restaurant’s menu. French cuisine is about the exact opposite of Hungary cuisine; one is more of a cooking style, constantly evolving and varying greatly by region, and the other is simple, traditional mom’s homecooking. And for me, that’s the literal definition.
When I started this blog, I wanted to create a database for traditional Hungarian dishes that I have grown up with. However, I also have ambitions to become a chef, and I know I will never get there if I stick to one style of cooking, especially if that style is Hungarian. So I’d like to combine elements from a fancier style of cooking with my Hungarian roots. This dish, in particular, allows me to do just that. Hence the long, unusually serious introduction.
And now finally… this is the recipe for Hortobágyi Palacsinta à la Treble. I pray you’ll relish it as much as I.
Ingredients (For 4 servings, makes about 8 rolls)
For the meat filling:
500g ground meat (I use veal)
1 brown onions
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup of chicken stock or water
1 tbsp lard
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1 tsp marjoram
1 tbsp black pepper
salt to taste
For the palacsinta:
2 cups of flour
2&1/4 cups soda water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup meat juice
4 tbsp flour
4 tbsp sour cream
1. Chop up onion, garlic, and prepare your ground meat.
2. In a saucepan set to medium-high, toss in your lard and wait for it to get hot. Once it’s hot enough, toss in your onions and garlic.
3. Sauté the onions and garlic in the saucepan until the onions are just about translucent, then add in your ground meat. Add more lard if needed.
4. Break up the large chunks of meat with a wooden spoon making sure it’s as fine as possible. Sprinkle in some paprika, marjoram and salt/pepper.
5. Once meat is cooked, pour in half a cup of chicken stock or water and wait for it to start boiling. Once it hits the boil, turn it down to medium-low.
6. We will now add in the rest of our ingredients. Stir in some tomato product, this could be a diced tomato, a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste, tomato purée, or even tomato sauce. (I actually had to use tomato sauce once because I realised I didn’t have tomato paste or tomatoes at this point).
7. Now we will add in, surprise surprise, a heaping tablespoon of dijon mustard! (Dijon mustard isn’t used at all in Hungarian cuisine, at least not traditionally. But I added it in once out of instinct the first time I made it, and I’ve been too scared not to add it ever since.
8. If you have any other flavourings on mind (wine, balsamic vinegar, etc) that you think may work, add them now.
9. Cover the pot and let the meat simmer in the water for about 10 minutes or so.
10. minutes later, drain the meat filling making sure the liquid goes into a bowl. We will be using this liquid for the sauce.
11. While you wait for the meat filling to dry, make the crêpes using the ingredients listed above (yes, we use soda water instead of milk because we want the crêpes light and airy for this dish, but you can use milk if you don’t have soda water). Watch Chef John’s demonstration on how to make crêpes if you don’t know how. (You won’t need to add oil to the mixture if you use a lightly-greased nonstick pan.)
12. Once crêpes are done, take the liquid you drained from the meat mixture and vigorously mix in the flour and sour cream until there are no lumps whatsoever and the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add more sour cream and flour as needed if sauce is too loose.
13. Mix about a fourth to a third of the sauce in with the meat mixture and fold it in.
14. Preheat oven to 375F. Crêpes should be cool enough to work with at this point. Put in equal parts of the meat filling to each crêpe, or about 3 heaping tablespoons worth into the crêpes and roll them up. If you have leftover crêpes, put them in the fridge and have them for breakfast with jam in the morning. If you have any meat left, roll them into balls and bake them with your crêpes so you’ll have meatballs.
15. Place crêpes into a baking pan and lightly brush them with your sauce, just to give them a bit of colour. Alternatively you can pour all the sauce on now and bake until thick, although that isn’t too visually appealing.
16. Place baking pan into preheated oven, and cook for 10-20 minutes, or until the sauce fuses with the crêpes.
17. Remove from baking pan and go for 2 crêpes a person. Place onto a plate, drizzle generously with the meat sauce and garnish with some freshly chopped scallions.
I have nothing further to say. Except for the fact that this dish has been updated and I won’t be sharing the latest version because it’s my secret recipe.
(hortobagyi, hortobagi, hortobaji, horto, baji, bagi, palachinta)