Burger with Austrian Goulash and Liptauer (cheese spread)
Before we begin – do not be afraid. That orange stuff is cheese and it’s not from a cheese log I got last Christmas. The color comes from paprika, it’s scary looking, orange, just wrong – but the flavor is creamy with an herby tang – trust me. So, on with the story…
Why do I keep thinking Europe will be easy? Our next stop is Austria. Austria is located in the heart of Central Europe.
It is completely landlocked, surrounded by Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Because of its central location, Austrian cuisine is influenced by its many neighbors, teasing out the differences is what makes Europe such a challenge. The most classically Austrian dishes are dumplings and of course of Wiener Schnitzel, neither of which is conducive to creating a great burger recipe. And believe me, I tried to come up with something related to Wiener Schnitzel, but it’s just not burger material.
Dumplings were a little more promising – although the idea of a burger on a big wet dumpling didn’t get me too excited. Speckknoedel is one of the more popular dumplings. It is a basic bacon dumpling flavored with thyme and caraway. Rather than make a soggy dumpling, I decided to create a biscuit that would bring in these flavors and make a great substrate for the burger – winning! (sorry folks, I can’t help throw an allusion to the greatest train wreck of my lifetime in every now and then, I’ll try to refrain for getting epic about it, blame the tiger blood – ok, I’m done).
I tried bacon in the biscuits, cooking the biscuits in bacon grease, home-made and store bought – I baked my butt off. After a several attempts and more glasses of wine, I found it worked best to put the herbs in the biscuit and have the bacon as a topping (more bacon flavor that way – bacon is good). This last time I only had maple bacon in the house (bogo at the store and sold out of plain), and it was really tasty. I don’t usually go for flavored bacon, but this time it worked, so if you like that sort of thing, or just have it in the freezer, give it a try.
You’ll see that I used canned biscuit dough vs making my own – while I have friends who were appalled at this choice, that was only after it was revealed. Taste alone, canned biscuits are as good as most of us can make from scratch. So, if you want to substitute Aunt Martha’s famous homemade biscuits, please go right ahead, just add some thyme and caraway and you’ll get the flavor you want. You’ll also notice that I achieved two different results this last go around – I must not have kneaded the dough evenly and some of my biscuits rose more than others – I used the both puffy and thin ones and cut them in half for more of a burger feel to the dish. You can also serve it on top of the thin biscuits and do the fork and knife thing – no wrong answers here.
Austrians also like goulash and Austrian goulash differs from Hungarian goulash in that it does not have green pepper (that makes a big flavor difference). Goulash typically is made with meat, but I don’t like big chunks of meat on top of a burger, so I used a beef demi-glace or beef base to give the sauce beef flavor. This results in a tangy, tomato sauce with a nice herb and meat flavor – a super fancy cool ketchup if you will (or even if you won’t – don’t be a snob, ketchup is just another word for tomatoes, vinegar and sugar). Along with this I created a recipe for liptauer. Liptauer is a traditional cheese spread that has a soft cheese, onion, caraway and paprika as the base, then you add other flavors that you like to it. I used beer because my family likes beer and many Austrians do too (cooking with beer is relatively common). Unfortunately, adding beer complicated my life because it meant that I really couldn’t eat the liptauer. I’m allergic to beer – the basic, throat closing up, can’t breathe kind of allergic. Much as I love this project and cooking, I don’t love it that much. So I tasted pre-beer and my husband, mother and father tasted the final product and pronounced it perfect. Please send all complaints to them. Many families have their own secret liptauer recipe, so feel free to start with the recipe below then be creative and make your own family recipe.
And, of course, for my vegetarian followers (if you guys don’t actually try one of these recipes soon, I’m going to give up trying to adapt for you) – the goulash and the liptauer were great on the standard Original Gardenburger, minus the bacon – of course. I didn’t try the recipe without the demi-glace so depending on the rules you live by I may have failed. If you’re rules allow a demi-glace between friends, the garlic in the burger really complimented the goulash and the cheese balanced it perfectly. (by the way, McDonald’s puts “natural beef flavor” in their french fries, that’s why they’re awesome)
This is an easy burger to make, if you don’t want to mess with the baking, it would work on a nice rye bread or standard burger bun. The burger is hearty and filling, makes you want to get out your lederhosen and sing edelweiss. (yes Ken, that was on purpose)
But seriously, creamy cheese with a little punch of paprika (not spicy) balances the rich and tart tomato sauce the buttery biscuit holds it all together and the bacon is just the proverbial icing on the cake. Serve with beer or a crisp white wine – either works well (so I’m told, I, of course, drank wine)
8 slices of bacon chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
1 teaspoon dry marjoram
½ teaspoon salt
4 Speckknoedel Biscuits (recipe below)
4 Tablespoons Liptauer (recipe below)
8 Tablespoons Austrian Goulash (recipe below)
In a medium frying pan, brown the bacon until crispy. Place bacon pieces on paper towel to drain off excess oil. Save the bacon grease.
Combine ground beef, marjoram and salt. Form four patties out of meat mixture. Use the bacon grease to lightly grease an indoor grill pan. Cook the burgers to desired temperature. Slice each Speckknoedel Biscuit in half. Place each burger the bottom half of a biscuit, spoon approximately 1-2 Tablespoons Liptauer on top of each burger then spoon on 2-3 Tablespoons of the Austrian Goulash. Top with generous helping of bacon bits and the top of the biscuit and enjoy!
Liptauer (cheese spread)
¼ cup 4% milkfat cottage cheese
¼ cup Neufchatel cheese (light cream cheese)
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
1 Tablespoon minced onion
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
2 Tablespoons double bock beer (or other dark beer)
Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor and pulse until blended. Refrigerate while making the rest of the burger components.
1 can large biscuits fresh dough (8 biscuits in can)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
Remove biscuit dough from can and let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes to soften. Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, grind the thyme and caraway together until fragrant. Add thyme and caraway to biscuit dough and knead ingredients together. The more you knead the dough the denser the final texture, so get the herbs mixed, but don’t over knead.
Divide dough back into eight portions and roll each portion out to approx 4 ½” round. Bake at 350˚ for about 15 minutes until biscuits are lightly browned.
1½ Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup onion diced
1 clove garlic diced
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 ½ Tablespoons beef base**
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
¼ cup red wine vinegar
6 ounce can tomato paste
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
In medium sauté pan*, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, stirring regularly to avoid burning. Add the marjoram, beef base and caraway seeds, lower heat and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vinegar, tomato paste and paprika. Raise heat back to medium and cook stirring regularly for 5 minutes or until mixture is a deep red color.
*although it means you’ll have to watch closely to avoid burning, I like making this in a sauté pan, it ensures that all of the sauce touches the bottom of the pan and you get a nice even cooking. The picture is a little oranger than the sauce actually is/should be. You’re going for a rich deep red.
**Beef base is richer and darker than beef bouillon. It can be found in jars near the beef stock in a well stocked grocery store. If you can’t find it in your local store, it can also be purchased online. It is really salty, so check the salt level before adding any extra to this dish. The last time I made this I substituted beef demi-glace. The flavor is much richer and it isn’t overpoweringly salty. You can’t get it at your local grocery store, so it doesn’t fit the “rules”, but you can get it at Williams Sonoma or any other fine cooking store and I recommend it over the beef base. If you do use the demi-glace, use 2 Tablespoons and salt to taste.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach