Finally, the last of the Cs! We have arrived at the Czech Republic. Located in Central Europe and surrounded by Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Poland. When I was growing up it was Czechoslovakia and was a communist state. Amazingly, the communists were overthrown and the country split in two without much if any violence! The first event (nicknamed the Velvet Revolution) happened in 1989, the second in 1993. Since the fall of the communists, it’s been trendy for Americans to vacation in Prague; unfortunately I’ve never been trendy and haven’t had the pleasure. My friends tell me it’s an amazing place to visit, culturally rich but also vibrant and fun. Today, the Czech Republic is a relatively prosperous country, a member of the EU and produces a lot of goods for export around Europe.
And as for the food? Fortunately, the weather in New England has turned cold and the air is brisk with late autumn chill because Czech food is rich and heavy and perfect for a cool October evening. Czech food is pretty typical of the regional flavors, meats, cheeses and, of course, potatoes. Czechs also love sausage (who doesn’t really) and beer. Czechs make a lot of beer, they drink a lot of beer and they export a lot of beer. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that I am allergic to beer (throat closing, medical intervention required-type allergy). But, because I am dedicated, I popped a Benadryl and hoped for the best. And, I didn’t die! I went light on the sauerkraut topping for my burger (which made me sad), but I did try it and it was worth a little antihistamine grogginess.
My local liquor store sells Czech beer, so I was able to bring the authentic flavor of a dark Czech Krusovice Cerne into the dish. If you can’t get Czech beer you could use any medium dark or amber beer. Despite the color of the Krusovice, it was lighter in flavor than the stouts that my husband likes and reminded me of the amber Spaten that I used to drink in college (I didn’t develop the allergy until I was 25).
I used the classic Polish Kielbasa (no Czech sausage at my local grocer), but you could use any German or Polish sausage that you like (avoid the spicy styles of Mexico and Portugal and the sweet Italian sausage – you want a more Germanic flavor for this dish). And then there’s the cheese. Two countries in a row with fried cheese – my oh my! The Czechs like to bread their cheese and fry it vs. using a non-melting cheese like the Cypriots. I tried this (stupidly) with Camembert (cause I read that Czechs eat Camembert). It was hilarious, Camembert dissolves in about a minute under high heat – my pan became a sticky mess, so time to try something else. Switching to Edam did the trick, but you still want to cook this quickly to avoid a mess.
As for the meat, good old beef with a healthy helping of course mustard made this a really moist and flavorful burger. The mustard does caramelize a bit, hence the darkness of the burger – don’t worry, it isn’t burnt. In addition to adding mustard, I read many references to Czechs using tarter sauce as a condiment with a variety of dishes. I just couldn’t reconcile tartar sauce with the other flavors, so I cheated and made a horseradish mayonnaise that probably bears no resemblance to the traditional Czech tartar sauce. Feel free to substitute tartar sauce for a more authentic experience, but don’t hold me responsible for the end results 🙂
And lastly, we had to bring in potato and frankly I love a potato pancake. I did this one a little differently and course grated the potato so you get a more textured pancake. Note: as we get more recipes from some regions, you’re going to see similarities – makes sense – but I do try to get variety in the mix. If you liked the Belarus burger, you will probably like the Czech burger. Everyone in my family did. End result is a rich and hearty burger – the flavor of mustard permeates (in a good way) and balances out the smoky sausage and rich cheese and the potato pancakes are the perfect compliment to the sharp sauerkraut and the tangy horseradish sauce. We served with more Czech beer of course (I drank a nice Syrah myself). This one will warm you up and fill your belly.
If you like this burger (and who wouldn’t?), you will undoubtably also enjoy the German Burger – another hearty burger with sausage and sauerkraut perfect for a cold day or a hungry family, or both!
Czech Republic Burger
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 Tablespoon course ground mustard
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 Potato Pancakes (recipe below)
Fried Cheese (recipe below)
Drunken Sauerkraut (recipe below)
Horseradish Sauce (recipe below)
In a glass bowl, mix the ground beef with the paprika, mustard and salt. Let sit for 30 minutes until meat is room temperature. Form into four patties. Grill to desired temperature. Serve on a Potato Pancake with 1-2 slices of Fried Cheese, a scoop of Drunken Sauerkraut and a dollop of Horseradish Sauce.
4 Yukon Gold potatoes
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Grate the potatoes using the coarse side of the grater. Mix all ingredients together. Cover the bottom of a large non-stick pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Heat until a small piece of bread dropped in the oil bubbles vigorously. Scoop the potato mixture into the hot oil in four portions. Flatten the potato mixture and cook in the hot oil over medium/high heat until golden then flip and cook the other side.
Be careful not to have the oil too hot, as you want the potatoes to cook through completely without burning the outside. When potatoes are warm through and golden, remove onto paper towels and blot the excess oil. Serve warm.
Note: depending on the size of the potatoes, you may need more or fewer potatoes, use your judgment and grate enough to make four burger sized pancakes. Also note: I have no idea why I didn’t photograph the pancakes after I flipped them, blame it on the Benadryl 🙂
½ cup panko or fine ground bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup heavy cream
Edam cheese sliced
Mix together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg and cream together. Dip the slices of cheese into the wet mixture then pat them into the dry mixture making sure to get the bread crumbs on both sides. In a large non-stick pan, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add the cheese and cook over high heat for 1-2 minutes until breading is golden, turn cheese (carefully) and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and serve warm.
1 14.4 ounce can of sauerkraut
1 cup dark beer
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
2½ ounces kielbasa diced
In a medium saucepan, bring the sauerkraut and beer to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and sausage and cook for another 15 minutes until everything is heated through. Taste to adjust seasoning
½ cup mayonnaise
1½ teaspoon cream style horseradish
½ teaspoon white wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients and adjust flavor to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach