Hungarian burger recipe

Meaty Beef and Pork Burger with Paprika/Pork Ragu and Aged Gouda
There are two major problems with writing a blog post about Hungary – first is avoiding obvious Hungary/hungry puns (my husband has suggested several-you should be thanking me now for not taking his advice), the second is choosing the most interesting tidbits from the culture and history of this amazing country.  Hungary is a landlocked country located in Central Europe and bordered by Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.  In fact several of their neighbors are larger than they were before World War I because when the war ended Hungary lost a ton of its territory.  This loss was reaffirmed at the end of WWII (they were on the losing side of that conflict too).  After that, the Hungarians were gobbled up into the Soviet Union became part of the Soviet Bloc.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Ok, let’s pause here, yes, I skipped a ton of stuff – founding of the kingdom, invasion by Ottomans, Hapsburg rule, etc…  but really, life is short and it’s not like it’s hard to read up on this stuff on your own – even Wikipedia has some pretty good information, so feel free to look it up and read more.  But, before we go into the communist phase I would like to point out that the cultural and ethnic heritage is really cool.    The language itself goes into the super cool/strange category (much like Finnish).   Hungarian is part of the Ugor branch of the Finno-Ugric language family.  The Finno-Ugric languages are basically Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and a bunch of really obscure languages that are only spoken by very small groups of people.  Check out some Hungarian language videos – it is a really unusual mixture of sounds – I hear some Asian, and Slavic overtones, but I have an absolute tin ear, so don’t go by me.  In addition to a cool language, Hungarians (also called Magyars) have felt a little pushed around by various international forces over the years and because of that they’ve really grabbed hold of their cultural identity and have protected it and kept it alive even while officially part of the USSR Soviet Bloc.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Which brings us back to where we left off.  While Hungary was part of the communist bloc, USSR they were considered the most liberal of the Eastern Bloc member states and eventually opened their borders to Austria and help to speed up the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.  Today Hungary is a popular tourist destination and (before the global financial crisis) had a relatively strong economy.  They are part of the EU and have suffered along with most of Eastern Europe, and in fact, Europe overall, well let’s be honest we’ve all had some tough times lately.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

At any rate, I think it’s time to move on to the food.  All of the vegetarians should probably just stop reading now because Hungarians like meat.  They like meat with their meat – pork, beef, goat – sausages and salami, lots of meat.  And, when it doubt, they cook their dishes in lard, cause nothing makes a dish tastes so good as lard!  I saw several comments saying that if you heat up some lard and cook onions and paprika, you have the foundation for all Hungarian dishes (and your kitchen will smell wonderful).  One note for those of you who get nervous about spice, don’t worry, despite what you may read on Wikipedia, Hungarians use sweet paprika in most of their cooking.  Hot paprika is sometimes made into a paste and served as a condiment tableside, but the dishes themselves are not hot.

sweet paprika, a Hungarian staple!

do not use hot paprika if you want an authentic flavor

So yes, I fried up some bacon and used the fat to cook some onions and paprika as the base for my sauce, then I slow cooked some pork butt and created a burger topping for the ages.  The final sauce (thickened with sour cream as is traditional) reminded me of the wild boar ragu that we got in Italy over parpardelle (which is what I did with the left-overs, served it over pasta and savored the rich meaty flavor).  For the patties I combined beef and pork and ground the meat fresh – you could use pre-ground meat if you want, I just wanted that extra fresh meatiness.  I also found a raw milk Gouda that was a little sharp and perfectly complimented the meat and spice.  We tried 4 different Goudas and there is really a lot of variation in flavor – the aged Goudas are terrific, I highly recommend trying a few if you have a good cheese shop nearby.  We decided not to use the smoked Gouda because the meatiness of the dish doesn’t need the extra richness of the smoke, it’s too much.

cheese, glorious cheese!

The final burger is incredibly rich and hearty (this is not an “eat on the beach in a bikini” type of burger).  We loved it; the sharpness of the cheese comes through with a hint of bacon and a touch of herby freshness.  It held up beautifully to a hearty zin and we were left Hungary for more (ok, maybe one small pun).

Hungarian Burger
1 pound pork cutlets
½ pound sirloin tips
1 Tablespoon fresh marjoram
1 clove garlic roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces aged Gouda sliced thin
Paprika/Pork Ragu (recipe below)
4 slices of sour dough bread
Cooked bacon (from Paprika/Pork Ragu preparation)

Cut the meat into 1 inch cubes and place in a glass bowl.  Add the marjoram and garlic and mix together.  Put the meat cubes in the freezer for 30 minutes then grind the meat.   Form four patties.  Salt the patties.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or grill pan.  Cook until patties reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.  Add the Gouda slices about two minutes before burgers are done and cover until cheese is melted.

To serve, toast or grill the bread.  Add a generous scoop of the ragu then the cooked patties, top with the cooked bacon and enjoy!

Paprika/Pork Ragu
8 ounces thick cut bacon sliced into ¼ inch strips
1 medium yellow onion sliced (about 1¼ cup)
2 Tablespoons sweet paprika
1 pound pork butt cut into 3 chunks
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons flour

Place Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook bacon stirring occasionally until bacon is crisp (about 10 minutes).

you want a nice thick cut bacon

mmmmm, bacon!

Remove bacon and place on paper towel to drain.  Add onions and paprika to the hot bacon grease and turn heat down to medium low.  Cook for 3 minutes stirring regularly.  Add pork, chicken stock, salt and as much water as you need to just cover the pork.

Raise heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour turning pork over once.  Remove cover and cook for another hour. Or until pork is fork tender.

Remove meat from pan and use two forks to shred the pork removing any excess fat.

pulled pork rocks!

Return meat to pan.  Add sour cream and stir until combined.  Add the flour and whisk until flour is integrated and sauce begins to thicken.  Adjust salt to taste.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

you’ll have leftovers of this ragu – just heat it up and serve over a wide pasta – yummy!


©Copyright 2012 Linda Monach

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4 Responses to Hungarian burger recipe

  1. Janet says:

    You’ve gotten locked into one shape for every burger! I imagine it’s boring. There is a Hungarian Burger tradition of stuffing the meat and toppings into a hollowed-out bun:

  2. Carl H says:

    Quite a rich burger this one, probably would lay off the bacon if I’m going to cook it. Although Hungarian cooking is indeed very rich at times. A specialty for instance is to grill big pieces of pork fat (szalonna) with half an onion on a stick over fire. Not for the faint of heart (literally).

    Also a huge piece of deep fried bread (lángos) with lots of cheese and garlic is regarded in Hungary as just a “snack”. Hungarian cuisine is probably the best in Eastern Europe. Despite or because of this.

    • linda says:

      you’ve got to love a cuisine based on pork fat and paprika! I’m actually not a fan of bacon on burgers (very un-American, I know), and this one is just as good without the extra bacon on top. Get ready to continue the meat-fest…turns out Iceland is pretty meat-centric too. I should see if Lipitor wants to advertise on my site 🙂

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