Cheeseburger with Sauerkraut, Bacon and Grey Pea Spread
As the weather begins to turn colder here in New England, it’s the perfect time for a hearty meaty burger, so let’s move on to Latvia for a dish that will stick to your bones and warm you with it’s savory goodness. As usual, we’ll start with a little about Latvia…
Latvia is one of the Baltic countries located on the Baltic Sea and bordered by Lithuania, Belarus, Russia and Estonia. This land has been controlled by Germany, Poland, Sweden and Russia at various times in it’s history, it has a lovely multicultural culture. There is also a tremendous amount of national pride, they even have contest for best use of the Latvian language (important since less than 60% of the population speaks Latvian as it’s first language). In tension with that is the large minority of Russians living in Latvia. Almost 30% of the population is ethnically Russian and speaks Russian as their first language.
Given the conflict in nearby Ukraine, concern is mounting that the Russians may begin aggressions in Latvia. It is a tense and difficult time in this country. Other than the political unrest, Latvia is by all reports a lovely place to visit. It’s capital city, Riga, is particularly known its stunning art nouveau architecture.
It has the good fortune of being placed perfectly so that Latvian’s enjoy 4 distinct seasons (unusual in most of Europe). Summers are warm, even hot – great for the sandy beaches. Snow in the winter – great for skiing and ice fishing.
Traditional Latvian food brings to mind winter rather than summer as it is based on hearty peasant food. While Latvia has enjoy prosperity in recent times, historically it has been a relatively poor country and the food has been simple, filling, and inexpensive. Meat is important, all different kids of meat, so of course we’ll need some bacon for this burger. Luckily there’s a traditional dish of grey peas and bacon. It’s perfect topping for a burger, but just note, grey peas are actually brown – go figure. The starchiness of the beans work wonderfully with sauerkraut.
Since we don’t find a lot of spices in Latvian cooking, the sauerkraut and bacon give us a great base flavor, sharp and smoky at the same time. Caraway seeds add a little licorice tang while the meat and cheese provide the rich backdrop that pulls it all together.
Overall the Latvian burger is rich and hearty with a smoky meatiness that was satisfying and delicious. If you like this burger, check out Belarus and Czech Republic – three different ways to enjoy meat and sauerkraut…my Midwestern taste buds are in heaven!
1 pound meat loaf mix (pork, veal and beef)
1 onion diced
1 egg (lightly beaten)
4 slices dark rye bread
1 Tablespoon butter
Grey Peas and Bacon Spread (recipe below)
4 ounces havarti with caraway seeds
Latvian Sauerkraut (recipe below)
4 Tablespoons sour cream
Combine the meat, onion and eggs until evenly mixed. Form 4 patties. Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet. Grill bread slices over medium heat on each side for about 3 minutes per side or until just toasted. Remove the bread and cook the meat patties in same pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, then turn and cook for another four minutes. Add cheese slices to each patty and cook for another minute covered until cheese melts. To serve spread a generous portion of Grey Peas and Bacon Spread on each piece of bread, then add the patties, a scoop of Latvian Sauerkraut and a tablespoon of sour cream.
Grey Peas and Bacon Spread
2 cups dried grey peas
½ pound bacon
1 onion chopped
Place the peas in a large pot and cover with water to about 2 inches above peas. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for 2 hours or until soft. Drain and check for rocks (yes, rocks, there were literally rocks about the size of peas in the mix) – remove the rocks. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into 1 inch pieces. Cook the bacon in a medium skillet until crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Add the onions to the bacon grease and cook until soft. Place the peas and onions in a food processor and pulse until you get a nice spread. Fold in the bacon and add salt if needed to taste. Serve warm.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion sliced
1 granny smith apple, cored and sliced thin
14.4 ounces canned or jarred sauerkraut
1 cup cabbage sliced
1 Tablespoon course mustard
Heat olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet until shimmering. Add onions and apples and cook until soft. Add sauerkraut and cook for another 15 minutes then add cabbage and mustard, cover and cook 5 more minutes until cabbage is wilted. Add salt if needed to taste. Serve warm.
©Copyright 2014 Linda Monach