muszkakitchen.jpg
I've lately had occasion to talk to a number of picklers and fermenters, and they all tell the same story about sauerkraut. Cured cabbage's reputation

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100 Favorite Dishes: Sauerkraut Stew at Budapest Bistro

muszkakitchen.jpg
I've lately had occasion to talk to a number of picklers and fermenters, and they all tell the same story about sauerkraut. Cured cabbage's reputation has been ruined - "ruined!," they say - by the slimy mops of washed-out strings served in cafeterias and from dirty-water dog carts. So the new breed of pickle makers wait patiently at farmers markets, hoping to convert skeptics to sauerkraut's cause.

That's one approach. But a sure way of persuading an eater of sauerkraut's goodness is a plateful of stew at Budapest Bistro, Elizabeth Muszka's tiny Hungarian cafe in Lynnwood.

In Hungary, sauerkraut stew is known as Szekely gulyas, which is confusing, because it's not a proper goulash and because a 19th-century archivist Jozsef Szekely probably didn't have anything to do with the creation of the dish. Still, every great dish has an immaculate conception backstory in which late-night hunger collides with an empty restaurant pantry (see also wings, Buffalo and salad, Caesar), so the fakelore's forgiven. Maybe Szekely really did wander into a Budapest inn and demand dinner from a cook who had nothing left to serve but pork and cooked sauerkraut.

According to the legend, Szekely was so pleased with the stew that he dragged all his friends back to the inn to try it. Muszka's version might inspire you to do the same. The flaxen kraut is engagingly pungent, and the crowning hunks of pork are smoky and rich. It's best with sour cream, which melts into a sauce powered by paprika and bacon fat, and a thick slice of Muszka's housemade bread.

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