Easy Reader Staff

More than grandma’s goulash

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by Marlys Lindenmuth

Czechoslovakia, a country dissolved in 1992 to become the nations the Czech Republic and Slovakia, is known as an Eastern European region of green rolling hills covered by spruce, oak and pine trees. Czechs love each of the four seasons from the full flush of spring bulbs popping out of the ground to the cold frosts of winter, all of which makes it so different from California. Though with no access to the sea, there are still great mountains, green, lush valleys to explore, a place of careful land management where trees are harvested every 150 years, where centuries old castles punctuate the landscape. Roman ruins are still here, and even more ancient artifacts continue to be uncovered through casual diggings.

As a Czech couple, long time residents of Palos Verdes Estates Carole Kopecek and her husband Jerry have visited their homeland often. They visited when Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Soviets. Most of us in the U.S. do not realize how much such visits into a Soviet State helped the morale of the locals. The relatives they visited lived from Prague to Brno to Prelouc.

When visiting, Carole always offers to help, and often takes over all meal preparations. The Kopeceks don’t eat out much.

At home, visiting her kitchen is a treat. Carole has a collection of antique, but still useful, kitchen equipment. The kitchen motif, including the curtains, chandelier, canister sets, platters and plates is of the ancient Meissen blue onion pattern. There’s a sausage maker, a formidable tin noodle cutter, lamb molds, three grinders, a pickle crock and a butter churn.

As a child, Carole enjoyed cooking with her grandmothers and mother in the kitchen. She was willing to help with a dessert recipe by whipping eggs and sugar for mocca cream for her aunt. For her neighbors Carole was always experimenting with something new. When her Peninsula neighborhood was a newly built part of the city, Carole served home-made petit fours for a neighbor’s party. For her charity group one year, Carole made and transported as a raffle prize a complete Czech dinner of goose with all the trimmings. She said “Never again. I was nervous for days. I could never be a chef.” For her mother-in-law’s 100th birthday, Carole baked the traditional seven cookies, one of which contained the mocca cream, and apple strudel, and a Czech dinner and delivered it to a Texas care facility.

Carole was willing to share recipes which her family enjoys, starting with a rolled and stuffed veal.

Small veal steaks rolled and stuffed

(Carole said beef can also be used.)

Grind meat — one part beef, one part veal, and one part pork — and mix however much diced onion is desired with one mashed fresh garlic clove, ground pepper, chopped green parsley, and one egg to stuff into the steaks. Drain and julienne pickles of a Czech type, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Any pickle will do,” said Carole.  

Fry some diced onions in butter until golden in color. Then add a little fresh thyme, a little allspice, one bay leaf, paprika and ground pepper.

After finishing all the stuffing, tenderize the veal or beef steaks with a wooden mallet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Roll and stuff, adding a julienne of pickle to each, and either tie or use toothpicks in the steaks to hold them so they do not curl up when cooking.

Put the veal steaks in a baking dish for the oven with the onion, herb and butter mixture. Add stock to the roasting pan. Cook at 350. When tender, remove and make a gravy if there is enough stock and pan drippings, and ladle over the veal steaks. The traditional Czech way of serving is to cut the meat so that each serving shows a section of the filling.

Spinach a la Czech

Boil spinach and drain. Chop. Sauté diced onions in butter along with a fresh garlic clove. Add one tablespoon flour and cook, being careful to watch for color. Do not burn. Add the spinach, a well-flavored stock, or some canned beef broth, a pinch or two of marjoram, salt and pepper and cook to thicken it a touch.

Czech Mushroom Soup

Wash mushrooms in hot water. Drain. Cut into stripes and wash again. Drain. Sauté in butter with diced onions and carrots. Add salt, whole caraway seed and ground pepper. Make a light roux and boil in stock at least a half hour. Salt the roux. Drain. Add mushrooms, with their juice, and the onions. Boil a bit. (To improve the soup, add dumplings at this time.) Add dumplings carefully, then add an egg blended into a pint of half-and-half for a quart of soup. Heat carefully. Do not boil. Ladle into soup bowls and, with finely chopped parsley on top, the soup will look most appetizing.

Egg Dumplings

Stir together three beaten eggs and half-and-half. Gradually add flour to make a batter thick enough to cook in boiling water. Using a fork, dip the batter into boiling water and cook until they rise to the top. Drain and add to mushroom soup if this addition sounds good.

Meringue

  • Oven temperature: 225 degrees.
  • Have all ingredients at room temperature.
  • 7 egg whites from large eggs
  • 1 pound granulated sugar

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to stiffen using high on the beater. Change the speed to slow to add sugar, one tablespoon at a time for a half pound of the sugar, saving the other half. The egg whites need to be quite stiff. When half the pound of sugar has been beaten in, remove the bowl from the mixer and gently stir in the other half pound. Mound on a greased cookie sheet, or fill a baker’s paper cone to form the size cookie shape desired. Use a floured pinkie finger to put a small depression for the mocca cream.

Using a baker’s paper cone, make a flat ring, or wreath. Bake in a slow oven of 225 degrees about 1 1/2 hours. Cool carefully on the pan. When cool remove to a wire rack.

Mocca Cream

  • 7 whole eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Put in a double boiler over boiling water. Beat until ingredients thicken. Remove from pan and cool to room temperature. After completely cool, use the electric mixer to cream a pound of room temperature butter with a half pound of sugar adding toward the end of the creaming 3 tablespoons of coffee (using any flavor of coffee, just do not use instant) so the topping is mocca. Mix the two creams together well and top meringues. Sprinkle finely chopped almonds if desired. The mocca cream is of the appearance of divinity. PEN

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