Saturday, December 27, 2008


The true meaning of Christmas is not presents, nor is it the birth of Jesus. It is bûche de noël.

A bûche de noël from Marquet Patisserie

Photo courtesy of my father.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Italy Addendum: Ordering Food in Italian Restaurants

I used to be confused about the structure of Italian meals. I had read some authoritative sentence that sounded like this: "In Italy, pasta is eaten not as a main course but rather as a small appetizer prior to it." Back when I read that my appetite was large enough that eating a meal of some appetizers, pasta, meat, and dessert didn't strike me as crazy. But a meal like that with restaurant-sized portions would be crazy. (And don't blame it on American portions: Italian dishes were about the same size as American ones.)

So, here's my bid at a new authoritative sentence on how to order at Italian restaurants: "In Italy, pasta is eaten in a separate course from meat and fish. You can have one course or the other or both, and you can share dishes in either course." I always like sharing, and apparently so do Italians. We had a representative meal in Ancona. Three of us had two antipasti, two pastas, and one thing from the fish menu, which was a good amount of food.

Italy, Day 15, 6/29/2008

  • breakfast: typical
  • lunch at Trattoria Tre Torri: eggplant "bruschetta"; casoncelli (pasta stuffed with a meaty paste); polenta cake
  • dinner: airport sandwiches

Eggplant "bruschetta" was tomato, Parmesan cheese, and dried oregano on slices of grilled eggplant. (Incidentally, all the oregano I encountered on the trip was dried. All the other herbs were always fresh.) The casoncelli were small pasta stuffed with a pink paste that seemed to include prosciutto. They were served with a sauce of bacon and fried sage. The dish was terrific, especially the sage.

After lunch we bought one of the many small cakes sitting in a bakery window. It was made of polenta and had a thick layer of chocolate frosting, and as you'd expect from something made of coarse cornmeal and chocolate, it was delicious.

We ate some sandwiches at the airport. Even airport food is good in Italy!

Trattoria Tre Torri
Piazza Mercato Del Fieno, 7/A
24129 Bergamo (BG), Italy

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Italy, Day 14, 6/28/2008

  • breakfast: typical
  • lunch: mozzarella, tomato, lettuce sandwich; torta di verdure
  • dinner: polenta with cheese and mushrooms (antipasto); grilled pork tenderloin with rosemary and deep-fried squash flowers; vegetables with sesame seeds

Torta di verdure--vegetable cake--was a spinach pie with a thin, flaky crust. We ate it on our train journey to Bergamo, which suffered all sorts of delays (typical of all the trains we rode in Italy).

We finally got to Bergamo and walked around a bit. It's a nice town, especially for one that no Americans have heard of. It has an old town on a hill and a new town (still pretty old) below. I failed at finding a restaurant for dinner, and we ended up back at our bed and breakfast, which was also a restaurant.

The polenta with mushrooms was a traditional dish from Bergamo. The polenta had a much stronger corn flavor than it does when I make it. The pork was good but a little dry. The squash flowers mostly tasted like deep-fried batter, but it was very good batter. The vegetables were shockingly bad.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Italy, Day 13, 6/27/2008

  • breakfast: the usual, plus a lemon granita from La Scogliera
  • lunch from Focacceria Antonio: focaccia, walnut cake
  • dinner from La Cantina de Mananan: mixed seafood antipasto; pasta with pesto; mozzarella with tomato, capers, olives, and oregano; fruit with gelato

I got a lemon granita at La Scogliera, and it was the best granita I had ever had. It was a refreshing, icy lemonade, like the Italian ice at Court Pastry but with a thinner consistency and a much stronger flavor.

We had made a reservation for dinner at La Cantina de Mananan. Giovanna was excited that when she gave her name, she didn't have to spell it. The restaurant had placemats advising us in English and German that Parmesan cheese doesn't go with seafood, that pesto doesn't go with pepper (who knew!), and that it is not appropriate to drink cappuccino after dinner. One frenzied man was the waiter for the entire restaurant. The antipasto had two delicious bits of smoked fish, two anchovies, some fish marinated in oil, capers, and lemon juice, and two shrimp with sweet, moist meat served in dark tomato sauce.

The pesto was exactly what pesto should be. The pasta was the weirdest shape I've ever seen (I forget its name, unfortunately). They were flat squares, about two-by-two inches, and one side was covered in little bubbles. They looked almost exactly like boiled pieces of pork skin (don't ask how I know that).

The gelato in our dessert wasn't vanilla but fior di latte--milk-flavored. It tasted like milk with no other flavor, and I think I liked it more than vanilla.

A roof with rocks and a satellite dish

La Scogliera
Via Fegina, 222
19016 Monterosso Al Mare (SP)

Focacceria Antonio
Via Fegina, 124
19016 Monterosso Al Mare (SP)

La Cantina de Mananan
Via Fieschi, 117
19010 Corniglia (SP)

Italy, Day 12, 6/26/2008

  • breakfast: pastry with raisins
  • lunch: roll with spinach; stromboli-like thing with tomato, mozzarella, and ham
  • dinner: prosciutto and melon; trofie (worm-shaped pasta) with pesto and zucchini; ravioli with lobster

We bought breakfast at a trendy pastry shop in Bologna. Giovanna had a croissant stuffed with hazelnut cream, which was as good as it sounds.

We had an hour layover in Parma on our way to the Cinque Terre, five towns within walking distance of each other on the Mediterranean coast. We found a shop selling focaccia and other things resembling pizza. We got a roll that looked like a Chinese pork bun. It actually was kind of similar, but stuffed with spinach flavored with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar.

We arrived in Corniglia, the middle town of the Cinque Terre, and we walked down the coast to two other towns. Things got more and more touristy, but it seemed appropriate for such a beautiful coast to be a little bit touristy. The restaurant we ate at was half good, in unexpected ways. In our prosciutto and melon, the melon was perfect, and a perfect melon is a surprise even in Italy. But the prosciutto was bad, which for Italy is an even bigger surprise. The ravioli with lobster were outstanding, though they were actually ricotta-spinach ravioli in tomato sauce with half of a little lobster on the side. On the other hand, the pesto dish was terrible. It had mushy strips of zucchini with the same texture as an overcooked potato and about as much flavor too.

The coast around the Cinque Terre

Italy, Day 11, 6/25/2008

  • breakfast: bread, honey
  • lunch: sandwich with prosciutto, sheep's cheese, and roasted eggplant and zucchini; peach granita
  • dinner: pasta filled with potato with guanciale and chives; lasagna with little vegetables

Our afternoon in Bologna was taken up by a search for somewhere to stay. We had booked a room, but when we got to the listed address, there was no sign of any hotel. We went to a tourist office for help and someone there was friendly enough to walk down with us and ring some buzzers. She managed to find our (entirely unmarked) hotel, but the man on the other end of the buzzer said that he wasn't the owner and couldn't let us in. We had to call Giancarlo, the owner. We already had called him several times--his cell phone was turned off--and so we gave up and looked for something new (we hadn't paid a deposit or anything). We ended up with a cheap room in a hotel that looked exactly like a college dorm. It was incredibly hot, but it housed us for a night. Some time while we were wondering around with our bags taking care of this, I managed to get myself a peach granita. It seemed to be just pureed peach and ice, and was very refreshing, though not particularly intense.

At dinner we had small triangular pasta (bigger than tortellini, smaller than ravioli) stuffed with potato, kind of like pierogis. The sauce was chives, very crispy guanciale (cured pork cheek--similar to bacon), and lots of butter. The lasagna had little pieces of zucchini, carrots, and I tihnk some other vegetables, and lots of Béchamel sauce.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Italy, Day 10, 6/24/2008

  • breakfast: bread, honey, jam, peanut butter
  • lunch: prosciutto sandwich and gelato
  • dinner at La Cantineta: cold fish antipasto; mussels and clams in tomato sauce antipasto; orecchiette with shrimp and cuttlefish; tagliole (long, thin pasta) with seafood; roasted seafood; lemon sorbet

We packed sandwiches and left in the morning for a beach in Sirolo, a small town on the Adriatic. After a day there, we got some gelato and came back to Ancona. Despite Italian food's superiority over Hungarian food, I preferred Hungarian ice cream. Gelato and fagylalt (i.e., Hungarian ice cream) are similar to each other; both are lighter and less creamy than American ice cream. I thought most gelato felt unnaturally (and unpleasantly) slick in my mouth. Giovanna did not agree.

The beach in Sirolo

Back in Ancona, Chiara took us to a seafood restaurant called La Cantineta. She took forever to translate the menu for us because she gave us a detailed description of every pasta shape. According to her (and perhaps to all Italians?) the shape of the pasta was as important as what was on it.

The cold fish antipasto had a lot of different things: a single shrimp with an intense flavor; a piece of smoked salmon; anchovies marinated in lemon juice; and arugula with what I think was cuttlefish. Our other antipasto, mussels and tiny clams in tomato sauce, was delicious.

Both pastas were great and achieved a miraculous chewiness. When I cook either dried or fresh pasta, it goes from uncooked to cooked without passing through such a chewy stage. (Apparently the intermediate value theorem does not apply to pasta.)

The seafood in the one secondo that we got consisted of a few mild white fish and some crayfish. All were covered in coarse breadcrumbs, including the crayfish, which needed to be shelled, rendering most of its breadcrumbs irrelevant. The different fishes were all good, and I have no idea what any of them were. After this I had lemon sorbet, which was essentially thick, icy lemonade, served with a straw. It was one of the best meals I had in Italy, and it made up for my year in landlocked Hungary with no seafood.

La Cantineta
Via A. Gramsci, 1/C
60121 Ancona (AN)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Italy, Day 9, 6/23/2008

  • breakfast: bread and jam
  • lunch at Ristorante Clemente: fried dough; farro salad; roasted eggplant; sun-dried tomatoes; cured meats; warm ricotta; mashed potatoes that were crunchy on top; gnocchi with zucchini, saffron, and salt cod; ravioli with ricotta, tomato sauce, and basil; sfalgione mousse; puff pastry with cream; warm apple cake
  • dinner: pasta salad with pickled vegetables, asiago, and ham

We went with Fabrizio and Maria to Ristorante Clemente. We started with an enormous antipasto course and an excellent bottle of Montepulciano red wine from Abruzzo. The farro salad was made of cooked farro--like barley but not as chewy--with cherry tomatoes and basil. The mashed potatoes were put in a casserole dish, covered with breadcrumbs and baked to make a crunchy top. After this came the pasta dishes, one after another. They were flawless. Salt cod goes nicely with zucchini, livening it up. Dessert was great too, and it came with a glass of delicious, sweet white wine. I set the automatic Google translator on the restaurant's menu, with hilarious results.

Ovid's Square in Sulmona

In the afternoon we moved on to Ancona, a port town with lots of immigrants. We stayed with Chiara, who had been an exchange student living with Giovanna's family 18 years ago. She showed us how to make "cold pasta": cook the pasta less than usual; drain it and run cold water over it; add vegetables, ham, cheese, and olives if you want them; put the entire dish in the freezer for five minutes.

Ristorante Clemente
Vicolo Quercia, 5
67039 Sulmona (AQ)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Italy, Day 8, 6/22/2008

  • breakfast: bread and jam
  • lunch: fusilli with pesto; turkey cutlets with tomato sauce; salad; strawberries with sugar and lemon
  • dinner: cured meat, cheese, marinated mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts; rosticini (grilled lamb skewers); cheese, roasted vegetables; cheesecake with strawberries, cheesecake with mosto cotto, tiramisù

We had lunch with Giovanna's family again. The turkey cutlets were coated with the thinnest layer of tomato sauce.

In the afternoon Fabrizio and his wife Maria got back from the U.S. Despite his jetlag, Fabrizio was full of manic energy and declared that he had to keep doing things or he'd fall asleep. So we all drove up to see the cave where Pope Celestine V--the only man to ever turn down the papacy--lived before he was pope. (After he was pope, he issued a papal decree declaring the pope's power to abdicate and then promptly abdicated, according to Wikipedia.) We also saw the house that was supposedly Ovid's.

Looking down on Sulmona

Next we drove back into town to go to a restaurant, but it turned out to be closed. So we drove to another restaurant--also closed--and then on to another and another. The problem? Italy was playing Spain in soccer, and since everyone would be home watching, almost no restaurants bothered to open. After an our of searching, we ended up at a place in the nearby town Raiano. (They stayed open because they had a television.) We had rosticini, little skewers of grilled lamb so thin that almost all of it was crisp and charred. Each skewer cost €0.50 and five of them made a good portion.

After dinner we went down the street to a bar specializing in rum, where we got cocktails and dessert. The cheesecakes were in the American style but a bit less dense than usual. One had an intense layer of strawberry gel, and the other had mosto cotto, grape must cooked down into a sweet, slightly bitter syrup. The crust tasted exactly like graham cracker crust, though it was actually traditional to the region and entirely homemade. Fabrizio, who makes his living as some sort of consultant on desserts--he used to own a gelateria--had a long conversation with the chef critiquing what we had eaten. I don't know what he said, but the desserts were good enough that it must have been hard to come up with any criticism.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Italy, Day 7, 6/21/2008

  • breakfast: roll
  • lunch: penne with tomato sauce; turkey cutlet fried in bread crumbs with red pepper jam; home-canned vegetables in a sweet and sour sauce; waffles with fig jam
  • dinner: bruschetta with tomato and basil, with "truffle" spread, and with artichoke spread; pizza with mozzarella, tomato sauce, walnut cream, and arugula

We had lunch with Elisabetta and Lucia. The best part of the meal was the homemade red pepper jam. The vegetables were also delicious, crunchy and tasting slightly pickled (or maybe that was just the vinegar in their sauce). Must learn to can!

We went to a pizzeria for dinner with Elisabetta. There are many possible pizza flaws. Here are some of them, in case you ever want to make a pizza scorecard:

  1. doughy crust
  2. flavorless crust
  3. soggy crust
  4. bad tomato sauce
  5. overly thick layer of low-quality cheese
  6. low-quality toppings
  7. poor taste in toppings

This list more or less describes Hungarian pizza, especially #7 (ketchup on pizza, anyone?). This pizza was guilty of #3, #5, and most egregiously, #6. It's shocking in Italy to get mushrooms as bad as the ones Giovanna got on her pizza. I think they were canned, and not in the good way like the vegetables at lunch. My pizza was a bit better. The walnut cream had a great flavor that went nicely with the arugula. And arugula on pizza is so great that U.S. pizzerias should adopt it. (Potential imitators: add the arugula after the pizza is cooked, so it only wilts a tiny bit.)

Before the pizza we had bruschette, which were soggy in the middle. I don't know what truffles taste like, but the truffle spread tasted like bad olives to me. I don't think its truffle content was very high.

A fountain in Sulmona

Italy, Day 6, 6/20/2008

Special guest post!

As Toby was suffering from his regular vacation illness (it first struck in New Orleans, then Prague and Munich, and now Italy), I faced our first homecooked Italian meal alone. We went to Sulmona to visit Fabrizio, a very distant cousin of mine, and arrived to find he was stuck in America. Even from America, though, he arranged our hotel room and generously footed the bill! Luckily there were other relatives to show us around. His sister Elisabetta invited us over for dinner cooked by their mother Lucia. Lucia is quite the cook (well, maybe just an average Italian one given my experience with the Italian cuisine).

Upon stepping foot in their apartment, I was reminded of the Italian custom of harassment (it’s at least a custom for the old Italian women I've met in Sulmona). They (mostly Lucia, and only in Italian) repeatedly harassed me for not knowing Italian (‘why hasn’t your mother taught you, even though you’ve been an ocean away struggling with the Hungarian language?’), for the ridiculousness of the English language (as it’s clearly my fault it’s written one way and spoken another), for my brother’s apparent lack of interest in Italy (which was evident to Lucia, though not to me, from the fact that he wasn’t traveling with me), and even for my father’s failure to master Italian. But I was most frequently harassed for not eating enough. Granted, it’s wonderful food, but there’s a limit to how much your body can take. So, while they pressured me to eat more, I tried to figure out how to avoid joining Toby on the sick bed.

Despite the ridicule, the meal was quite pleasant. We first had gato di patate (which is not ‘cat of potato’ as I first interpreted, but the French gateau, not that I’m familiar with that). It was like a fritatta, but, to my knowledge, eggless. It had a base of potatoes (of course), some kind of cheese (if Toby had been there you’d probably know what kind), prosciutto and mortadella. It was delicious, though quite creamy and filling. It was followed by one of my Italian favorites, prosciutto e melone. The homemade, natural meal was concluded by Magnum ice cream bars (a strange choice in my opinion in the country of gelato). My accomplishment for the evening was getting away with not finishing my ice cream bar.--Giovanna

Italy, Day 5, 6/19/2008

  • breakfast: the usual
  • lunch: cheese; sandwich with bresaola, eggplant, pecorino, eggplant, and arugula
  • dinner at Hotel Pinguino: gnocchi with tomato sauce; roast beef; roasted potatoes; roasted peppers; crema Catalana

The owner of our hotel in Pescasseroli was a wonderful woman who helped us out with everything, despite barely speaking English. She drove us out into the Abruzzo National Park and picked us up there at the end of the day. In between, we hiked all over the park. We stopped in the town of Citadella at lunch for sandwiches and a plate with two types of cheese. The first was forgettable, but the other one was sharp and tangy and came slathered with honey.

We ate dinner at our hotel, where the friendly owner cooked for us and a huge group of children. The gnocchi were pleasantly pillowy, and the beef was juicy and tender.

Hotel Pinguino
via Collacchi, 2
67032 Pescasseroli (AQ)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Italy, Day 4, 6/18/2008

  • breakfast: pastry, cappuccino, fruit
  • lunch: bruschette with tapenade, roasted peppers, roasted pepper dip, sausage, and ham; olives; Campari and soda
  • dinner: cheese plate; pasta alla chitarra; ravioli with eggplant in tomato sauce; broccoli; tiramisù

Our day's trip was from L'Aquila to Pescasseroli, and to get there we had to switch buses in Avezzano, a town that I'll always remember for its ugliness. (Ugliness stands out in Italy.) We found a bar for lunch while we waited for our bus. Behind the counter they had some nice-looking plates of toast, spreads, and focaccia. When I ordered one, the bartender said something about "un aperitivo" and when we shook our heads, she fetched an English speaker who thought about the translation for a second, looked confused, and then asked us if we wanted an aperitif. Apparently, the plate came with one, because he insisted that we have one. We brought the plate and my Campari and soda (it came in a pre-mixed bottle, like a soda) back to our table. Before we had sat down, the bartender brought us a bowl of olives. As we ate, more and more things were delivered to our table. First there were some extra pieces of focaccia, then some extra toasts, and finally an orange dip that tasted like roasted red peppers. We tried to turn down each of these when they brought them since we worried we'd be charged for each of them. When we were done, Giovanna went to the register to pay. The total price? Four euros, including the drink.

After an afternoon hiking to the Castel Mancino--or actually, an afternoon wondering around Pescasseroli looking for the trail that went there--we were hungry. We found a restaurant whose menu was scribbled on a piece of graph paper out front. The cheese plate we started with had two hard cheeses and some jam, and this satisfied our immediate hunger. Giovanna's pasta was really terrific: a bright, fruity tomato sauce on top of ravioli stuffed with eggplant. My pasta was good, too. It's traditional to Abruzzo, as I read in many tourist pamphlets. Here's an article from the New York Times about it. Each strand of pasta was long and rectangular with funny little bumps. It was wonderfully chewy, something I've never been able to achieve in my own homemade pasta. The sauce was made from oil, pancetta, and an enormous amount of pepper. It didn't look like much but it was incredibly flavorful. Last we had some broccoli, which was served as its own course because I hadn't quite figured out all the details of Italian dining. (More about that later.) A broccoli course is silly, but it was delicious, garlicky broccoli.

This restaurant was tiny and completely abandoned. Unfortunately, I have no idea what its name was or where it was, and I cannot direct you to this undiscovered gem. But if you're in Pescasseroli and see a tiny, empty restaurant with a handwritten menu, you should go there.

Italy, Day 3, 6/17/2008

  • breakfast: cappuccino and pastry; fruit
  • lunch: porchetta sandwich
  • dinner: prosciutto and melon; pizza with olives, anchovies, oregano, tomato, mozzarella; pizza with tomato sauce and raw cherry tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella, and corn from Pizzeria Ristorante da Nonna Cristina

Porchetta--a whole pig deboned and roasted on a spit--is the perfect combination of pig parts: juicy meat for depth, herb-scented fat for richness, and crispy skin for, well, crispiness. Some arugula would have been nice on the sandwich to cut into the porchetta's saltiness, but the place in the market where I got the sandwich only had meat and rolls.

The pizza at dinner wasn't particularly good. The memorable thing about the meal was how the France-Italy soccer game had transformed the restaurant. A projector beamed the game onto a wall, and the patrons had moved their chairs to the same side of the tables to watch it. We left in the middle of the second half. The waitstaff thought we were crazy.

A church in L'Aquila

Pizzeria Ristorante Da Nonna Cristina
Via Paganica, 36
67100 L'Aquila (AQ)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Italy, Day 2, 6/16/2008

  • breakfast: cappuccino and brioche
  • lunch: spinach and mozzarella sandwich
  • dinner from Ristorante Ernesto: plate of local cured meat; lamb with saffron and artichokes; saffron pudding; fruit

On the metro as we were going to the bus station, we saw a large family speaking Hungarian. After a few minutes, I got up the courage to talk to them in Hungarian. They were bemused by the sight of two Americans speaking Hungarian in Italy. Two of them turned out to speak excellent English, which made communication easier. They were actually from Transylvania, not Hungary. Their summary of Rome compared to eastern Europe: "It's a different world here."

We bought our bus tickets and sat down in a cafe for lunch. I got a sandwich with beautiful cooked spinach and mozzarella. The spinach had some red pepper flakes mixed in with it. Giovanna had a sandwich with prosciutto, pecorino romano, and lettuce, which reminded me that pecorino has plenty of uses besides grating.

We spent the afternoon walking around L'Aquila on the routes designated by our tourist map, which were designed to show us all the sights. These were mostly churches from the 14th-16th centuries, along with a lovely 13th century fountain.

The Fountain of the 99 Spouts

We started dinner at Ristorante Ernesto with a wooden tray of cured meat, including a dense, black liver sausage that tasted alternatively bad, good, and then bad again, as Giovanna said. Our next course was lamb in a lemony sauce with saffron, rosemary, and artichoke hearts, which tasted as good as it sounds. Alongside this, we had beautiful tomato wedges, pink tinged with green, served with olive oil and basil. My dessert was basically panna cotta that was bright yellow, with some currants on top. The fruit plate wasn't great. But besides it and the liver sausage (which I'm sure some people would have liked a lot), everything we had was terrific.

Ristorante Ernesto
Piazza Palazzo, 22
67100 L'Aquila (AQ)

Italy, Day 1, 6/15/2008

  • lunch: pizza with zucchini; pizza with mushrooms and sausage
  • dinner from Fratelli la Bufala: stewed buffalo with arugula and mozzarella; pasta with a creamy tomato-basil sauce and two kinds of buffalo milk cheese

The most exciting part of our day's transportation was the taxi ride from the Fiumicino airport. On two-lane roads, our taxi driver invented a third lane for himself. Whenever a red light stopped the flow of traffic, he used his imaginary lane to skip to the front of the stopped cars. When the light changed, he sped ahead of them.

After we saw the ruins at Ostia Antica, which were so extensive we got lost in them, we went to a pizzeria for lunch. They sold their pizza by the weight. Our two slices were covered with nicely charred mozzarella. One had zucchini on it and the other had mushrooms and sausages. Neither had tomatoes. The crust was thin, oily, and crunchy. The pizza wasn't especially good for Italy nor was it especially fresh. Nevertheless, it's probably better than any pizza you could find in Hungary. The vegetables in particular were delicious.

A mosaic in Ostia Antica

A mosaic in Ostia Antica

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. The neighborhood didn't have many restaurants, but we found one that looked nice whose specialty was water buffalo. All the meat on the menu was water buffalo; all the dairy came from water buffalo milk, including the ice cream. The stewed buffalo meat was lean but still tender, with a flavor like beef but stronger. Apparently Hungarians like it too, though I never saw it available there at any butchers or restaurants.

When I looked up the address of Fratelli la Bufala, I discovered it's a big chain that even has a location in Miami. See, even chains are good in Italy!

Fratelli la Bufala
Via delle Antille, 41
00121 Rome

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Meggyes Muffins

Recently I've seen a lot of fruit that had previously existed to me only as names. At our market there have been gooseberries, red currants, and the star of this post, sour cherries. I bought some of them out of curiosity and discovered that they are rather sour. As I was awash in sweet cherries, I didn't want to eat the sour ones raw. And so, I made muffins. I used my normal oatmeal muffin recipe, with one exception: I separated the eggs and beat the whites, and I think it made the muffins especially light and fluffy. This makes twelve normal-sized muffins.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 pound sour cherries
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbs.) butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter a muffin tin.

Combine all the dry ingredients except for one tablespoon of sugar and mix. Mix in the butter, the milk, and the two egg yolks.

Pit the sour cherries, put them in a bowl, and combine them with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Add them to the batter.

Beat the egg whites till they hold soft peaks, and fold them into the batter. Put the batter into the muffin tin and bake until the muffins are brown on top, a bit more than 20 minutes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Spinach and Inedible Mushroom Salad

Two of the first signs of spring in Hungary were wild mushrooms and spinach. And unlike the spinach I bought in September, this spinach raw didn't cause a burning sensation in my throat. I washed the spinach, cooked the mushrooms with some wine, combined them, and dressed it all with a soy sauce dressing like I'd seen my aunt use on a spinach salad. The results were excellent.

I wanted to find out what kind of mushrooms I had used before I posted this recipe. The old lady who sold me the mushrooms told me they were called szegfűgomba. I googled this to find the mushroom's latin name, marasmius wynnei. A bit more googling told me that in English it went by pearly parachute and violetter schwindling. It also informed that this mushroom is inedible. Luckily for me, the same mushroom in Hungarian is a "[j]ó ehető gomba, amelyet - bár kicsiny - érdemes gyűjteni"--a good, edible mushroom, which though small is worth collecting. The Hungarians are onto something because it was indeed good, with a deep, meaty flavor. Just to make all you people stuck in the U.S. jealous, let me mention that wild porcini--vargányagomba--are only $4.32/pound here, and chantarelles--rókagomba--are just $6.61 a pound. But then you have dryers, which starts to make up for it.

I'm giving weights for the spinach and mushrooms, but I'm not sure of them and you should just use your judgment. But take into account that mushrooms really shrink a lot when you cook them. My amounts for the dressing are also guesses because I can't remember how much of everything I ended up using. But that's probably good, since some soy sauces are stronger than others and you'd have to adjust anyway. This is for two people.

  • 1/3 pound spinach, washed
  • 1/3 pound mushrooms, cut into one-inch pieces--if the mushrooms are small, like szegfűgomba, you don't have to cut them at all
  • 2 tbs. white wine
  • 1 tbs. olive oil or butter
  • salt, pepper


  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 3 tbs. olive oil

In a big pan, heat the oil or butter and add the mushrooms, wine, and salt. Cook over high heat until all the liquid--the wine and the juice that the mushrooms will release after a few minutes--is gone, which will take about 15 minutes. Once the mushrooms are cooking in fat, turn down the heat a bit, stir occasionally, and let the mushrooms brown. Put them over the spinach.

Mix up the dressing. I always do this in a jar. Taste, adjust, and mix it into the salad.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I'm moving to Seattle next year, where I will be attending the University of Washington in pursuit of a Ph.D. in mathematics. So, goodbye to túró, goose fat, and lard, and hello to oysters, salmon, and goat. But I'm still in Hungary now, and a year's worth of sparerib experiments have finally led me to this recipe.

Most recipes I've seen for cooking ribs in the oven tell you to cook it for about two hours at 300 degrees. I hoped that by lowering the temperature, I could make ribs that were more like barbecue. The result may not be smoky, but it is tender. This recipe makes enough for seven or eight people, and it takes about 6 hours.

  • 4 pounds spareribs

Dry rub:

  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. black pepper


  • 3/4 cup black currant jelly
  • 4 tsps. mustard
  • 1 tbs. vinegar
  • 1 tbs. ketchup

One day before you plan to cook the ribs, mix up all the ingredients for the dry rub and rub it all over the meat. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Cook the meat for five hours in a 225 degree oven. (200 degrees would probably be better, but 225 is the lowest that my oven can maintain, besides room temperature. If you do lower the temperature, cook it a little bit longer.)

After five hours, mix up the glaze and put it on the meat. Cook another 20 minutes. Turn on the broiler (or if you don't have one, like me, just turn the oven up all the way) and cook until he glaze begins to bubble. You should be paranoid about not burning it. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes before you cut the ribs apart. Eat with your hands.

Other flavors of jam work fine too, especially apricot. The ribs are also good with no glaze at all.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Finally, here's a Hungarian recipe, as demonstrated to us by the Fehér household. It's really easy, so long as you have an open fire and a some big hunks of smoked fat from the belly of a pig.

  • slices of bread
  • sliced tomato, cucumber, wax peppers, hot peppers, and red onions
  • smoked pork fat (füstölt szalonna)

Put the hunks of fat on skewers. Hold them over the fire till the fat begins to drip. Let it drip onto the bread. Repeat until each slice of bread is thoroughly covered with fat. Put the vegetables onto the bread; they should only overlap a little bit. Drip more fat on them. Consume.

When we were done with the fat, we watched as the Fehérs dipped it still smoldering into a bowl of water, cooking it through. We cut it up and put some of it on the bread as well. It tasted something like the fat on the side of a piece of duck breast--first you get the crunch from the toasted exterior, and then you get soft, rich fat.

Friday, April 18, 2008


The weather here has turned warm. The last laggardly trees finally have some leaves. And yet the only culinary signs of spring are some pretty heads of lettuce. Instead of strawberries and asparagus, I'll give you a recipe made up entirely of dry things that have been sitting in your pantry for months.

Poor barley! Everybody's pantry contains rice--probably several varieties, even--but nobody's contains barley, except maybe in the form of beer. Plain boiled barley is every bit as good as plain rice. It takes about twenty minutes longer and you should use three times as much water as barley. This recipe is a bit more elaborate, but not very. It takes an hour or so and serves four. And it makes better leftovers than rice.

  • 1 cup barley
  • 2/3 cup dried mushrooms
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 tsp. plus a bit more salt
  • 1 tbs. duck fat or olive oil

Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and put the mushrooms in it. Let them re-hydrate while you chop the onion. Choose a pot big enough to hold all the ingredients and heat it over medium-low heat. After a minute, add the onions and some salt, and cover the pot. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring every two or three minutes and making sure the onions don't burn. After these ten minutes, add the oil or other fat and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the onions until they are very brown, stirring nearly constantly to keep them from burning. (I heard that cooking onions initially without fat causes them to carmelize more quickly, but I don't really know if it's true. If you don't believe in this, then just cook with fat from the beginning.) Add the barley and cook for another minute, stirring. Add the mushrooms along with the water to the pot. Add the tsp. of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down. Cook until the barley is tender, 30-40 minutes. You may need to add more water.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

  • breakfast: challah
  • lunch: ham & cheese burek; cabbage strudel; squash and poppy seed strudel; layered strudel
  • dinner: fogas (pike-perch) with mushroom sauce

This day's burek, from Rétes Háza, was good but didn't compare to yesterday's. It just didn't taste as fresh. The cabbage strudel tasted like a spring roll. The squash and poppy seed strudel, on the other hand, was a dessert, and a good one. Try some poppy seeds in your pie at Thanksgiving! At the very least you'll get a colorful dessert.

The place next door, Virág Cukrászda, was a highly touted bakery. I tried their layered strudel, which was made of all the greatest hits of Hungarian pastries: sour cherry, poppy seed, and túró. They combined to exactly the sum of their parts, which was enough. The bakery had a sign advertising "cooked ice cream," and we were expecting something like baked Alaska, but it turned out just to mean their ice cream was homemade. Giovanna had some, and it was top-notch.

For dinner we went to the Roosevelt Téri Halászcsárda for some more fish. My fogas--a mild white fish always translated as pike-perch--wasn't very good. I didn't know then that fogas isn't a river fish! Giovanna did better with catfish, which was delicious and must have come from the Tisza, the river that flows through Szeged.

Roosevelt Téri Halászcsárda
Roosevelt tér 14

Rétes Háza
Klauzál tér 2

Virág Cukrászda
Klauzál tér 1

Friday, April 04, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

  • breakfast: túrós burek
  • snack: fruit and poppy seed candy; apple-cinnamon mulled white wine; orange mulled red wine
  • lunch: chicken soup with noodles and carrots (csontleves)
  • dinner: peas and paneer; basmati rice; naan; a mango lassi; tea

As we studied the pastry case at Burek Pékség, a man walked in and ordered what turned out to be a burek. It was made up of layers of dough. In the burek's moist interior they tasted like pasta, but on its outside they were crisp and brown. They came in six flavors: túró (a fresh curd cheese), meat, ham and cheese, cabbage, sour cherry, and apple. We got túró, which unusually was savoury rather than sweet. It was an unusual pastry for Hungary. Not so atypical was the portion size: even though Giovanna and I shared it, it was about twice as much as I wanted.

We guessed that the burek was Serbian since we had never heard of it before and its name doesn't sound Hungarian (it breaks vowel harmony rules, for you linguists out there). Wikipedia informed me that the burek can be found in different forms everywhere that was once part of the Ottoman empire. It was good, rich, but at least for me a bit overwhelming at breakfast. We also bought a loaf of challah for future eating, since it seemed to be a specialty of the place. (Challah is ubiquitous in Hungary, and nobody associates it with Judaism.)

In town we found a spring fair with lots of booths. I made a bee line to the honey stand. The honey there was more expensive than my beloved Gyöngyösi honey, but it came in many intriguing varieties (honey from wild garlic flowers, anyone?). I got a little jar of chestnut honey. It's less sweet than most honey; in fact, you can even taste a bit of sourness in it, and the aftertaste is slightly bitter. At the same booth, I bought a bottle of squash seed oil. It's a traditional Hungarian salad topping that we had only ever had eating lunch with the Kiss family (their name sounds like quiche, not like a smooch). At another booth we got a candy made of fruit condensed till it weighed twice as much as you thought possible and covered with poppy seeds. It had a pleasantly sticky and chewy consistency and tasted really fruity even though I couldn't distinguish any one fruit. It was nice, though probably not worth the shocking 600 forints we paid for it. At the mulled wine booth prices reverted to the Hungarian norm, and 120 forints bought a glass of white wine mulled with apples and cinnamon that was the best mulled wine I've ever had. The mulled red wine was fine but nothing special.

Szeged is famous for its sausage and paprika, which come together at the Pick sausage factory's sausage and paprika museum. We ate lunch at the museum's restaurant. After some soup, which like all Hungarian soup was good, we tried to get a plate of Pick salami with toast. The waiter returned from the kitchen with the news that there was no toast. We reacted to this improbable news by telling him that plain bread would be fine. He looked sheepish and told us that actually they were out of salami. Luckily upon entrance to the museum, we were told that our tickets entitled us to a free plate of winter salami, Pick's most famous. The exhibit was much more informative than factory exhibits usually are. I learned that Márk Pick, the founder, was a Jew; that Hungarian meat consumption has doubled since the fall of Communism; and that winter salami is called that because before refrigeration, it could only be made then.

For dinner we went to a restaurant called Taj Mahal. The Indian food was as typical as the restaurant's name suggests (but still good!), and it was a wonderful break from Hungarian food.

Burek Pékség
Petőfi Sándor sgt. 27

Pick Salami and Szeged Paprika Museum
Felső Tisza-part 10

Taj Mahal
Gutenberg u. 12

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

  • dinner: Szegedi filézett pontyhalászzlé (Szeged sliced carp soup); a palacsinta filled with black currant jam

We departed Gyöngyös in the afternoon with the help of our new friend Tibi, who works in the power plant in Visonta. Fifteen minutes out of Gyöngyös the terrain was flat as a palacsinta. We had made it to the Puszta, the great Hungarian plain. Tibi drove us from Gyöngyös to Kiskunfélegyháza, and after a short train ride we were in Szeged. At our pension, the son of the owner was eager to talk to us in English. He sent us off to dinner with some recommendations. We ate at Matusalem, or possibly at Matuzsalem: they used both spellings in different signs around the restaurant.

Not being very hungry, we just ordered soup. Each serving of soup, however, came in a little pot that held three bowlfuls. My carp soup had big chunks of fish and little shreds too. The broth was stained red with paprika. It was the first time I had carp soup and liked it wholeheartedly. Giovanna had a rich bean soup with ham and sour cream. We ended the meal with a palacsinta filled with black currant jam. It was the typical, delicious Hungarian palacsinta.

Matusalem Étterem
Széchenyi tér 13

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Kohlrabi Salad

Kevin from the stylish new blog Food Junta says that meals don't have to be Meals--elaborate, multi-course things--and I agree. Here is a recipe that isn't a Recipe, but which I make once or twice a week. I've never eaten kohlrabi in the U.S. and don't know how widely available it is, but here it's one of the most common vegetables, and it makes a great winter salad. Use green kohlrabi! Purple kohlrabi isn't mild enough to eat raw, as I unfortunately discovered. This is for two people and takes, oh, five minutes to make.

  • one green kohlrabi (a head of kohlrabi? a ball of kohlrabi?)
  • some sort of salad dressing

Peel the kohlrabi and slice it into thin (1/8 of an inch or less) wedges. Dress.

So, what sort of dressing to use? I always use a really simple vinaigrette: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper shaken up in a jar. I bet some dill or tarragon would be nice too, but now it's starting to get fussy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Duck with Dates

I've known how to cook duck breasts for a long time--oddly, it was one of the first things I learned how to cook--but I only recently learned to cook duck legs. You can also make this with duck breasts: just fry them, slice them up, and add them to the sauce at the very end. The sauce is also good with pork chops. This is for two people.

  • 1/4 cup chopped, pitted dried dates (measure them by packing them lightly into a measuring cup after they're chopped--for me, it was eight dates)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. dry red wine
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 duck legs
  • salt, pepper

Soak the dates in the wine and put this aside. Sprinkle the legs with salt and pepper and put them skin down on a skillet over medium heat. Once they start sizzling, turn the heat down all the way and cover the skillet. Leave them like this for an hour. Check them from time to time to make sure nothing is burning. If you check and see a lot of liquid other than the melted duck fat, take the cover off for a while to let it evaporate (this has only ever happened to me once). After an hour, flip the duck over and cook for another 45 minutes, covered. Then, remove the cover and flip the duck over one more time, and turn up the heat a tiny bit. Cook for five or ten minutes to crisp up the skin, making sure you don't burn it. Remove the duck.

Pour off most of the duck fat--there will be a huge amount in the pan, and it's worth saving. Cook the onions over medium heat in this pan, stirring once in a while, and adding salt and pepper. After about ten minutes, when they're soft, add the dates and wine and turn the heat up all the way. Scrape as much as you can off the bottom of the pan and let the wine reduce until the sauce doesn't taste too winey anymore. Serve with the duck.

The times for cooking the duck are really flexible; at least, I've never overcooked duck legs, and I've cooked them for a lot longer than I said to.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Brined Pork Chops

When I was in high school I read the dining section of the New York Times every Wednesday and was always up to date on what was fashionable among the gourmet crowd. This was odd knowledge to have, because my cooking repertoire was limited to scrambled eggs and a pasta sauce made of parsley and garlic. Back then, the new craze was brining, and every week there was an article about the virtues of meat soaked in salt water. Eventually there was even a brining backlash, as people complained about the texture it gave the meat. I never persuaded my parents to brine anything, so I had to remain neutral in the great debate, until now. And so, my verdict: brining pork chops makes them tender and tasty. I got my basic brining technique from Bruce Aidell's Complete Book of Pork. He suggests many different brines, but the only essential thing is the proportion of salt and water and the temperature, which controls the rate the salt is absorbed. That's why he tells you to add ice cubes to the brine to bring it down to refrigerator temperature. This recipe is for two people and only takes fifteen minutes besides the brining.
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 2 tbs. kosher salt, or slightly less normal salt
  • 2 tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon, or a cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  • 2 pork chops
  • pepper
  • minced fresh rosemary or crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1 tbs. olive oil or lard

Mix the water, salt, and sugar in some sort of container that will fit two pork chops. (I used a pie plate. Other options are a big bowl or a zip-loc bag.) Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved and add the ice cubes, cloves, and cinnamon. Put the pork chops into the container. They should be submerged, or at least nearly so. Put this in the refrigerator for 2-6 hours, depending on the thickness of the chops. Bruce Aidell recommends that you brine 1/2 to 3/4 inch chops for 2 hours, 3/4 to 1 inch chops for 3 hours, and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch chops for 4-6 hours. I would brine conservatively, since my pork chops are often teetering on the edge of oversaltiness.

Take the pork chops out of the brine and pat them dry. Rub them with pepper and rosemary (but no salt!). Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat until the oil has just started to smoke. Cook the chops for two or three minutes a side; they should be lightly browned at this point. If the chops are thin--3/4 of an inch or less--then they're probably done. If they're thicker, turn the heat down to medium and cover the pan. Even very thick chops will probably be done in another three or four minutes. They should be 140-145 degrees and should be pink in the middle. Serve with applesauce.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Beer-Braised Brussel Sprouts

No, I can't resist alliterating. I got the idea for this from carbonnade, the Belgian beef stew made with beer. I don't have Mastering the Art of French Cooking with me, but I remember Julia Child saying that the beer gave it character, and the brown sugar smoothed out the beer. Confirming my suspicion that ingredients starting the same letter are interchangable, I replaced the beef with brussels sprouts with delicious results. This takes 20-30 minutes to make, depending on how much work your sprouts take to prepare, and it serves two.
  • 1/2 pound brussels sprouts
  • 3 tbs. dark beer
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • salt, pepper

If the sprouts need it, trim off their outer leaves and cut off their stems. Cut them in half if they're big and you have the energy for it. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet that can be covered. Add the well-salted sprouts and stir occasionally (about every thirty seconds). Grind some pepper on them. Regulate the heat to make sure they brown nicely. When they're browned all over, add the beer and brown sugar. Give it a stir, lower the heat, and cover. Cook until the sprouts have lost their crunch but are still firm, which was about seven minutes for me, though my brussels sprouts were smaller than usual.

The stew that inspired this recipe has onions in it. Maybe they would be a good addition. I'm also interested in varying the fat. Butter is the obvious choice, but I bet it would be good with goose fat or lard too.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trashy Coleslaw

This dish is a disturbing shade of pink. I call it trashy because it resembles some disturbing concoction of marshmellows and food-coloring. Despite its unusual vegetables, it's really just coleslaw. Cabbage and other traditional slaw vegetables would fit in as well, I think.

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 beet
  • 1 green kohlrabi
  • 1 celery root
  • the juice of a half lemon
  • salt, pepper, sugar, mayonnaise

Peel and grate all the vegetables. Put them in a bowl with all the other ingredients and refrigerate for an hour or two.

So, how much salt, sugar, and mayonnaise? You need a lot of salt, but I didn't measure. Maybe a half teaspoon? I used one or two tablespoons of sugar. I assume you'd want less if your beets are very sweet, which mine never are. And for the mayonnaise, just keep adding it till it looks like coleslaw, which takes a while.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cuts of Pork in Hungarian

This won't be the most interesting post, but I hope that like this list of fishes in Hungarian and English, it will be useful.

  • hosszú karaj
    blade-end loin (the part of the loin closest to the shoulder).
  • rövid karaj
    rib-end loin (the back end of the loin).
  • szűzpecsenye
  • tarja
    Boston butt (the top of the shoulder)
  • lapocka
    picnic shoulder (the top of the front leg)
  • oldalás
  • comb
    fresh ham (the back leg)
  • csülök
    hocks (the bottom of the legs)
  • tokaszalonna
    pork belly from the front of the pig
  • dagadó
    pork belly from the rear of the pig
  • farok

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lentils with Sausage

I was waiting on line at the butcher when the woman in front of me asked about the different kinds of sausage hanging in the back. She left with with a few kilos of garlic sausage. (It's rare that I see someone walk out of the butcher with fewer than two kilos of meat.) I decided to copy her and took home a link myself.

The sausage was dry but much softer than the typical cured sausage. I ate some on bread. It was dully bland; its fat took over my mouth, but without any strong flavor but a bit of smokiness. Giovanna commented that it wasn't her favorite sausage, and I wondered if it would be better cooked. We put this experiment into action. The cooked sausage made a crunchy, intense morsel. The sausage was so much better, and the difference in flavor so reminiscent of the difference between raw and cooked meat, that now I'm not sure if that sausage was intended to be eaten raw.

I adapted this from a Mark Bittman recipe by replacing its bacon with this sausage and decreasing the proportion of lentils. (Sorry to be so Mark-dependent. When I come back home, I promise to broaden my horizons a bit.) I'm not sure what to replace the sausage with if you're outside of Hungary. It should be the softest, fattiest cured sausage you can find. This makes enough for about three people, or two people with lots of leftovers. It takes 45 minutes to an hour, not counting lentil soaking time.

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 12 dkg fokhagymás páraszti kolbász or other sausage
  • 1 large onion, or 2 smaller ones
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 parsnip
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • less than 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Put the lentils, stock, the bay leaf, and some salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for two minutes and turn it off. Let the lentils soak, and refrigerate if necessary. Or skip this step.

Chop the onion, carrot, and parsnip. Cut the sausage into 1/2 inch chunks; they should be really small since the sausage is so powerful. In a medium pot, put the oil over medium heat and fry the sausage pieces, shaking them around only after they've crisped on one side. Put the sausage aside, turn the heat down slightly, and fry the vegetables in the fat that remains in the pan. Add some salt to them. After five minutes, add the lentils and stock, cover, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to maintain a simmer. The lentils should be done in about thirty minutes, though I'm not very good at estimating lentil-cooking times. Add some more stock or water if necessary. When the lentils are soft, add the lemon juice or the vinegar. Mark Bittman suggested red wine vinegar. I didn't have any, so I used white wine vinegar and unthinkingly added about a tablespoon of it, which wasn't good but didn't ruin the dish. I figure lemon juice would be good too.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Refreshing Chicken Stew

This stew is simple enough that it doesn't really need a recipe, but there's nothing wrong with that, is there? It's bright and refreshing stew, the opposite of the delicious but sour cream laden stew I enjoyed the other day at Kulacs, which is Gyöngyös's answer to Kádár. (I have no idea what benefit they get out of their website.) This recipe is for two servings and takes about an hour and a half, most of which is just the chicken cooking.

  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • a foot-long piece of leek
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1-2 parsnips
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper

Heat up half the oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown it, and then put it aside.

Cut the leek in half the long way, and then cut these halves into 1/2 inch slices. Add the rest of the oil to the pot, set the heat to medium-low, and add the leeks, plus some salt. While they cook, stir them occasionally and chop the carrots and parsnips into 1/2 inch cubes, adding them to the pot as you cut them. Put the chicken back in the pot. Add the wine, turn the heat up, and cover. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat down and put the cover partially off and maintain a simmer. (In his article about heat, Harold McGee says never to cover your pots completely when you stew meat!) Cook till the the chicken is done, adding more wine if you need to. An instant-read thermometer should say 165 when the chicken is ready. Season with pepper, and more salt if necessary.

I served this with barley, and maybe I'll say more about that eventually. I used drumsticks because they looked the nicest at the butcher. I'm sure thighs would be fine.