Back to Basics: Czech Ptacky

At home, the experimentation continues with sous vide, but thankfully on other nights, there’s been a stark contrast to the new age cooking techniques. We’ve been bringing back old world flavors. Jan has been working for some time to recreate some traditional favorites his Grandma used to make for him in the Czech Republic when he was small. The latest, and one of my new favorites in addition to the fried cheese (link here) is Ptacky.

Ptáčky (pronounced tach-key) is Czech for bird because the brightly colored sausage, pickle and mustard stuffed inside a piece of flattened beef resembles a bird, even though there is no bird in it. Once rolled, the beef is tied and cooked like a stew. Continue reading

The Smorgasbord

Cheese and crackers aren’t supposed to be exciting. But call it a Smörgåsbord and suddenly, Jan and I are in. It’s the go-to supper when we don’t really feel like cooking or going out. But it’s also not the meal to make if we’re feeling lazy either, as we typically spend a good deal of time slicing every type of meat or cheese currently in our refrigerator.

Growing up, the Smorgasbord was the typical Christmas Eve dinner in my family. In additional to meats, cheeses, crackers and breads, we’d add special items like smoked Salmon and homemade Swedish meatballs. We’d also make sure to have pickled herring on hand, which I loved as a kid, that is, before I realized that it was pickled fish swimming in a sour cream sauce. Though I went through many years disgusted by it, I’m now slowing letting the little jar back into my life.

And now, even minus the excitement of impending Christmas-present-opening, this dinner is so much fun. Maybe because we have a soft spot for the appetizers-for-dinner meal, or creating each little bite at the table makes us take our time enjoying dinner. I think the best part is trying different combinations and determining the best.

Clockwise from top: spreadable Port cheese, blue cheese, Gruyere, Dubliner, Muenster, double-cream Brie, and Swiss in the center

This last time, Jan raved about the prosciutto paired with aged Parmesan, while I was smitten with the Black Forest Ham and Swiss Cheese on Black Rye bread. While Jan got creative with his presentation, drizzling balsamic vinegar over a log of goat cheese and sprinkling chopped fresh basil on top, I took it one step further and spread this mixture on a slice of Granny Smith apple for a surprisingly tasty combination.

 While some items make it back for another Smorgasbord dinner, each of these meals is never the same, and maybe that’s why it’s so exciting. Something traditional and simple can sometimes lead to innovation, if we’re willing to try something new.

Pears, Fuji apples, and strawberries

Stockholm sunrise

As Jan’s been busy working on his latest project to build his own sous vide machine (adventures in sous vide cooking to come soon), I’ve been immersing myself in the wood-paneled world of Mad Men. In that vein, I decided another cocktail was appropriate, this one of my own invention. I’ve modified the Tequila Sunrise to my particular tastes, replacing tequila with vodka and grenadine with cranberry juice.

The Stockholm Sunrise

Take a glass filled with ice cubes and add 1.5 shots of vodka (see my measuring and drink-mixing tips here). Fill to within 1/2 an inch from the top of the glass with orange juice. Then add a splash of cranberry juice to the top and enjoy.