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

All Problems Solved with a Bit of Fried Cheese

Smažený sýr (I attempt to pronounce it like the Czechs as smah-jeh-knee seer) is a dish that Jan and I ate every day that we were in the Czech Republic. This probably doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that it is basically a steak-sized portion of breaded and deep-fried cheese, often served with french fries, braised cabbage, and a tartar-type sauce. I had never experienced this cheesy goodness until visiting the Czech Republic, and it didn’t sound appealing to me when Jan described it to me beforehand. But, it was so amazing, whenever we sat down at a restaurant to eat there, that had to be one of the dishes we ordered.

Upon our return, Jan assured me that we were safe from continuing our overindulgence in smažený sýr at home, since he’d tried multiple times to make it and it never turned out right.

Well, we were safe for a while. Some time later we ate at San Francisco’s Cafe Prague, and Jan got to talking to one of the chefs there. The two began speaking in Czech so rapidly that I couldn’t even pick out the five Czech words I knew (which include the essentials: beer, ice cream, good, bad, and cheese = syr). Later, Jan reported to me the most important part of their conversation: the secret to making smažený sýr, or fried cheese. Continue reading