Friday, August 20, 2010

U Jagušky Part II starters and small plates

Let us start at the beginning. Need a small bite to whet the appetite? A little nibble to get the gastric juices flowing? I hope you are hungry. Klobása is the Czech word for sausage. This one is a wonderful pork sausage, fried with punctured skin to crisp the thick natural casings nicely. The uncooked sausage has almost a black skin. Not too fatty because of the punctured skin, it's nice and meaty. Eaten with very good mustard and some freshly grated horseradish it is divine. The horseradish is grated but doesn't have too much of a kick unless you really chew it, the longer you chew the more horseradish kick you get.

The next starter is was a piece of beef brisket. Obviously cooked very low very slow, the salty tender kick of well brined beef, overall just good quality meat that hasn't been screwed up. The brisket is basically the chest of a cow, the big chunk of meat that it rests on when it lies down. It's got huge muscle fibers and tons of collagen running through the meat, making it super tough and chewy, but if you very very slowly cook the meat at very low temperatures all of the collagen, instead of binding up into tough chewy wads, instead relaxes and turns into more of a jello like consistency between every muscle fiber, making it soft, flavorful and amazingly tender.

Add a big dollop of mustard and more grated horseradish and you have yourself a first class starter.

They claim Goulash as their own traditional food pretty much everywhere in the former Austria-Hungarian empire and Balkan states. It's a pretty basic cattleman's stew. The most traditional recipes call for very tough cuts of beef, onions, and paprika(hot or mild). Just like American chili the ingredient lists just grow from there. Purists say you don't need any other herbs or spices then the onion and the Paprika, but you could add garlic, bay leave, thyme, etc etc etc. You can add some root vegetables, and anything else you would use in a stew. This one from U Jagušky is a pretty basic thick goulash with beef and they served bramboráky (potato pancakes) on the side. Simple, easy and hearty.
Next the king of the sausages. The blood sausage. A mix of pork blood and a lot of little chunks of fat and mince meat. Seasoned lightly. Their menu called it a "andouille" style blood sausage but it's definitely not smoked and not cajun. I think it must have been a mistranslation on their menu. It's a very classical Czech blood sausage. Boiled, and served with potatoes mixed with sauerkraut.
The flavor of blood sausage is one that isn't very familiar to most Americans. Blood on the whole is not often consumed in the US. What a shame. This sausage was almost entirely made of coagulated blood without the rice or starch filling common to a lot of French, Spanish and Italian blood sausages. This gives an honest and strong flavor of blood. Cooked blood tastes, looks and smells absolutely nothing like fresh human blood. The flavor and aroma are much closer to the smell of cooked liver, kidney or marrow. The flavor isn't as overpowering as liver, but it has a very similar taste, perhaps because the liver is basically I giant blood filter?

Actually it has a flavor very similar to marrow, which makes sense because the marrow is "stem" cells that will produce all the blood in your body your entire life, so I guess the similar taste makes sense. (Side note, if you don't like the taste of bone marrow... You are wrong)

Now that we've gotten our appetite started with a few light bites, should we move on to the main course? What? Full? But we haven't even had our 1.95kg(4.29 lbs) pork knee yet! What about the cheese course? Don't worry, Czech restaurants usually come fully equipped with a wheel barrow to take you home.


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