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Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - Printable Version

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Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - labradors - 08-09-2009

The ongoing quest for authentic, traditional international recipes often leads me to interesting sources. In this case, the quest happened to intersect with my interest in the game of Go. Since Honduras doesn't have much Go activity, the only way I can play my favourite game regularly is through the Internet, and I play against people from all over the world.

One of my recent opponents, Karel (Charles in English), is from the Czech republic, and has been very helpful in providing me with information about his country's traditional cuisine. With his help (and the help of the Google translator and a couple online dictionaries), it has been possible to translate the recipes for the different parts of THE traditional meal of the Czech Republic: Vepro-Knedlo-Zelo or "Pork-Dumplings-Cabbage."

This is an interesting and delicious meal for which there are a couple regional variations. Although most would prepare bread dumplings (the recipe I have posted here), some would have potato-based dumplings. Either way, Czech dumplings are not like what we think of for "Chicken and Dumplings," nor like German spaetzle. Instead, they are like dinner rolls that are boiled, rather than baked, then sliced with string or dental floss.

Another variation has to do with the cabbage. The Bohemians prefer the cabbage more sour, and use sauerkraut. The Moravians prefer the cabbage sweeter, and use fresh cabbage or they'll add a bunch of sugar to the sauerkraut. That difference is described in the recipe that follows.

Finally, many people (and many of the recipes posted on the Web) use baking powder for the dumplings, but Karel insists that yeast is the true, traditional recipe that predates the use of "chemicals" (his choice of wording), so yeast is what Babiccina (grandma) would have used and that is the recipe I have included here.

My kitchen doesn't have very good lighting, so this is the best I could do for a picture of the finished product on my plate:
[Image: vkzq.jpg]

Here are the recipes:

Czech Pork Roast with Bread Dumplings and Cabbage
(Vepro-Knedlo-Zelo or, more formally, Veprova Pecene s Knedliky a se Zelim [accented characters changed to normal characters, since the forum wasn't displaying them properly])

Ingredients for the pork roast:
  • 2 1/4 Pounds Pork roast
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground pepper, to taste
  • Crushed caraway seeds, as needed
  • Minced garlic, as needed
  • 2 Tablespoons Lard, butter or shortening
  • 2 Onions, peeled, halved and sliced
  • 1 Sour apple (e.g. Granny Smith), peeled, cored and sliced
  • Whole caraway seeds, to taste
  • Beef bouillon, as needed
  • Water, as needed
Instructions for the pork roast:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Lightly rub the roast with salt, pepper, crushed caraway seeds and minced garlic. Place into a container, cover with foil or a lid and refrigerate for two days.
  3. In an oven-safe pan, melt the fat, add the onions, apples and whole caraway seeds and sauté.
  4. Add the pork roast, cover and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.
  5. Uncover the roast, put it back into the oven, and let it develop a crust.
  6. Turn the roast over, add bouillon and water according to how much broth you want.
  7. Put the roast back into the oven and let the other side develop a crust.
  8. Continue cooking until the roast is tender, the juices run clear, and it has reached an internal temperature of 155F - 160F.
  9. Allow the roast to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. The internal temperature should go up about 5 degrees during this time.
  10. Serve with bread dumplings and cabbage, and cover with some of the broth.
Ingredients for the bread dumplings:
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon yeast
  • 2 Cups Instant flour (such as Wondra) or other low-protein flour (such as cake flour)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Small Day-old roll or pieces from earlier dumplings, cut into cubes
Instructions for bread dumplings:
  1. Heat the milk so that it is warm, but not hot (110F - 115F).
  2. Put the milk into a bowl to dissolve the yeast and sugar completely. If using instant yeast, only add the sugar to the milk.
  3. Let the yeast proof in a warm place. If using instant yeast, just have the sugared milk ready.
  4. Meanwhile pour flour into a bowl, add the salt, and mix it into the flour.
  5. If using instant yeast, mix it thoroughly into the flour.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix the egg and the warm-milk mixture.
  7. Thoroughly mix the liquid into the dough. If the dough is too stiff, add a little more warm milk.
  8. Finally, add the bread cubes.
  9. Dust the dough, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place about an hour.
  10. Knead the dough into the shape of an oblong roll.
  11. Let the dumpling rise for about 15 minutes, then boil in a Dutch oven for 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.
  12. Immediately pierce the dumpling with a fork to release the steam.
  13. Slice dumpling by wrapping with a length of dental floss and pulling the ends of the floss together.
Ingredients for the cabbage:
  • 2 Tablespoons Lard, butter or shortening
  • 1 Small Onion, finely minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Instant flour (such as Wondra) or other low-protein flour (such as cake flour)
  • 1 Pound cabbage - For Bohemian style, use sauerkraut and its brine. For Moravian style, use fresh cabbage and water, or use sauerkraut, but add more sugar.
  • Water (or brine, if using sauerkraut)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt (if not using sauerkraut and brine)
  • 1/2 - 1 Teaspoon Whole caraway seeds
  • Sugar to taste
  • Vinegar to taste
Instructions for the cabbage:
  1. Melt the fat and fry the onions until they are translucent.
  2. Add the flour, stir it well and allow it to bubble for a little while to form a roux.
  3. Place the cabbage into a pot with enough water (or brine) to cover it.
  4. Add salt and caraway seeds.
  5. Cook until the cabbage is tender.
  6. Thicken with the onion roux.
  7. Add sugar and vinegar to taste.

One final note: this IS delicious, and I most certainly will make it again, but I still hold with my earlier statement that Lechon Asado (the Cuban roast pork) is still absolutely the best recipe for roasting pork.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - Mare749 - 08-09-2009

Oh my, that just looks soooo good. Dumplings and noodles, two of my favorite foods. Thanks for sharing this, it sounds and looks wonderful.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - labradors - 08-10-2009

Funny story: I just chatted with Karel via Skype, and sent him that picture. When he saw it, he said, "Yes, that is Vepro-Knedlo-Zelo." When I explained that that was a photo I had taken of my own plate, he said, "You good cooker." LOL!

Tomorrow, he will be telling me about something else they do with the dumplings. They start with the same recipe, add fresh fruit (usually plums or apricots, but sometimes strawberries) to it instead of the cubed bread, then serve it with some kind of topping involving butter, confectioner's sugar, and - of all things - cottage cheese. Other than subbing the fruit for the cubed bread and adding the topping, the rest of the recipe is the same. As I said: I'll get more details tomorrow - especially about the topping.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - chef_Tab - 08-10-2009

Rob, it looks delicious! I will have to give this a go after the move. I will also tell okey gnocchi as she is of czech dessent.

I think Germans do make some sort of bread dumpling. My mom was German and I remember her making it occasionally, though spaetzle was a staple. Thank you so much for sharing the recipes.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - labradors - 08-10-2009


Yes. I had forgotten to mention the German semmelknödel. The main differences are that semmelknödel are not raised with any added yeast or baking powder, while knedliky are. and semmelknödel are usually formed into small balls, but knedliky are formed into larger rolls, then sliced.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - chef_Tab - 08-10-2009

Thanks Rob, I had forgotten all about the semmelknodel until you posted that photo of the czech dumplings. There are so many of my mom's recipes I would love to get my hands on. Something new to research.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - HomeCulinarian - 08-10-2009

Labs - I was happy to see your foray into Czech foods. It is my heritage, my maternal grandma was a first generation immigrant. This year, my mom turns 80 and my sister and I will be taking mom there for her first visit to her "homeland". We're going in September and I'm really looking forward to the trip. We'll be in Prague, Ceske Budejovice, and Vienna. Ceske Budejovice is in mom's home region, also known by the Germans as Buweiss, and the capital of beer! People who have lived and traveled there are advising us to stick with the local fare for food. My son has friends from CR who are also from Ceske Budejovice coincidentally, and they will show us around their city. May even be invited for a home cooked meal, which I would think would be a highlight of our time there.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - cjs - 08-10-2009

Looks and sounds like a real tasty meal, labs!

"May even be invited for a home cooked meal, which I would think would be a highlight of our time there." - I would think so! Sounds like it will be a great trip - and what a treat for your mom.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - Mare749 - 08-10-2009

Jeannette, keep us posted about your upcoming trip in case we forget. What an exciting trip you have to look forward to. And I have no doubt you will be very diligent at taking notes about all the meals you have there.

Re: Czech-ing in for a roast-pork dinner - DFen911 - 08-10-2009

Rob!! That's not fair...I thought Lechon Asado was the only way to cook pork. And now you come along with another very tempting dish