When I was 12 years old, I went to a tennis school in Augsburg, Germany, during the summer. Back then, I was playing professional tennis and my dream was to become the next Steffi Graf. At that age, I was well on track to achieve that goal; hence, my parents’ decision to send me to a tennis school. Unfortunately, the injuries just kept coming. Five years later, my tennis career was over.
In the summer of 1997, I was playing a lot of tennis, going to long and challenging practices, winning tennis tournaments, playing more tennis, and more tennis, and even more tennis. It was during that summer, on one of the few breaks from tennis, when my dad took me to a German beer garden for the first time. There were wooden benches, live music, good traditional German food, and lots of beer.
It was early afternoon. The weather was nice and warm, the sky was clear, and we were just in time for lunch. I remember that both my father and I ordered the Pork Schnitzel with French fries. Of course, my dad also had the local beer. I don’t recall specific details about the food, but I do recall the unique and joyful atmosphere. That was my first experience with a German beer garden. These days, we love to go to the Hofbrauhaus in Pittsburgh.
The pork schnitzel, which we had at the beer garden in Augsburg, was very similar to what my grandmother frequently makes. German food has always been a staple in our family. However, today I don’t want to talk to you about the boring breaded pork (maybe we’ll talk about it some other time), and I want to introduce to you a very interesting version of the traditional German Pork and Sauerkraut dish. This dish is a classic of the German culinary world, but traveling through Austria and Hungary, by the time the dish made it to Romania, it assimilated several local influences. Furthermore, my grandmother put her own spin on it, and created her own version of this classic dish.
Szekely-Gulyas (Pork and Cabbage Goulash)
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki
Yields 4-6 servings
· 1 green cabbage of 3.5 – 4 pounds (1.5 kilograms)
· 3-4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
· 3 large onions, sliced
· Kosher salt
· 1 Tablespoon Hungarian paprika (10 grams)
· 2 – 2.5 pounds boneless pork chops, cubed (1 kilogram)
· 2 – 2.5 cups water
· 1.5 cups tomato sauce mixed with ½ cup water
· 2 dry bay leaves
· Sour cream (optional)
· Good bread (optional)
Cut out the core and slice the cabbage. Put it in a large bowl and season with 1 Tablespoon of salt. Mix well. Let it sit for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, put a large pan on medium heat. Add the oil and the onions. Season with salt and cook the onions until translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Add the Hungarian paprika and stir. Add the pork and cook together with the onions and paprika for 10-15 minutes. Add the water to cover the meat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the meat is cooked.
Strain the cabbage between your hands before adding it to the pan with the rest of the ingredients. When the meat is cooked, add the strained cabbage and stir well. Add the tomato sauce mixed with water and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 45-50 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. Season with salt to taste.
I love to serve the goulash with a dollop of sour cream on top and with good bread because I really enjoy dipping the bread in the sauce. Devine! The best thing about this dish is that it’s even better the next day. As it sits in the fridge, the flavors will develop further. You’ll definitely enjoy these leftovers!