Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Eastern European Cooking: Not Just Like Your Mother Used to Make

La Rabinessa Liora Kelman again outdid herself in the latest installment of The Front Porch Cooking Class. She, along with special guest chef Francesca Ferraris (a recent immigrant from Austria), prepared yet another delicious meal, not just for the stomach but also for the mind and soul.

The day began with the introductions of several visitors. Francesca, Jon Firger, the CEO of Jewish Family Service of the North Shore and Michael Bloom of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston stopped in for a while, as did newly elected Massachuetts State Representative Lori Erlich. Though only in office for a very short 11 weeks so far, she has done so much already to advocate for continued funding of the program. We're grateful to her for her advocacy as well as for spending some time with us.

As usual after the introductions La Rabinessa started us off with appetizers of cucumbers in vinegar/dill sauce, a grated beet root and celery salad, Nahit (a chickpea dish), and an eggplant spread. After we filled our plates Francesca intiated a discussion of ever-changing cooking traditions as the world grows smaller. Those who felt like sharing told us about the recipes from their childhoods that just never quite turn out like Mama's when prepared today.

After that there were a few choices. Some people toured our brand new Front Porch garden (see previous posts for more information)or saw the collaborative quilt, while others able to look for their anescestors who came through Ellis Island (

There were three cooking projects to choose from: Rabbi Avarham Kelman led a group in the making of challah, while Liora assisted in the making of a Krautstrudel, and Francesca showed how to make Kaiserschmerrn. Kaiserschmerrn is a very interesting dish with an even more interesting history. The following is taken from

It is generally agreed that the dish was first prepared for the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830–1916). The genesis of its name is not agreed; there are several stories which all rank about Emperor Francis Joseph I. One story, likely apocryphal, involves the Emperor and his wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria, of the House of Wittelsbach. Obsessed with maintaining a minimal waistline, the Empress Elisabeth directed the royal chef to prepare only light desserts for her imperial palate, much to the consternation and annoyance of her notoriously austere husband. Upon being presented with the chef’s confection, she found it too rich and refused to eat it. The exasperated Francis Joseph quipped, “Now let me see what "Schmarrn" (read: "trifle?") our chef has cooked up”. It apparently met with his approval as he finished his and his wife’s serving. Thereafter, the dessert was called Kaiserschmarrn across the Empire.

Our Kaiserschmarrn recipe:

3 tablespoons raisins
250ml whole milk
2 yolks
1 tablespoon white sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons butter
powdered sugar

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the milk, yolks, white sugar. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter. Stir in the raisins. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in the batter. In a large skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until the pancake has set and the bottom is golden brown. Turn over the pancake and cook 3 minutes, or until this side is also golden brown. Using a spatula or two forks, tear the pancake into bite-size pieces. Add 1 tabelspoon of butter and use a spatula to gently toss the pieces for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with plum or apple puree.

While these items were cooking we were treated to a delictable bowl of fish goulash. Everything turned out great. As La Rabinessa Liora Kelman always says, "Nothing tastes as good as the food you make yourself."