This was my mother's celebratory meal for my every birthday and happy occasion. It is a Hungarian recipe which she adapted for the American kitchen. This recipe was handed down to her by my father's mother. Her parents were Slovak and were murdered in the German concentration camps. It is a flavor of love and celebration for me and kindles memories of her lively personality and refined cuisine.
I like a nice Hungarian cucumber salad as an accompaniment for some acid. That’s thinly sliced cucumbers with thinly sliced white onions and white wine vinegar with a hint of paprika.
For the meat and sauce:
1 Scotch tender for 6 people (remove connective tissue, I use only kosher meat so I don't add extra salt)
1 large Spanish onion, chopped fine
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stems, chopped
1 parsnip or celery root, chopped
3 bay leaves
3 allspice seeds, broken with edge of knife
4 crushed black peppercorns
For the dumplings:
8 slices of old bread soaked in water and squeezed dry to a fine mash
2 cups unbleached flour
3 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp finely chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400. In a Dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup olive oil until it shimmers, then carefully add your meat. (Careful: the oil can spurt.) Use a medium flame and thoroughly brown all sides of the meat.
2. Remove the browned meat and put on a plate, reserving all the juices for use later.
3. Add oil if needed. Add chopped onions and cook until clear. Add the carrots, celery stems, and parsnip or celery root to the pan and let them all brown a bit, about ten minutes. Add bay leaves, allspice, black pepper, and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil.
4. Add the meat on top of the vegetables, then bake at 400 for 1/2 hour. Reduce the heat to 350F and add enough water to cover all the vegetables. Continue roasting the meat for about two hours or until the meat is very tender.
5. Take the meat out. Puree vegetables and remaining liquid in a Cuisinart or comparable appliance. Adjust seasoning. The consistency should be like a thick sauce; add water if too dry.
6. Add the meat back into the sauce. Refrigerate meat and sauce overnight. (You can also eat everything fresh that day if you would prefer.)
7. The next day, remove the meat and cut into 1/2 inch slices across the grain of the muscle. Return to sauce.
8. Reheat by stirring in 3-6 tbsps water and heating over a low flame until the meat is heated through. Taste for seasoning.
For the dumplings:
1. Mix all the ingredients. You may need to add water so that the consistency is like a thick porridge.
2. Scoop 1/2 tbsps of dough and drop into a big pot of salted boiling water.
3. The dumplings are done when they rise to the top after 3-5 minutes. Drain them in a colander. Fry them in a hot pan with oil to crisp them up.
To serve: Put meat and dumplings on each plate; spoon sauce over both.