Sunday, April 3, 2011

"The Holy Trinity", Hungarian-Style

For Cajun/Creole cooks, the "Holy Trinity" refers to a combination of vegetables common to the cuisine consisting of onions, bell peppers and celery. I think most cultures have something similar; for Cuban cooks, it's the "sofrito"; according to Wikipedia, it's a mix of green onions, ginger and garlic for the Chinese; I'm not sure what it would be for us Irish or Irish-Americans, but it's probably something close to potatoes, cabbage/kale and onions/leeks. It's kind of like what was described in a column in the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, where the author described a situation where every good cook relies on a few key pantry ingredients when all else fails, extrapolated to a national/cultural scale. Yesterday, I enjoyed another fine dinner at the Darlington Inn, a Hungarian-Transylvanian restaurant near Ligonier, PA. This time, I ordered Chicken Lecso, a dish with which I was already familiar from preparing it at home. It consists of chicken smothered in a seasoned, sauteed sauce of onions, peppers and tomatoes. I like to use Hungarian hot or sweet peppers. The version I ate yesterday contained green peppers. In the hands of a different cook, someone with much more experience in Hungarian cuisine than me, it took on a different character. I loved it. (I should note that the cook also put cheese on top, which is never a mistake in any cuisine.) I know that Wikipedia states that the holy trinity of Hungarian cuisine is lard, paprika and red onion, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Hungarian Holy Trinity is Lecso. True, it's a relish more than a cooking ingredient, but it can and should be used in cooking, too. Even my significant other likes it, and he hates tomatoes and cooked vegetables. That should tell you something. If you're in the vicinity of Ligonier, PA, you really should visit the Darlington Inn. Otherwise, you can try my favorite Lecso recipe at home, to which I've posted a link here. Just be sure to use real Hungarian paprika, not that flavor-less deviled-egg garnish!