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Though I used to see the Eszterházy Rostélyos recipe in Hungarian cookbooks, I never actually had the pleasure to see what this famous Hungarian dish should even look like, never mind taste! The years following the last war were fraught with chronic shortages of an odd assortment of amenities in Hungary. Back in 1984, in one corner of my mother’s kitchen, there was this huge toilet paper tower, almost reaching the ceiling and then one day I caught her bringing home some more. What gives with the toilet paper obsession I asked? Sometimes we cannot get them. By the end of our stay the stack was reduced to almost nothing and at one point it left the kitchen altogether. These were the good days already; I grew up with newspaper cuttings… well… yes I did. What this has to do with the famous Hungarian rostélyos? Well quite a bit actually. One of the many things we could NEVER get in communist Hungary was palatable beef; all the markets had was defrosted beef from ancient milk cows well after the completion of their long and purposeful lives. All good beef went east - to Soviet-land.

I noticed people making two distinct mistakes with Eszterházy Rostélyos, one is undercooking the meat and/or overcooking the vegetables. It appears that after years of beef depravation Hungarians no longer know how to prepare their own dish anymore, all the pictures on the Internet look like someone has regurgitated the thing. Well now, English speaking cooking sites are no better, they pass the rostélyos off as some half-bloody steak with dark brown gravy. I doubt it that Count Eszterházy intended his famous dish that way either. In Hungarian, rostélyos refers to a particular cut of beef, the rib eye, which is the tenderest part. It translates into English as steak but it does not bring along with it the method of steak preparation. If it did, it would have been called hirtelen sült or hirtelen sült rostélyos. Therefore, Eszterházy Steak is a tender, simmered meat dish, but that does not mean cooking the vegetables beyond recognition.

I made a trial run following a recipe from my oldest Hungarian cookbooks the other day and I found that the complexity of flavours were simply amazing! I agree, it could be linked to the “vadas”, but it is most definitely not a vadas, it is far more than that, after all, it is what the Count had personally overseen prepared for him. He had to have been a gourmet food connoisseur all right! The recipe is in two parts. In the first part, you cook the meat and the ragout. The second part is the preparation of the vegetables. In the third part, you combine the first two parts. Ingredients appear in the same order.

2 rib eye steaks
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 parsnip
1/4 celery root
2 sprigs of fresh parsley [or 1 Tbsp dried]
1/8 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 half inch strips of lemon rind

1/8 cup butter
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 onion, sliced
2 carrots
2 parsnips
1/2 celery root
2 sprigs of fresh parsley [or 1 Tbsp dried]
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. capers
1/2 tsp mustard
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

• Slice the two steaks in half horizontally.
• Pound them thin with a meat tenderizer.
• Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
• Place 3 Tbsp oil in a deep large non-stick fry pan and quickly brown the meat on both sides. Add more oil if needed.
• Transfer the meat onto a platter and set aside.
• Dice 1/2 cup onion, 1 carrot, 1 parsnip 1/4 celery root, and chop up 2 sprigs of parley.
• Add 1 Tbsp oil to the same fry pan and add the chopped vegetables.
• On very low heat fry up the vegetables, letting them caramelize a little.
• Sprinkle 1/8 cup flour on the top and stir.
• Add 3 cups of chicken stock and place the steaks inside the ragout.
• Add the bay leaf and the two strips of lemon rind.
• Bring to the boil, cover and sauté on low heat until meat is very tender.
• Meanwhile start cooking the vegetables.
• Slice thinly 1/4 of an onion.
• Peel 2 carrots, 2 parsnips and half a celery root and cut them into matchstick slices.
• In a clean non-stick fry pan, melt 1/8 cup of butter.
• Add 1 Tbsp olive oil so the butter will not burn.
• Add the onion and the matchstick vegetables.
• Add 2 sprigs of fresh parsley, 1 tsp of capers and 1/2 cup of chicken stock.
• Bring it to boil, cover and reduce heat to slow simmer.
• Cook the vegetables until tender, but not mushy. Remove from heat and set aside.
• When the steaks are tender, remove them from the ragout and set them aside.
• Place the ragout in food processor or a blender and process until smooth. [In the original recipe the ragout was put through a sieve and the vegetables were discarded.]
• Pour the ragout over the vegetables and gently stir to combine.
• Stir in the mustard and the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
• In a small bowl whisk together the white wine and the sour cream.
• Add the wine and sour cream mixture to the vegetables and gently stir to combine.
• Add the steaks and slowly bring the dish to slow simmer.
• Adjust the salt and the pepper.
• Place the steaks on a platter and spoon over the sauce and the vegetables.
• Serve with buttered noodles.



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