Friday, January 1, 2016

Kocsonya - aspic

Not even sure if this food is still eaten nowadays that often, but it was typical winter food back in my childhood. It was something made by grandparents, I don't remember even my parents ever making it when I was a kid, but they are doing it now :).
The reason why it is only prepared during the coldest months of the winter is the cold that makes it jelly without a fridge, and because it was the season when the pigs reached their full size and were butchered to provide the families with meat just in time before the holidays.
I wanted to make it as a surprise appetizer for New Year's Eve, but not just some appetizer... a real, traditional, Hungarian appetizer. And.. I spiced up the presentation a bit by serving it in transparent plastic cups, adding small stripes of carrot, parsnip and parsley leaves.

And here it comes.. 
I bought beef shanks instead of the traditionally used pork feet, and the reason was kinda pathetic: I visited a mainly Arabic store instead of an Asian..
It actually turned out to be a really good choice, the smell was significantly better while cooking, imho, and the end result did not suffer a bit, in contrary.
You might find all sorts of recipes using gelatin.. While I believe that is perfectly acceptable way to spice up one's appetizer offering, don't be fooled: it has nothing to do with the traditional aspic, which definitely didn't have any other gelatin than the one from the boiled bones.

Ingredients (2.5 - 3 quarts including the bones)
3 pounds, 1.5 kg beef shanks
1 whole garlic head
whole black pepper
optional: small pinch of caraway seeds
3 carrots
1 small celery root
1 parsnip
1/2 bunch of Italian parsley
4-5 pink peppers

soup plates
powder paprika

Prepare a 6 quart pot, to make sure it comfortable fits your bones and veggies.
Add the bones, add enough water to fully cover the bones and bit extra, and turn on the heat at higher power at the beginning, but as it bubbles reduce it to low-medium, it was the power 4 out of 9 on my induction cook.
Add a humpy tsp of salt, add about 25 pieces of whole black pepper, and add the cleaned garlic cloves.

Let it boil for about 15-20 minutes, and remove any foam that forms on top. Repeat as many time needed, and make sure you remove the foam carefully enough not to mix it back in the juice.

The patience game starts, and you'll have the juice boil for 5-6 hours. 
Even at its very low boiling point the aspic needs to be checked regularly, any foam removed, and evaporated water refilled. I always add boiling water not cold, just 'cause I was told it make a meat soup clearer :).
Mine boiled for about 7 before I added the veggies, and boiled it again for 30-35 minutes until the veggies cooked. 
Remove the veggies as soon as they are soft, but still crunchy. For a traditional aspic leave the veggies out from your serving, but if you like them just put them in the plates.
I discarded all the bones and almost all the cartilage except small bites. Doggie was rather happy about my decision :).
Normally you'd place the skin and whatever falls off from the bones in plates and poor the juice over.
If you wanted a "high en" aspic, you'd also add some beef tail with its soft meat, and place the meat in the plates.
Pour the juice over the meat, let it cool overnight at room, or some colder temperature. 
By the time is cooled to room temperature it should have already a softish, but jelly consistency.
When fully cooled place them in the fridge, and let it for about 4 hours.
Serve with fresh toast, lemon and powder paprika.
Bonn appetite!

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