I spent the year of 2009 in Trnava, Slovaka doing some volunteer mission work. My absolute favorite classic Slovak dish is called Bryndzové halušky (pronounced “breend-zoh-vah hah-loosh-key”). It’s simple, yet delicious. Potato dumplings with bacon and bryndza, a soft sheep cheese.
A few disclaimers before I continue.
- I am not Slovak and would never claim that my halušky is any better than a true Slovak’s recipe 🙂
- I’m still perfecting the American version of this recipe. So, Slovaks? Criticism welcome.
Go ahead and get a big pot of water heating up on the stove. You’ll need that later.
The best way to make halušky is to use a slab of bacon rather than slices. Before you give up on a slab due to lack of availability, do yourself a favor and do a quick “European grocery” Google search in your town. You may also be able to find a slab at a butcher. I found this slab at a Bosnian market in my city. Slab bacon allows you to cut it into thick chunks.
If you can’t find a slab, no worries. Sliced will work–although, at least try to get thick-sliced if you can.
Cut up the small slab of bacon, or at least a 1 lb. package of sliced bacon.
Cook the bacon in a skillet on medium-medium high heat.
Side note: I wanted to try to render as much of the fat out as possible because traditionally, the bacon fat is drizzled over top of the dish, so I experimented with cooking the bacon for almost an hour on very low heat. I definitely got a lot of the fat out, but I regret cooking it that slowly, as the bacon was too crunchy for my taste. So, cook on medium-medium/high heat until it’s cooked to your liking.
While the bacon is cooking, drop 2 eggs and about 1 tablespoon of salt into a mixing bowl. Then, using a fine grater, grate 3 potatoes into the bowl. You may need to stop after every potato and stir the bowl to incorporate the eggs a little bit so the potatoes don’t turn grey.
This is the part of the grater that you should use.
Side note: The next time I do this, I’m going to drain the potatoes juice out of this. So… do it.
Check your bacon once in a while…
Now, add about 2 cups of all-purpose flour into the bowl and beat with an electric mixer for at least 5-10 minutes. My Slovak friends used to do this by hand, so don’t complain. That’s probably why they’re 95% muscle.
Side note: The dough should be fairly thick. Next time, once I drain the potato juice out, it will be thicker. No worries though, it turned out okay. You’ll know it’s ready when you can drop a little teaspoon-full in boiling water and it sticks together. If it falls apart, it probably needs more flour.
If you don’t have anything like this, and don’t care to buy a haluškár, you can either use a knife and a cutting board, like the folks did over at SlovakCooking.com, or you can even use 2 spoons to make the dumplings.
Whenever I make halušky, I think back of when my friend would taste test this batter until it was perfect. It’s funny though, because the batter is pretty disgusting. How she knew it was right is beyond me, but I’ve started tasting it anyway for experience.
If you have a gizmo like mine, drop a big spoonful of the dough in, and using a rubber spatula, push the dough through the holes into the boiling water.
You can work in fairly small batches here. I did about 4-5 batches so that the water wouldn’t cool down too quickly with all of the dough at once.
When they’re done, the dumplings will float to the top. Taste test one for tenderness before you take them out.
Get the dumplings out with a slotted spoon and place them in a drainer or bowl while you finish your batches. You’ll need the hot water to continue cooking the rest of your dough.
Once all of your batches are done, drain all of the dumplings at once. I actually rinsed my dumplings off just a bit because the flour-y goo was clogging up the strainer a bit.
By this time your bacon should be done. Don’t be afraid of the grease. You can either use it to moisten the dumplings, to drizzle on top, or at least store it in your fridge for other recipes.
Now, real Bryndzové halušky is made of sheep cheese. However, I don’t love the taste of strong bryndza cheese, and even if I did like it, it’s difficult to find. SO, there are several options for your American version of this dish.
My personal favorite bryndza substitute is a pack of feta cheese with a small container of sour cream mixed very well. It’s amazing.
This time, I found something new at the Bosnian market. It’s a mixture of sour cream, cream cheese and white cheese. It was actually pretty close to the real thing! Although, when I do this again, I’ll probably go back to my sour cream and feta mixture.
People seem to layer their halušky in lots of different ways.
- You can put the dumplings down, then the cold cheese, then the bacon on top.
- You can mix the cheese with the dumplings and then add the bacon on top.
- You can mix the bacon with the dumplings and then add the cheese on top.
Because I love mixtures of hot and cold on one plate, I like to keep the cheese cold on top of the bryndza and bacon.
- 3 Potatoes – $.98
- 2 Cups of flour – ~$.25
- 2 Eggs – $.30
- Slab o’ Bacon – $5.79
- 1 T. Salt
- $7.32 for about 8 servings
- $.91 for 1 serving