August 23, 2017

When many chefs think of the great dining traditions of Europe, their minds immediately turn to France and Italy. Today, however, more people are looking for great ideas in the foods of Eastern Europe. These cooking professionals are discovering exciting new dimensions in classic meals from countries like Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Poland and Croatia.

As you work toward a culinary arts certificate online, you have plenty of opportunities to develop your own creative takes on a wide variety of dishes. By exploring foods with roots in Eastern Europe, you’ll soon have a range of exciting new flavors in your repertoire.

Find European inspiration in borscht

“Master some of the region’s most beloved dishes.”

Digging into the possibilities of Eastern European food starts with mastering some of the region’s most beloved dishes. Borscht, a sour soup, is ubiquitous in the region. The Guardian provided an old-school Ukrainian recipe made with beetroot.

Start by preparing a stock, setting fatty beef ribs in a saucepan with a peeled whole onion, cold water and salt. Set heat on low and cook for an hour, occasionally skimming the top. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bay leaf and onion.

Throw in beetroot and potatoes, both peeled and chopped, plus salt and pepper. Cook on low for half an hour. At the same time, warm sunflower oil on medium heat. Saute onion and carrot for five to seven minutes.

Place red pepper and pureed tomato in the pan. Cook for two minutes before stirring in fresh tomato. When the mixture reduces, transfer into the broth.

Add kidney beans and shredded cabbage, cooking for about seven minutes. When the produce is all cooked through, serve with sour cream and chopped dill.

One good goulash

Goulash is another dish with a long history in Europe and many fans in the U.S. The stew of meat and vegetables, flavored with paprika and other spices, allows plenty of room for customization. Serious Eats offered directions for a Hungarian-style version featuring beef.

The recipe calls for sprinkling powdered, unflavored gelatin into chicken stock, contributing body to the sauce. Setting the stock to the side, pour vegetable oil into a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Season pieces of beef chuck roast with salt and pepper and place in the pot for about 10 minutes, occasionally turning.

When the beef browns on either side, remove it from the Dutch oven and set on a plate. Set diced carrots in the pot and cook for four minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper, and then transfer to a bowl. Next, cook split pieces of carrot with celery, sliced onion, bell peppers and garlic.

After eight minutes, sprinkle paprika. About 30 seconds later, throw in the chicken stock, plus soy sauce, fish sauce, bay leaves and thyme. Cut the beef into chunks and toss with flour before returning it to the pot.

Bring the mixture to a simmer. Then, partially cover the Dutch oven with its lid and move into an oven set to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook for about an hour and half.

Take the pot out of the oven and use tongs to remove the carrot, celery, thyme and bay leaves. Place peeled and chopped potatoes in the stew, along with the sauted carrots, and return to the oven for up to another hour. Finish off with one or two tablespoons of vinegar and some parsley before serving.

Once you have a firm grasp on the basics of Eastern European cuisine, you can build on these traditions by drawing on your choice of techniques and ingredients. Chefs across the U.S. have brought new life to old favorites, and, with culinary academy training, you’ll be able to craft your own exciting variations.