Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Cincinnati Post: Scare fare - Halloween cuisine from Dracula's homeland

Scare fare - Halloween cuisine from Dracula's homeland
By Marty MeitusScripps Howard News Service
Rocky Mountain News


Chicken in Garlic Sour Cream is sure to ward off hunger, as well as any vampires in the neighborhood. Make the dish vertically dramatic with a green-onion fan or herb sprig.
For those who would like an authentic touch of Dracula's homeland at a Halloween party, consider preparing some of the dishes of Romania. Although Romania has never been known as a culinary hotbed, the cuisine is coming of age, much as Ireland's did, as chefs reinterpret the basics.
No longer part of the Soviet bloc, Romania is attracting interest as a tourist destination, which means the foods will become more inventive and well-known as time goes on.
The food is primarily a bread-and-meat-based diet. After years of occupation by many countries, the cuisine takes its influence from countries such as Hungary and Russia, as well as the seasonal availability of ingredients native to Romania.
According to the Romanian National Tourist Office (www.romaniatourism.com) in New York City, these ingredients include sour cream, eggs and tarragon, and favorite foods include tart soups, hearty stews, mititei (small skinless grilled sausages), lamb, beef and poultry dishes, carp and herring, tuica (a plum brandy), breads, polenta and clatite, a dessert crepe. The region also produces some well-respected wines.
Bram Stoker, whose famous "Dracula" started it all, is thought to have based his character on a real-life "dracula." Vlad III, a prince of Wallachia (a Romanian province), inherited the dracula appellation from his father, Vlad II. Vlad the elder was a former governor of Transylvania and the member of a secret organization called the Order of the Dragon. In Romanian, "drac" means "dragon," and Vlad II became known as Vlad Dracul. The name also can mean "devil," and many nobles associated dragons with the devil.
Vlad the Younger, or Vlad Dracula, a variation meaning "son of the devil," also was known as Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, because he had a nasty habit of impaling his enemies on stakes.
Rather than downplay the Dracula myth, many Romanians embrace the original Stoker story, even if it's just for the benefit of tourists. In Bucharest, the capital of Romania, there's even a restaurant called the Count Dracula Club. And the Romanian National Tourist Office provided the crepe recipe, with permission from Nicolae Klepper, from her cookbook "Taste of Romania."
Mark Bittman, author of "The Best Recipes in the World" (Broadway Books), includes four recipes from Romania, mostly out of nostalgia rather than gastronomic inspiration - his grandfather was born there.
"Romania has this kind of polenta. My grandmother used to make it," he says by phone. "And the steak dish is nice (see recipe). I love that steak dish. It's steak and garlic - how could it be bad?"
Leo Goto and chef Denis Hynds of the Wellshire Inn in Denver were kind enough to prepare Bittman's recipes for us. The dishes are delicious enough to tempt Dracula back to life for your Halloween party.
Marty Meitus of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver is a Cincinnati native and former Post reporter.

http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061011/LIFE/610110361

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