Venison and Potato Latke Burgers with Vodka-Battered Vegetables

A whole deer, even if you keep the backstraps and legs whole, yields a lot of ground meat, mostly from the neck and the belly. This is nothing to worry about: these are the perfect cuts to make burgers. All you need is a good repertoire of burger recipes. And of course, if you don’t like venison, ground beef from your favorite butcher or CSA (what, you don’t have a CSA???) will do.

Venison and Potato Latke Burger

I’ve already blogged about Bohemian Venison Burgers and Hungarian Lángos Goulash Burgers. This time, I’m doing a Polish / Belarusian / Ukrainian version. Hey, with enough deer meat, I might post one burger recipe for each country of the Eastern Bloc!

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Hungarian Lángos Goulash Burger

When I published my recipes for lángos and goulash sauce, I promised that these were the building blocks for more complex dishes. The wait is now over, as today I present my own version of Korzo Haus‘ famous Korzo Burger.

The Village Voice elected Korzo Haus “Best Burger Joint of 2011.” Now, thanks to Food Perestroika, you can reproduce and improve upon this Eastern European take on the most emblematic of American dishes. Yes, now you can make your own artery-clogging beef patty wrapped in fried dough, away from the over-gentrified East Village and in the comfort of your home. All you need is a little bit of time on your hands…

Hungarian Food - Langos Goulash Burger

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Perfect Potato Buns: The Epic Quest

Potato BunsWhen I started working on the Salmon and Pork Belly Burger, I thought making a good potato bun would be a no-brainer. After half a dozen trials and several pounds of patties, I acknowledge the task was harder than it seemed.

Though I won’t name names, the commercial potato rolls I’ve looked at are a bit of joke, as they use about as much potato flour as yeast (understand: not a whole lot). Check the labels yourselves! The main ingredient is wheat flour, and food coloring does the rest. There aren’t any eggs either, so that oh-so-potatoey yellow color is 100% Yellow #5, or 6, or whatever.

Pictures of my first attempt would not speak highly of my baking skills. Whoever wrote the recipe at King Arthur Flour should try to eat their own dog food some day — the result tasted fine but was too heavy for a burger. Both Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking and Further Adventures in Search of Perfection offer pretty similar recipes for regular, potato-free buns, but they each take over 24 hours. I understand the importance of flavor development when you work with yeast, but will one really taste a difference once the bun is sandwiching a flavorful patty, some cheese, and condiments? Especially with a potato bun? I’m not so sure. (Note: I tried, of course.)

Well, take THAT, messieurs Nathan Myhrvold and Heston Blumenthal! My potato bun, though inspired by your recipes, can be ready to eat in under 3 hours, and it tastes pretty damn good. Continue reading

My First Deer, and Bohemian Venison Burgers

Victory! After spending about 11 hours freezing on a stand at the top of a hill in the Mohawk Valley countryside, silently watching this field:

I killed my first deer, on the season opening day just before sunset! The young, antlerless buck showed up at about 200 yards, near the trees you see at the far end of the field. I took a first shot, missed, and, probably not knowing where the noise came from, the deer came towards me for about 50 yards. Fatal mistake, as I shot again and he went down immediately.

Thanks again to huntsman Bob for a great hunting weekend (I also got a turkey, but this is a story for another day).


This is a simple recipe that I created the day I came home from the hunting trip, fighting with exhaustion. It can be made entirely on a grill if you have limited equipment (I give 2 versions of the apple-sauerkraut purée).

The Bohemian twist, brought by the cured pork, the sauerkraut, and the potato bun, is inspired by the many venison dishes I enjoyed during my winter trips to the Czech Republic.

Apple-sauerkraut purée
Yields about 4 servings

1/2 oz butter
2  1/2 oz peeled and sliced green apple
1 oz sauerkraut

  • Brown butter in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the apple and cook until soft, stirring frequently. Transfer to a blender with the sauerkraut, process until smooth, and reserve.
  • Alternatively, you can wrap the quartered apple and and butter in foil and cook on a grill, then mash and mix it with the sauerkraut using a fork.

Bohemian venison burger
Yields 4 servings

4 slices pancetta (or bacon)
24 oz ground venison
salt
black pepper, ground
4 burger buns (preferably potato)
3 oz firm cheese (such as swiss or gouda), coarsely grated
apple-sauerkraut purée

  • Sauté the pancetta in a hot pan until brown on both sides, and reserve. Shape the ground venison into 4 patties without pressing the meat more than necessary. Season generously with salt and pepper, sauté in the same pan over high heat to the desired doneness, then let rest for a couple minutes. Of course, the pancetta and patties can be cooked on a grill instead.
  • Toast the buns with grated cheese on the top halves. Spread each bottom half with apple-sauerkraut purée, then top with a patty and a slice of pancetta. Serve immediately.

Restaurant Review: Korzo Haus

A note about my restaurant reviews: New York City counts many Eastern European restaurants scattered across the five boroughs, most of them ignored by restaurant critics and diners alike. I intend to visit as many as I can and report!

From the outside, Korzo Haus just looks like another hole-in-the-wall located in a forgotten block of the East Village — in so far as there is such a thing. Even the blackboards simply advertise your usual brunch, coffee and burgers.

However, if you pass the short-order kitchen in front and inspect the diminutive dining room (which consists of a few tiny two-tops and a communal table that isn’t much bigger), you may notice the picture on the wall and wonder why the President of Slovakia chose to visit this place. You may also wonder which person on the picture is really the president (hint), but that’s beyond the point.

The explanation comes when you read the menu: the dishes seem to come straight from a café at the trijunction between Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. Austrian bratwurst and potato salad shares the scene with Slovak halušky with bryndza, and Hungarian langos and goulash. Many of these specialties are then rearranged into egg or burger offerings. There is no wine to rinse down the food, but there are about a dozen kinds of beer, mostly from Central Europe and the US.

If you choose to start the meal with the potato salad and happen to be sitting at the bar, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that the salad is prepared à la minute, entirely from scratch:

Okay, à la minute is a bit misleading, as it will take quite a few minutes before the dish finally hits your plate. But the result is worth the wait! I don’t hesitate to say this is the best potato salad I’ve ever had, mixing delicious potatoes with sautéed onions, bacon dice, and just the right amount of mustard.

The bratwurst is served either on a roll, or with the same potato salad and some sauerkraut. The sausage was tasty and appropriately greasy, though not excessively so.

Moving on to Slovakia, we ordered the halušky (the Slovak version of spaetzle), which come with either bacon and chives or bryndza (a cheese similar feta). Simple but good.

More halušky, deep-fried this time, arrived with the goulash, adding an interesting crunch to the spicy Hungarian stew that you see bubbling on the back burner in the kitchen. I found the beef brisket very tender, but too much caraway in the sauce overpowered the dish.

We completed the meal with a couple of the truly unusual Korzo burgers, which occupy half of the menu and change regularly. All of them are wrapped in langos (Hungarian fried bread) and served with the ever popular deep-fried halušky and an assortment of green apple, red cabbage slaw, and aioli. Looking in the kitchen, we saw that the one-man-show chef first grills the patties, lets them cool, then wraps them in the langos dough and deep-fries them:

“The Original” came with bacon, emmentaler cheese, mustard and pickle. “The Slav” was topped with slow-cooked pork neck, saeurkraut and bryndza. Both were good and pleasantly decadent, and you hardly needed an appetizer before them. My main reproach would be that the meat was too packed (later on, I actually noticed that the chef was pressing those patties a lot). Ground meat in burgers is best if it’s pressed just enough to not fall apart. And while the deep-fried halušky went well with goulash, they were less satisfying with burgers. Not to mention I was reaching halušky saturation. Surely, there must be a Slovak fried potato specialty that could be tapped into instead.

There were no desserts, and I don’t know where the kitchen would find the space to prepare them. Too bad — a slice of strudel would have fit perfectly.

Cuisine: Austrian, Slovak, Hungarian
Picks: potato salad, Korzo burgers
Food: 7/10