I have a pretty wide culinary palate. I don't restrict myself to my cultural base and try out ethnic products and dishes, which are themselves comfort foods of those people. One ethnic group in my new stomping grounds are Eastern Europeans: Russians, Poles, Romanians, Hungarians and Jews. They bring a whole new dimension to tastes and preparation, and are a great source for delicious delicatessen. Its a nice change from the Italian/French/German fare I was used to up to now.
Of the delicious preparations I have since adopted and adapted to my repertoire, goulash and sauerkraut make a regular tour of duty on my dinning table; they are simple to make and use those types of spices that you may have lying around and have never quite figured out what to do with, until now.
First off, goulash. Goulash is a traditional Hungarian dish, mostly served as a soup (according to wikipedia, that is) and occasionally as a stew. For now, we're going to do the simple, and more flexible thing and make it a stew.
There are three basic elements to a goulash: meat, onions and paprika. Overall, its a simple dish, simple to make and inexpensive. How inexpensive? I can make a large goulash out of a small pork shoulder (about two and a half pound) for about seven dollars. And that's a lot of meat servings.
Serve with potatoes, perogies, egg noodles, boiled veggies, whatever you have on hand. You can cut the middleman by cooking your veggies at the same time as the meat, tossing in carrots, potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, and for a bit of variety, peas.
As a variation, you could cut your pieces of meat smaller, add in your veggies cut in about the same size and enough cooking liquid to more than cover; simmer at low heat and you've got yourself a nice hearty soup, perfect for those nasty winter months where shoveling snow and dragging fire wood in an everyday thing.
And then, we have sauerkraut. Properly, sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, which probably sound scary and disgusting, but is actually very delicious and is one of those wonderfoods. Proper 'kraut is soft and not soaked in vinegar, so unless you are lucky, it isn't found in jars or cans. If you get your sausage at a proper ethnic deli, then most likely they also offer homemade sauerkraut, a totally different beast.
Those of you who have a world palate and have tried Korean foods may be familiar with kimchi; its actually the Korean cousin of sauerkraut.
So, lets look at making something good even better, shall we?
Serve with mash potatoes and/or perogies, with a spoonful of sour cream for the mash or dumplings. If you skip the meat part in the 'kraut, you can well serve the sausages boiled or grilled with some simple yellow mustard, or some boiled ham. Alternatively, you could simply serve it with some good fresh bread, or use the 'kraut as a sandwich filled: take a sub roll, open it and grill it crunchy, stuff with the sauerkraut with a bit of mustard to taste.