Hungary's take on the potato gratin, which is eaten as a main dish here, features rings of hard-boiled eggs, bolstered sour cream, and crisped-up paprika sausages. The sum of the parts is light and creamy and delicious. And also refreshing when served with a side of pickled vegetables. As with other casserole dishes, the layered potatoes taste even better on the next day.
Yield: 6-7 servings; Total time: 1 hour
1 ¾ kilos (4 pounds) potatoes, boiled with skin on then peeled and cut into ½-cm (⅕-inch) rings
10 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and cut into rings
300 grams (⅔ pound) smoked paprika sausage, sliced thin
3 cups sour cream
2 egg yolks
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons butter, to grease casserole dish
150 grams (5 ounces) cheese, finely grated; in Hungary people use a mild Trappist-style cheese but Swiss, Emmentaler, or Gruyere also works
Salt and pepper
Pickles for the side
Step 1: Boil potatoes in a large pot of simmering, salted water until potatoes are soft but not disintegrating, about 15-20 minutes. Then pour cold water over the potatoes and remove skin with hands or with a knife and slice into ½-cm (⅕-inch) rings.
Step 2: In the meantime, place eggs in a pot of simmering water and boil them gently for 10 minutes. Drain eggs, cover with cold water and let them cool for 5 minutes, then peel and cut into rings.
Step 3: In the meantime, place the sliced sausages in a large pan or pot and fry them in their own fat on medium until nicely crisped-up, about 8-10 minutes. Then remove the sausages with a slotted spoon and set aside in a small bowl. Keep the rendered fat in the skillet.
Step 4: In a mixing bowl, stir together 2 ½ cups sour cream, ⅔ of the finely grated cheese, rendered sausage fat from the pan, egg yolks, minced garlic, and two pinches of salt.
Step 5: Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit). In the meantime, lightly butter a not too deep casserole dish and layer ingredients, starting with a layer of potatoes sprinkled with salt and pepper, then a layer of eggs and sausages, then a coating of the sour cream mixture. Repeat until casserole dish fills up, finishing with a potato layer. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
Step 6: Cover with foil and transfer casserole dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove foil and brown the top cheese layer under a broiler for a few minutes until crispy and golden brown.
Step 7: Wait a few minutes for the layered potatoes to cool, then serve on individual plates with a side of pickled vegetables and a spoonful of sour cream on top.
Words of advice
There are many layered potatoes variations. You can turn it vegetarian by omitting the sausages; on the other hand, carnivores may also add crispy szalonna bits to it.
I created these recipes with the help of nearly a dozen historical Hungarian cookbooks, adjusting ingredients, cooking times, and methods to reflect my own preferences and tastes of the current day.