Cigánska Pečienka (Gypsy Roast Sandwich)
Pronounced “see-gahn-ska peh-chee-en-ka”. A hearty sandwich known to the streets of Central Europe. Tender seasoned cutlets cooked to perfection and served with sauteed onions on a toasted bun.
For the brine:
- 2-4 chicken breasts sliced thin (or pork or beef cutlets slightly tenderized)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp of pepper
- 1/4 tsp of paprika
- 1/4 tsp of cumin
- 2 cups of milk
For the final sandwich:
- Pork lard for frying
- 1 soft bun, sliced and lightly toasted
- Sauteed onions
- Hot Pepper Sauce (optional)
- Mustard (optional)
- In a sealable container or bag, combine the garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, and milk.
- Place your choice of meat into the container and coat the cutlets with the brine.
- Seal the container and leave it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better.
- Heat up a flat grill or frying pan (on the stove) to a medium-high heat.
- Remove the cutlets from the brine, allowing excess liquid to drain off them.
- Using a brush, paint each side of a cutlet with the pork lard, then place it on the flat grill (or frying pan).
- Cook each cutlet to perfection, occasionally painting them with more lard to baste.
- Assemble your final sandwich with the cutlet, bun, onions, and your choice of condiments (hot pepper sauce and/or mustard).
When preparing your meat for the brine, you'll need to make them thin enough to work in a sandwich. For chicken you can slice the breasts thinner, but for pork or beef it's suggested to pound them a bit thinner with a meat tenderizer. Leaving them thick will create a sandwich difficult to eat.
On our sandwich, we used Ajvar (“i-var”), a red relish made from eggplant, red peppers, and garlic. It comes both in mild and spicy forms. While not completely traditional, it did add a nice twist.
If you choose to use lard, make sure to buy real pork lard from a deli, and not the packaged low quality stuff you'll find in some grocers.
Already you can see variation options in the meat you choose and the condiments you desire. I found kaiser buns to be ideal for the sandwich, but you're free to use whatever buns or bread you prefer.
I know some get queasy on the thought of using lard, but it will best create the final flavor found in the local markets of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. As stated before through, make sure you find good quality pork lard and not the pre-packagaed stuff. If you would rather not use lard (or can't get any), then try butter, margarine, or even your favorite cooking oil.
Healthy It Up
While frying in lard is "traditional", you can go healthier by brushing the cutlets with your favorite cooking oil and broiling them in the oven. Even if you're not wanting sandwiches, the brine and broiling of the cutlets makes a nice dish for easy dinners.