Street food meets Eastern European and Jewish favorites at a new food truck in the Bay Area. The Old World Food Truck is Kenny Hockert’s celebration of fresh and seasonal Ashkenazi soul food.
Hockert, a trained chef who lives in San Francisco, mixes his organic and sustainable food experiences with memories of eating his Grandma Dora’s cooking growing up in Queens, N.Y.
“Jewish and Eastern European food was meant to be street food. It is comfort food, family food,” Hockert said. His “slow food in a fast truck” helps keep dishes such as borscht, pierogies, knishes, deli sandwiches and gefilte fish relevant today. His gefilte fish, for example, incorporates local fish and fresh horseradish and beets. “It has the look and feel of something old, but when you get a taste, it’s something new and fresh.”
Find the truck’s schedule and info on catering and regular “pop-up” nights at www.oldworldfoodtruck.com. Recipes below are by Hockert and have been adapted for space and style.
Old World Food Truck Schnitzel
Makes 4 schnitzels
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1⁄2 cup flour
1 cup panko or homemade bread crumbs
lemon wedges and/or honey, to taste
Hungarian Pepper Relish (see recipe below)
Trim any gristle off the chicken thighs. Butterfly thighs as needed to make the meat an even thickness. Place thighs on a cutting board on a sturdy surface. Cover chicken with plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizing mallet or the base of a mug, pound thighs until meat is a uniform 1⁄3-inch thick.
Mix sugar and salt together and sprinkle on both sides of the thighs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, preheat oven to
400 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.
Put eggs in a bowl. Spread flour and bread crumbs on separate plates. Pat the chicken in the flour, shake off excess, then dip into egg and finish by patting the chicken into bread crumbs. Repeat.
Pour a 1⁄4-inch layer of oil on the bottom of a large frying pan or skillet. Heat until oil reaches 325 degrees on a frying thermometer or until it sizzles a bread crumb. Put one chicken thigh in hot oil; it should sizzle immediately. If not, do not add others until it does. Fry on both sides until golden brown (about a minute per side). Place on prepared pan and put in oven for no more than 5 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately with a drizzle of honey and or lemon juice on top and Hungarian Pepper Relish.
Old World Food Truck Hungarian Pepper Relish
Makes about 2 cups
1⁄2 lb. red bell pepper
1⁄2 lb. Hungarian gypsy pepper (or use additional bell pepper)
1⁄2 to 1 small jalapeño (optional)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, cut into 1⁄4-inch pieces
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. paprika
1⁄4 tsp. salt or to taste
1⁄4 tsp. ground black pepper or to taste
Seed and cut peppers (including jalapeño if using) into 1⁄4-inch pieces. Heat oil in saucepan and add peppers, garlic and onion. Sauté over medium heat until softened and lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar, simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until the liquids are mostly reduced. Add paprika, salt and pepper. Taste. It should be tangy, sweet and have a nice spice. Adjust seasonings as needed. Transfer to food processor and carefully pulse mixture into a small, chunky dice. Let cool and serve with schnitzels.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.