Build Your Own Heart Attack: Hungarian Pork-Fat Sandwich!
They call it "Dirty Bread." Nope, it's not a slice of Wonder Bread in the hands of a drunk juggler. It's a Hungarian peasant food that features a hunk of smoked pork fat skewered on a stick and melted over an open fire! Mmm! Think s'mores for men. Tweet
Yum! Szalonna! A pork fat-on-rye delicacy! Chase it with a Diet Coke and you'll be fine.
Is it bad for you? Okay. But is it good? Only as good as Hungarian gypsy chow can get.
Worried? Serve it on a gurney! You're only Hungarian once.
Unexpected Hungarian peasants at the door? Whip up something we call “Dirty Bread” — although health nuts may call it something worse.
Yeah, I know — it sounds like a slice of Wonder Bread in the hands of a drunk juggler, something that starts bad and just gets worse.
But if you’re of Hungarian descent, Dirty Bread is dee-liciousz–a slice of rye bread soaked in liquified pork fat. Say that out loud and your heart will scream along.
Before you reach for your Lipitor, let me explain. Dirty bread is a Hungarian peasant food where you take a hunk of smoked pork fat about the size of two packs of Marlboros, skewer it on a stick and melt it over an open fire. Is that explanation enough? No? Here’s a picture:
See? You press the drippings into a slice of rye bread until the bread looks like you rubbed it on the ground. Presto! dirty bread.
In Hungarian, the fat is called szalonna and the roasting ritual is a szalonnasütés. (Pronounced “sah’ loo nah-shu taysh”, in case you want to talk dirty. It means “bacon roasting.”) Walk into any Hungarian butcher shop, yell “szalonnasütés”! and you’ll likely find dozens of styles of szalonna, quality increasing with the fat-to-meat ratio. A Magyar butcher will sniff if you ask for a meatier slab, muttering “a man under 100 kilos is just a Christmas tree ornament” — in Hungarian.
We Central New Jersey Hungarians get our szalonna from a deli named European Homemade Provisions that also sells Hungarian “TV kielbasa,” which looks like a cigar-thick Slim Jim on a weekend Viagra jag. Their motto: “We make it like you remember.” Their other motto: “There is no place! Like this place! Near this place! So this must be the place.” It rhymes!
Szalonna roasting tip: Score the pig fat with a knife in crosshatch fashion after skewering it on a stick. That makes the fat melt faster when held over the coals. When it drips, we press it into a slice of rye bread that’s been peppered with paprika, slices of onion, green bell pepper and, sometimes, very thinly sliced garden cucumbers.
For me, our once-a-year, family reunion bacon roast is worth playing Hungarian heart-attack roulette.
Are we worried about our arteries? Of course! Despite studies showing no significant evidence that saturated fat is associated with increased cardiovascular disease, a meta-analysis published by the American Heart Association in 2020 confirmed their 60-year-old recommendation to limit saturated fat to reduce the risk of heart disease.
For me, our once-a-year, family reunion bacon roast is worth playing Hungarian heart-attack roulette. Besides, I figure we’ll burn off a lot of that deadly fat dancing the csárdás in ladies’ clothes.
Are you ready to make your own “Dirty Bread”?
If so, here’s what you need to get started on your own szalonna:
Csataris of Central New Jersey Gypsy Szalonna Recipe
- 1 lb or larger rind-on slab bacon (biggest you can find), unsliced
- Loaf of rye bread
- Hungarian sweet paprika, to taste
- Black pepper (optional)
- 3 large onions, sliced
- 4 large green bell peppers, sliced (or diced, if you prefer)
- 4 garden tomatoes, sliced
- 1-2 cucumbers, thinly sliced (optional)
- Radishes, sliced (optional)
Things You’ll Need
- Sharp knife
- Hardwood fire or charcoal
- Hungarian palinka (apricot brandy to toast the meal, optional)
- Hand towel (to wipe the sweat from your brow, because as you can see the picture of me at work below, you’re going to need it)
- Find the fat. You’ll have to ask Google to help you find your local Eastern European butcher shop or order online. Or just say, “Siri, szalonnasütés.”
- Cut the fat into hunks about 5” long, 3” wide and 2 1/2 “ thick. Skewer it on a green stick, lengthwise (not through the rind). Make slices into the fat lengthwise and widthwise about a half inch deep to speed melting. (Make several; the more roasters, the better.)
- Prepare your vegetables and have them ready on a plate. Lay out your rye bread slices on a large platter and sprinkle with paprika.
- Slowly roast the bacon over a campfire (or grill). As it renders, press the drippings onto a slice of rye bread. Use an extra piece of bread to press the top of the rind so you don’t burn your fingers.
- Add the toppings and then give it another press or two after the bread gets good and “dirty” with fat.
- Bonus: After the slab melts down, you can shave off the brown bits of bacon onto the bread (and save that slice for yourself, in case they don’t have any at the hospital).