When an Englishman (or anyone else, for that matter) plans a trip in the British Isles, he consults Egon Ronay's guide book. What Michelin is to the French, Ronay is to the British. He must be the best-known Hungarian in England.
I met him in London and when I found out where he came from, wonderful memories filled me with warmth. We had never met before, but I felt I had known him for a long time.
His family owned two of the most elegant establishments in Budapest. One was called Hangli and was a Hungarian Maxim's. We had no Rue Royal in Budapest, but we did have a magnificient boardwalk on the Danube River, and Hangli was right there on the most important stretch of the Danube Strand.
Egon Ronay's family also owned a place called the Inner City Cafe. It boasted famous patrons, but I went there only to deliver galley proofs to editors or authors while I was a journalism student at the University of Budapest. Only on one occasion did I actually eat there - and after more than 40 years I fondly remember the meal.
I had delivered galleys to the editor and author of an article who could not agree on several points. I stood waiting for almost an hour while they argued, shifting my weight from one foot to the other. Finally the editor realized my discomfort, and he arranged a table for me so I might eat while I waited.
After studying the menu, I decided on eggs casino with green spring salad. Soon the waiter's helper came with linen, silver and china - a real treat for me - and the meal proved to be memorable.
When I told this to Egon Ronay, who used to be the chef and owner of a London restaurant before he began his successful travel guide, he dug into his file and presented me with the recipe for eggs casino. Upon my return, I tried it and found it brought back all my good memories. It won't take you more than a half an hour to prepare, and is excellent as a luncheon dish or light supper. Serve it with a green salad, good crusty bread and a glass of well-chilled white wine. If you make the dish as a first course for dinner, figure only half an egg per person.
(8 servings) 1 cup sour cream 10 eggs 2 teaspoons prepared mustard 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons bread crumbs 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon butter 2 tablespoons finely chopped green parsely Freshly ground black pepper to taste 1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine sour cream, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon mustard and 1/4 teaspoon salt and let stand at room temperature. Place remaining 9 eggs in a saucepan in cold water, bring to a simmer, and cook 7 to 8 minutes.
While eggs are cooking, brown 1/2 cup bread crumbs in 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet or saucepan over low heat, until golden brown.
Drain eggs and rinse under cold water. Break shells under water, let stand for a minute or so, then added fresh cold water and peel eggs. Brush a shallow ovenproof dish or pie plate with 1 teaspoon butter. Halve 8 eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks together with remaining whole egg through sieve into a mixing bowl. Add half the sauteed bread crumbs, remaining 1 teaspoon mustard, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and about 2 tablespoons of sour cream mixture. Add chopped parsley and black pepper, and mix thoroughly.
With wet hands, divide mixture into 16 portions, form balls, and place one in each egg cavity. Arrange eggs in baking dish and bake 10 minutes.
While eggs bake, bring milk to a rapid boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add 3 tablespoon plain bread crumbs and cook until mixture thickens a bit. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and add remaining sour cream mixture.
Remove eggs from oven, spoon sour cream over eggs, and sprinkle with remaining sauteed bread crumbs. Return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes, then serve.
My first choice with this delightful dish would be an Austrian white wine, either Goldener Storch or White Storch, both from one of the oldest vineyards in Europe near the village of Rust. Each is flagrant, mellow and fruity and should be very well chilled and served in small amounts so as not to warm in the glass. They can be found for $3.49 a bottle.
My second choice would be a California white, a Johannisberg Kiesling. This wine should also be served well chilled.