09 October 2009

Famous Food Friday -- Yul Brynner

He sings, he dances, he… cooks! Yes, I’m talking about Yul Brynner, author of The Yul Brynner Cookbook. Everyone knows Brynner as an actor, but did you know he was a polyglot (speaking 11 languages including Russian, Chinese and Romany), a nightclub entertainer, a musician, a trapeze artist, a member of a traveling gypsy troupe, a pro jai alai player, and a director, as well as the King of Siam?

So let the guy cook!

Brynner was born on Sakhalin Island, a slim strip of land off the southeastern coast of Russia and north of Japan. The island is sub-arctic and during the 1940’s both Japan and Russia claimed the island. His family took him to China when he was 6 months old. The cookbook features cuisines from his multi-ethnicity. There is a Russian section and a Japanese section. There are sections from his many travels featuring French and Thai cuisine. By far the most interesting section features his Romany or Gypsy heritage.

In his introduction to this section, Brynner tells us:

“My mother was a gypsy, and I spent several of my teenage years traveling through France with a gypsy troupe.

…there are inherent difficulties in constantly moving from one place to another. Just think of the everyday chore of preparing meals.

Gypsies have always favored soups and stews. These dishes are easy to make, and just about anything you put in either of them winds up tasting good. These marvelous concoctions also can be quite exotic.”

One of the more exotic soups is dandelion in cream, while one of the more traditional stews is pork.

Pork and Sauerkraut Ragout

1 1/2 –2 pounds pork shoulder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon slat
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 cup water
1 cup beer
1 1/2 pounds sauerkraut, drained
1 cup sour cream

Trim excess fat off pork, and cut the meat into small pieces. It’s all right to cook this dish with pork bones included; they should be discarded before serving, but they add flavor to sauce. Set the pork aside, and heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven. While the oil heats, peel and chop the onion. Sauté the onion and garlic clove in the vegetable oil until the onions are transparent. Remove the garlic, add the pork, and brown well on all sides. Add paprika, salt, caraway seeds, water and beer to the Dutch oven. Cover, cook for one hour, periodically skimming fat from the top of the sauce. After one hour of cooking, add drained sauerkraut, cover, and cook another 45 minutes. Garnish with sour cream.

Whip up a cauldron of this Pork and Sauerkraut stew and pop The King and I in the DVD and make a night of it. To whet your appetite:

A Puzzlement - mp3


  1. & Gertrude Lawrence gave him his top billing-on broadway in the King and I. She died while in the play's run and swore the producer to give YB top billing on her death bed. The two were in the throes of a love affair at the time. (this recipe actually sounds good) I did not know he was Russian-that makes perfect sense. Wonderful post.la


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