Picnic by the Lake

Babies like sausage by the lake - sand and all. 
I love picnics. Once you get all the work out of the way, it's once of the most enjoyable ways to share a meal. We live near Lake Austin with the entrance to a neighborhood lakeside park 50 yards from our back door. It's a shady, friendly, breezy spot to spend an afternoon, watching the kids play in the lake and sitting at a picnic table having a cold beer. Because our house is so close, we can run up for supplies we forgot or carry down hot food we made on the stove. For one Sunday afternoon meal, we tested a couple of family recipes to accompany a link of sausage my Dad gave me... my great aunt Louise's green beans with a dill sauce and my grandmother Irene Orsak's cole slaw. 

My Dad's deer processed by City Meat Market in Schulenburg with pork and lots of garlic and black pepper into the tastiest sausage we ever ate.

My experience with green beans in Texas-Czech cuisine has been limited to them being pickled or the ubiquitous side dish - canned green beans dressed up with a little chopped onion and bacon. This dish is found at church picnics (like the one in Moravia), weddings and funerals. A look through 10 different community cookbooks yielded 4 recipes that could maybe, possibly, have some sort of basis in traditional Czech ways of cooking green beans, though none of them was the standard I just described. All involved pouring a sauce (or gravy) over beans first simmered in water until tender. One sauce had paprika and sour cream, one had garlic, two had vinegar and one had Shiner beer.  My aunt Louise's recipe was similar, in that is uses a cream sauce livened up with a little vinegar. I used fresh dill, of course (can't imagine using dried.) 

The recipe came from one Orsak reunion where my sister and I had encouraged people to bring family recipes for a homemade cookbook. I think I had the recipe 10 years before I tried it, which tells you a little of the state of my organization of the materials I've been collecting for a Texas-Czech cookbook. One of aunt Louise's children brought the recipe and wrote on the bottom "Louise Orsak makes this and so do some of her children. It's a favorite dish of just about everyone." Now it's one of mine, too. 
Dill sauce for green beans.

Aunt Louise's Green Beans with Dill Sauce (quantities in parenthesis added by me)

Cook fresh green beans (1 lb.) with onion (1/4 c. chopped) and some salt until almost tender. Melt 1/3 c.  margarine in a pan. Add 1/4 c. flour and fry until light brown. Drain some water (1/2 c.) from the beans with some milk (1 c.) to make a thick sauce. Add a little vinegar to taste (1 tsp.) and 2 to 3 Tbl. chopped dill. Drain the beans. Add sauce to them and simmer briefly in the sauce. 

Don't overcook the beans and be careful not to boil the cream sauce after you add the vinegar or the sauce will separate (see picnic plate photo below.) 

A colorful Texas-Czech picnic plate with a nice contrast of flavors so common in Czech food -  rich garlicky pork and venison sausage, cream and dill in the beans, the tangy vinegar and black pepper in the cabbage and carrot cole slaw - all washed down with a Shiner. 


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