Gentle reader, I wouldn’t suggest mixing cream cheese and pickles unless I really meant it. I mean it.
Reading this recipe from the photograph I’d taken of it in Prague, I had my doubts.
“Cream cheese and pickles?” I asked Jakub, from the kitchen table.
“Yes,” he said, looking up from watching a movie on the couch. “You spread it on veka slices. You know, on baguettes.”
“Wait a minute.” I suspected some translation cover-up. “‘Baguette’ in Czech is bageta. What’s veka?”
Jakub shrugged. “Bread is bread.”
“No, it’s not,” I protested. “Baguettes have special crust! And crumb! There’s a whole layer of the French government devoted to baguette inspection!”
He frowned. “Fine. No, we did not have baguettes under Communism. Veka just means ‘loaf of white bread.’ You like chlebíčky–it’s on that kind of bread.” (Yes, but that’s softer than a baguette.)
It’s true. I interrogated my husband about kinds of bread found in Communist Czechoslovakia. I’m not a very nice person.
Chlebíčky are open-faced sandwiches that you can find in any good deli in the Czech Republic. I think they’re the sandwich in its best form: the combination of toppings (though this one is a classic) are endless. Usually they’re topped with a wedge of hard-boiled egg and curl of ham or salami.
(My fondness for chlebíčky is documented here and here, as well as here, along with a general sprawling ode to Czech food.)
How many chlebíčky Jakub has eaten in his lifetime probably numbers in the thousands. I have a lot of catching up to do.
Pomazánka / Spread
approx. 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2-3 pickles, shredded (a mix of sweet gherkins and dill pickles)
salami, diced finely
1 1/2 cooked potatoes
half an onion, diced and rinsed in cold water
1 tbsp. mustard
1-2 tbsp. mayonnaise
hard-boiled egg, carrot curls (optional)
Mix cream cheese with shredded pickles, salami, and potatoes. Add diced onion and mustard, and mix. Finally, add the mayonnaise. Spread on slices of crusty French bread and decorate with wedges of hard-boiled egg, or with carrot curls.
I asked Jakub, “So are these sweet or sour pickles?”
“Can’t I just use relish?”
“What’s relish?” he asked.
If you have a food processor, you’re set.
Don’t turn back at this point, or you’ll miss the best potato salad ever. It might sound different, sure, to American ears, to have potatoes, pickles, and onions wrapped together by cream cheese (and then to spread it on bread), but it’s not that fundamentally different than a recipe with mayonnaise… Right? In any case, it’s delicious, and when you spread it on sliced bread (of any kind), you’ve got the basic spread for chlebíčky, the Czech gift to the sandwich world.