Monday, September 5, 2011

First you steal a Chicken...

 So what is my favorite Hungarian food?
It has to be  Chicken paprikas with nokedli ( little dumplings). This was something that I could always eat even under great stress.
When I was a teenager I went with my mother to visit relatives in Hungary.  The country was still heavily communist and as I came from Canada I was not used to seeing soldiers on the streets with guns and  rifles.  The whole trip stressed me out completely.
Our first stop was my maternal grandmother who lived in Szombathely. This city is not far from the Austrian border and so we flew to Vienna, took a train  to Szombathely and  took a cab to my grandmother's home.
The first thing she asked me was what I wanted to eat. Well with my kitchen Hungarian I told her Csirke paprikas with nokedli . This was my comfort food.
She put a large pot of water on the stove to boil and  said to follow her and she will show me how it it done in Hungary. OK with me....we went out to the backyard where there were some chickens. I thought she was going to show me their nests and maybe if they have eggs we can use them for the dumplings  (nokedli) .  She grabbed a chicken , wrung it's neck and cut off it's head, brought back into the kitchen and immersed it in the pot of hot water that was on the stove.  In a few minutes she pulled it out and started taking feathers off the chicken and in about 5 minutes she had a featherless chicken on the wooden block. She must have taken out the insides while I was still in shock as I don't remember when that was done.  She did all this in such a short time that I was speechless. That is  also how many older cookbooks say to make chicken paprikas in Hungary.
Of course there is the old joke of " How do you make a chicken paprikas?  First you steal a chicken ...."
I m not going to wring the neck of a chicken nor steal one , we will do it the modern way and go to the butcher.

Before we start perhaps we should find out a little about   the history of the Paprika that is so common in Hungarian cooking.  Well supposedly it was brought  by the Turks who got it from Asia in the 16 century . Who really knows?  As the Turks were in Hungary for 160 years this sounds as if it could be right.
There is a story that a few seeds were stolen from the pepper plant of a Turk by a peasant who then grew his own. It was initially used by the tribesmen and shepherds to spice their meals as they had the first contact with the Turks and followed their example. Soon it was grown for decoration in the peasant cottages until they also used it to spice their food. Then finally the aristocracy used it and by the 19 century it became the dominate spice in the Hungarian kitchen.
Albert Szent- Gyorgyi, who won the Noble Prize in 1937 for discovering Vitamin C, used the pepper plant to first extract Vit C while he was researching at the University lab in Szeged.
The pepper plants are dried and then  powdered and that powder is what is used in most of the Hungarian cooking.  There are many types depending on the pepper plant . The powder is even fed to Flamingos to keep their pink plumage bright and beautiful.
To release the full  flavor  and aroma of the paprika you must add it first to hot lard or oil . But must never be added while the pan is on the stove as it burns very quickly due to the sugar content and then becomes bitter.

Ok so enough of the lecture get on with the recipe.
This recipe is very, very old and is just the original simple chicken paprikas and nokedli. There are no tomatoes  or carrots in this. The meat is not a chicken breast for calorie reduced diets, the lard is lard, the bacon is smoked and from a pig not a turkey and the sour cream is 20% not 12% and not mixed with yogurt.
Years ago no one worried about their weight and so the recipes were made with what they had on hand  . 
With this recipe you can use  lamb, veal  or fish as a substitute for the chicken  or make it vegetarian and use mushrooms.

Chicken Paprikas   with nokedli  

Cut up chicken dark meat 8 pieces ( 4 thighs, 4 legs)
2 yellow peppers cut up
3 Onions cut up
1 garlic clove
1 large tbs paprika powder
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbs flour 
3 slices of smoked bacon cut up
1 large tbs spoon lard

NOKEDLI ( dumplings)
2 cups flour 
2 eggs
1/2-3/4 cup water

Into a sauteing  pan add the lard and the bacon and quickly fry to get the bacon to release the fat. Add in the  onions and garlic and braise until the onions are almost see thru. At this point add 1/4 cup water to the onions and boil them until the water is almost gone.  This is to get the onions to release all their flavor and to be softened.

Now  take this OFF the stove and add the paprika powder and stir quickly to get all the pieces coated.

Put this back on the stove , add the chicken pieces and the  cut up peppers. Stir,   lower the heat to simmer and put a lid on the pan. You can add a bit of water here, but just a little bit as the chicken gives out water as it cooks.

Ok so that is left to simmer for 11/2 to 2 hours. You can not hurry this as you need the chicken tender and filled with the paprika flavor . On occasion stir gently and making sure to  replace the lid. You will notice that the chicken gives off liquid so you do not have to add water. If you feel at the 1 hour mark that it seems dry then add 1/4 cup of water but I doubt you will need this if you cook this slowly.

While this is cooking you can make the Nokedli or dumplings. This is slightly  different from the csipetke dumplings we added to the bean soup. Place a large pot of water to boil on the stove.

Take 2 cups of flour and 2 eggs and a pinch of salt and combine. To this add bit by bit 3/4 cup of cold water. The water must be added slowly  until you make a loose dough. If the dough is too runny add some more flour again spoon by spoon.
Into the boiling water you will add the dumplings using a dumpling maker. I have 2 , one that is very old and was my mothers and the other one I bought . The old one is the best and makes perfect shaped dumplings every time. I have lost the scrapper for it so I use a spatula and it works fine.
 Now once the water is really boiling you will make the dumplings. You place some dough on the scrapper and with the spatula you push it thru the holes  into the boiling water. Let them fall and do not stir , they will rise on their own.

You will need to boil these for around 15 minutees to get them to be
ready for the frying pan.

Take them out spoon by spoon shaking off as much water as you can before placing them in the frying pan. let them fry a bit just to get the excess water off of them.
Now the nokedli is done so you just leave it on very low hest until you finish up the chicken.
The chicken is ready and this is how it will look. There is a lovely red color from the paprika. There is no need to add tomato to give it a color.
Now we will remove the chicken pieces carefully and make the 'Habaras'.  This is 1/4 cup sour cream and 1 tablespoon flour stirred together and added to the paprika sauce.

Boil this slowly for about 2 minutes, return the chicken and slightly reheat. There you are done !

Cucumber salad is eaten with this dish .
So you will need 1 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon vinegar, salt and paprika.

Thinly slice an English cucumber, once you have finished fill the bowl with water and 1 teaspoon salt and let sit for  for an hour. It would be good to start this before you start the main meal.

When the meal is ready  drain  the cucumber slices and rinse a few times. Add the water, sugar, viniger  to this, add salt if you need  and sprinkle with paprika.
So the meal is ready . It really was not that difficult but yes it is  high in calories. Substituting chicken breast for the meat, oil for the lard and bacon,and not using the sour cream will make this a very low calorie dinner. But that is not chicken paprikas .
Once in a while maybe you can make a meal like this and remember that this meal was passed down . When I make this meal I always remember my grandmother and isn't it nice to have a memory like this that can be neither lost nor forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. My daughter's mother-in-law is from Hungary and made this dish for us. This recipe looks exactly like the one that she used. I don't like sour cream, so she substituted heavy cream in the recipe but served sour cream on the side. It was delicious, but I am going to try it with a heart healthy oil instead of lard and white meat chicken without skin.