Tuesday, March 22, 2011
What's For Dinner?
This is a recipe that has been passed down from my great-grandmother. When she came to America from Hungary at the age of 16, she worried about how she would make a living. Speaking broken English, she applied for a job as a housekeeper. She was asked if she knew how to cook. Of course, she answered yes...she needed the job. But in reality, she had never prepared a meal in her life. So she learned how to be a fantastic cook through trial and error.
She raised five children on a small farm with very little money. They grew potatoes and apples and raised chickens. So most of my heritage recipes contain a few simple ingredients: chicken, potatoes, and some sort of noodle. Chicken Paprikash is no different. My grandfather learned how to make it from his mother and my mom learned how to make it from him. I followed suit and enjoy preparing it occasionally for both my mother and grandfather. I'm sure great-grandma's was better, but my Hunky blood is watered down so I do my best.
Here's the procedure, which isn't really a recipe.
Boil a whole chicken or several chicken pieces (both white and dark meat) in a large pot with salt and paprika. The longer you boil it, the richer your broth will be.
In a small skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with a few shakes of paprika. Dice sweet onion (anywhere from a tablespoon to half of the onion...depending on your taste) and saute in the butter and paprikash. When onion is tender, add entire contents of skillet to boiling chicken. (I usually saute the onion in the same pot I'm going to boil the chicken in. When the onion is tender, I add the raw chicken and fill the pot with water. It saves a dish from being washed.)
Several hours later, remove chicken and allow to cool. If you need more broth, add water or canned chicken broth. Return to a boil. Peel and dice a couple potatoes; add to boiling broth. Chop 1 - 3 carrots and add to soup. Slowly boil or cover and simmer until potatoes are almost tender. Meanwhile, prepare dumplings.
To add the dumplings to the soup, make sure the broth is boiling. Pinch off small pieces of dough, the size of a grape or cherry tomato, and drop into the hot broth. Make sure the pieces of dough do not touch one another until after they have been immersed in the broth. If the dough becomes too sticky to handle, you may add more flour. When all the dumplings are added, cover and simmer until all vegetables and dumplings are done.
Taste the broth. You may need to add more salt. If you would like spicier Paprikash, add a pinch or two of hot paprika (a little goes a long way). Broth should be fairly red/orange in color. Add more paprika to achieve a darker color.
Before serving, debone chicken and add as much as you would like to the soup. Once the chicken is added, do not boil again. Boiling will make the chicken stringy.
Serve with fresh bread for dipping. The proper way to eat Hungarian Paprikash is to dip bread into the broth! We prefer Italian bread, but this time I used my own homemade sourdough bread! Mmmm....delish!