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Chicken Paprikash and “Knuckles”

Today is my birthday.  And tomorrow’s my son’s birthday.    The result is an odd couple of days of happy celebration.   I do love birthdays!

Son and grandgirls are here and have once again requested Hungarian Paprikash for the birthday(s) dinner.  It’s a family tradition.   But this time my husband wants to take us out to eat (what a prince!) and I can’t resist escaping  from the kitchen.  Can you tell I’m feeling guilty?  I may even have nightmares about not living up to expectations!

Still, Chicken Paprikash is a wonderful dish.   My Hungarian Dad taught me how to make it, complete with nokedli  ( mini dumplings).   My little brother and I called them “knuckles” when we were little, because we couldn’t pronounce that word in Hungarian.   We still call the dumplings knuckles.

There is no real recipe for the Paprikash or the knuckles, but I will give it a try to share with you.  Here is my family’s SECRET recipe handed down through the generations!  Oh, the things we reveal for the sake of blogging!

HUNGARIAN CHICKEN PAPRIKASH

Chicken pieces (with skin) – Your choice – 6 to 10 pieces.

2 Onions chopped

Paprika – Unlimited amount

Butter – 2 Sticks

1)       Melt the butter in a big stew pot.  Add onions and sauté until translucent.  Begin adding chicken pieces.  Place the larger pieces (skin side down) on the bottom.  Spoon over a little of the onions. Then add the smaller pieces (skin side down) on top.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

2)      Now reverse the above procedure.  Move the smaller pieces skin side up to the bottom and the larger pieces to the top, skin side up.  Cover and simmer 20 minutes more.  This recipe will make its own gravy.  I have never had to add water.

3)      After the 40 minutes of cooking you can begin spooning paprika by the tablespoon into the gravy.  Keep adding and adding and stirring in more paprika  until the gravy turns tomato orange.  The gravy should look like it was made with tomatoes – a fairly bright orange.  Simmer 10 or 15 minutes more.

You’re done!  Do NOT add salt or pepper.  Salt will toughen the meat.  Guests can add salt at the table.

Note:  If you are feeding a mob, you will obviously need to add more chicken, more onions, more butter and more paprika.  This recipe is based on 6 to 10 pieces of chicken which will feed up to six people.

Suggestion:  Serve Paprikash with Sour Cream on the Side!  Many recipes include sour cream in the cooking process but my family prefers  to add it at the table or not to have sour cream at all.

HUNGARIAN NOKEDLI (“Knuckles” to Go with the Paprikash)

I never had a set recipe for making these “dumplings” although I’m sure you can find one on the internet.  This was the way I learned to make them as a child at my father’s side.  Knuckles are the best part of the Paprikash feast and I can never make enough of them.

Start with:  4 Cups of All Purpose Flour

2 Eggs

Milk  (Undetermined amount but quite a lot)

Salt and Pepper

1)      Bring a big stew pot of salted water to a boil and keep it at a bubbling simmer.

2)      In a large bowl, beat the eggs and add some flour and a little salt and pepper.  Add milk and begin stirring.  There is no definite amount of milk.  Just pour in about half a cup and start (I use a table fork to do the stirring).  If the mixture is dry, add  more milk.   If the mixture is too wet, add more flour.   Keep adding and stirring and adding and stirring.  Strive for a stiff dough that acts sticky and stringy like taffy.   You can always add more flour or more milk until you reach the right consistency.

3)      Now take a Tablespoon of the dough.  Begin “slicing” bits off the end of the spoon with a butter knife into the simmering water.  Keep dipping the knife into the water to make it easier to “slice” the dough.  The water should stay at a slightly boiling simmer.   Take another tablespoon and repeat slicing until the dough is used up.  Each “knuckle” is about an inch long and half an inch thick when cooked (thumb tip size).   If they look too small or too large, just adjust the size of your dough slices from the end of the spoon.

4)      When all the dough is used up, you’re done.   Let the water simmer another few minutes so the last ones get cooked.    Add the cooked knuckles to the gravy in your Paprikash pot.

Good luck with making the knuckles!  It’s easier than it looks, but really hard to explain.  You can also cheat and use boxed egg noodles or shells instead.  That’s what I did as a young bride.  Packaged noodles are never the same, but still pretty darned good.

Enjoy!

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I have no idea where the recipe originated.  I do know it always earns an oooh and aaah reception as a winter-weather side dish and adds just the right zip to almost any entrée.

Are you looking for another Easy-Breezy-1-2-3 Recipe  with a minimum of ingredients that make friends think you are a gourmet cook?

Try this one and enjoy the notoriety!

Dor’s Rave Review Red Cabbage

1 lb. red cabbage (a head) cut into 1” slices

1 medium onion sliced thin

¾ c dark raisins

1 c sweet cider

3 Tbs cider vinegar

¾ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp canola oil

In a stainless steel saucepan combine all of the ingredients listed.  Reduce heat to medium.  Simmer 45 minutes.  Most of the liquid should evaporate but cabbage should be moist.  Cook longer if there is excess moisture in bottom of pan.  The small amount of liquid remaining should be carmelized and brown and the cabbage, crunchy.

Serves 4-6

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FLASHBACK:  One beautiful evening there was a potluck party at a nearby rustic Lodge.   I remember stepping out of the lodge for a moment (to surreptitiously spit something nasty out of my mouth)  into the black night.  After unceremoniously spitting, I looked around and suddenly felt dizzy.  The sky was full of twinkling stars and at ground level millions of sparking fireflies looked like stars too.  I was confused about earth and sky, transfixed by an upside down world of fiction, with no horizon for reference.  It was the most magical thing I had ever seen.  We were new to country life then.  This leads me to the Tale of the Pickle Lady.

EARLIER THAT EVENING:  Inside  the Lodge, people were helping themselves to homemade foods like ham biscuits made with possibly the saltiest ham on earth, pulled pork barbecue, sliced turkey, coleslaw, home fries, baked beans, and homemade pickles.   I filled my plate of course and joined my husband at a picnic table where we were seated with strangers.

MAKING FRIENDS WITH FOOD

Becky (name changed to protect the innocent) was a jovial woman married to a jovial fellow named Dick.  They were happy to say hello to us new comers and make jovial conversation.  Becky took one look at my plate and said, “I don’t see my pickles.  You have to try my pickles.  It’s my grandma’s recipe.”

I NEVER want to hurt anyone’s feelings so I dutifully went back to the buffet and loaded up on her homemade pickles.  They were AWFUL!  I usually love almost any food (as is fairly obvious by body mass), but I will say it again – BECKY’S PICKLES WERE AWFUL!  Yuk.  Ikk.  Bleh. (Modern slang for Ughhhh!)

WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR ANYWAY?

Again, since I NEVER want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I tried hard not to frown or spit anything out there and then,  and I lied with a somewhat contorted expression, “Oh, these are delicious!  Your grandma must have been a very good cook!”  Becky had a satisfied smile on her face and I knew we had made our first country friends.  The disgusting pickles had brought us together.  Lying was a small price to pay for friendship, or was it?  Flashback: That was when I stepped outside into the magical night.

Stay with me.

THE STORY’S NOT OVER

A few weeks later we were invited to dinner at Dick and Becky’s house.  All went well until we thanked them for dinner and were on our way out.  And Becky said, “Oh, do take home a jar of my pickles.  I know how much you like them.  No hurry to return it, but I would like to have the jar back.”  Uh oh!  Well, I figured I could wait a few days, throw the pickles away, and then return the jar.  BUT, SHE GAVE US A GIANT JAR OF THE AWFUL PICKLES!

I thanked her profusely of course and waited a few weeks before returning the empty jar.  AND BECKY GAVE ME ANOTHER REFILL!  There would be no escaping her kindness and I could never tell her how much we hated those pickles.  And I always had to return the gallon jar and receive another filled jar in return!  WOE IS ME – I WOULD HAVE THOSE AWFUL PICKLES IN MY CUPBOARD FOREVER!

After returning a jar the fourth time around, Becky’s husband, Dick, came out to my car and asked, “Did Becky give you another jar of pickles?” “Yes, she did,” I almost sighed.

Dick got a very big grin on his face. “THANK YOU!  You are helping me get rid of those terrible pickles,” he said.  “I HATE the darned things and so does everybody else around here!”

We stayed friends with Becky and Dick for years, until they retired and moved away.  There are no more gallon jars of awful pickles in my cupboard.  And guess what?  I miss them – the pickles, and I miss the people too.

But, do you think our new friends saw us coming all those years ago on a starry night in July?  The joke was definitely on me and would be typical of Virginia-style humor.

Country Tip for City Dudes:

Never lie about liking someone’s home cooking.  You may wind up with far more than enough!

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