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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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