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read, cook, eat May 2009: Paprikas Csirke

May 10, 2009
Artist-mom-writer-editor Kirsten Andrews now lives in B.C., miles from her Winnipeg home. And it’s been a long time since she was able to share a table

Photo by Elise

Photo by Elise

with her beloved grandmother, now 94 and going strong. But she can summon both home and her matriarch with this, which she listed as her favourite dish in last month’s Proust Questionnaire 5.0. Here’s Kirsten’s recipe and her notes.

Denise Duguay

Paprikas Csirke (Chicken Paprikas) is the traditional name of this Hungarian dish. You can use stewing beef or veal if you really want to get fancy. It’s delicious with veal, though I haven’t eaten it like that for many years. This is a stew-like dish served over spaetzle, an egg dumpling, made by hand. You can also buy it dried at some supermarkets or specialty stores.

Ingredients:
2 large onions, diced well
2 Tbsp canola or olive oil
3lbs. frying chicken, cut up or thighs or thighs/drumsticks (eg. 6 to 8 chicken thighs)
2 – 3 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika*
1 tsp. salt
Half a large red or green pepper, or one small one, cut up in chunks – it can also be diced if you want to leave it in the sauce

Method:
Dice the onions and sautée them on low heat in oil until translucent and lightly browned. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of sweet Hungarian paprika (this is THE key ingredient, don’t make substitutions!) and stir it up. Add chicken pieces and salt (dark meat like thighs is best) and stir until chicken is coated with paprika mixture. Initially it will seem quite dry but the meat will gradually release juices and make a really yummy sauce. Add pepper (pieces can be taken out at the end). Cook for about 10 min. on med. low heat stirring frequently to prevent burning. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about an hour until chicken is tender. Longer is better. Add water periodically if needed, though the onions and chicken have a good deal of water in them and if you do it low enough you probably shouldn’t need to add any.

*Once you have become familiar with this spice you can increase the amount to suit your palate.

Photo: Paprika in the Great Market Hall in Gellert, Budapest on Sept. 24, 2007, by vi4kin, c/o flickr

I serve it with Knaedel or Spaetzle (the first is more like a dumpling, the latter thinner and a little more like spaghetti).

Knaedel

2 c. flour
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. oil
water

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt. In a medium sized bowl add flour and salt and stir to mix. Make a well and add eggs, oil and enough water to make a fairly thick batter. Beat vigorously by hand for a few minutes. Drop by teaspoon full into boiling water and cook until they float. Then boil for a few more minutes. Do in several batches to avoid overcrowding in pot. Skim cooked knaedel from water and place in a buttered (or oiled) dish and keep warm till remainder of knaedel are cooked. Serve.

Spaetzle

2 eggs
1/2 c. water
1/2 tsp salt
2 c flour (approx.)

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt. Beat eggs lightly. Add water and salt. Add flour until you have a soft but not runny dough. Cut with a knife from a dampened board into rapidly boiling water. Cook until all noodles have risen to the top. Drain and serve.

Kirsten Andrews

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