The Hungarian composer Franz Liszt once said, ‘In Hungary all native music, in its origin, is divided naturally into melody destined for song or melody for the dance. Also, we’re all completely batshit crazy for paprika.’
Of all the recipes upon which my loving gaze has fallen over the years, none have caused more spice-related awe than those from Hungary. No matter how many times I make paprikash or goulash, I still stand holding ¼ cup of paprika in my trembling hand, trying to convince myself that what I’m about to do is allowed. Adding that much of a single spice to anything not capable of feeding a large number of people (10+, say) just seems wrong. Not even Indians and the hottest of their taste-bud raping curries can boast this kind of single-minded allegiance to one spice. And yet, somehow it doesn’t overwhelm. I believe that this is because Hungarians have taken a page from the cocaine dealers’ playbook by choosing to cut the paprika with sour cream. It removes the harsh and decreases the likelihood of overdosing, while simultaneously increasing the chances for cardiac arrest. Not that coke dealers cut their product with sour cream, a practice that would likely make it difficult to snort and knock freebasing completely out of the option department. I mean, that seems like it’d defeat the purpose. It would be a poor business model on the part of drug dealers is what I’m saying.
Anyhow! Unlike goulash, paprikash is often eaten in the presence of spaetzel, which are dumpling-esque hunks of dough that may or may not be served in noodle form. They have a bit of an identity crisis that became even more complicated following German invasion during WWII, after which time Hungarians generally preferred to forego the word ‘spaetzel’ and , “…just call the damned things ‘dumplings’”. Regardless of what they’re called or look like, making them is obscenely simple provided you have the skills necessary to boil water and watch a clock. So, to summarize:
Hungarians have a paprika fetish
This dish may cause angina
‘Spaetzel’ is a generic term for ‘dough-based foodstuff’
The blitzkrieg was devastating
1.5 lbs boneless chicken boobs
12 oz sour cream
36 oz chicken broth
¼ c paprika
2 – 3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp ginger
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp corn starch
Unleash your knife skillz on the onion, garlic cloves, and chicken, dicing everything up real nice like.
Pre- and post-chop:
Cook the chicken in olive oil. Throw the onions, garlic, and some olive oil into a pot and saute for a couple minutes over medium-high heat before adding the cooked chicken. This is mostly a timing thing, as you don’t want to cook the onions or the garlic into oblivion (maybe ~5 minutes). Especially the garlic. A little heat makes garlic go, ‘HI! I’M GARLIC AND I’M SUPER!’, while too much heat leads to, ‘I’m overcooked and pointless and crunchy, someone kill me’. It’s kind of the same idea with the onions, though with less melodrama.
Upon adding the chicken to the onions and garlic, stir in about half the chicken broth along with the spices, and let everything come to a low boil. I let the ‘stew’ cook down until about half the broth that I added remains. At this point, thoroughly mix the cornstarch with the remaining broth (make sure it’s mostly dissolved) and add to the chicken concoction. Stir constantly until things begin to thicken, at which time you can lower the heat to medium-low and let it simmer and continue to thicken.
Are you ready for some hot spaetzel action? HELLS YEAH! In a bowl, throw together the following:
½ c milk
1 ½ c flour
The batter should be thick, sticky, and more unmanageable than your average batter. You want to be able to pull a Sword in the Stone thing in the goop using the utensil of your choice. This is good. You want it that way. Seriously. Relax.
Take a spoon and drop blobs of the batter into the boiling water (blob size is entirely up to you) and let boil for ~20 minutes. Keep in mind that the blobs will expand, so don’t fill the entire pot in one go. Also, keep in mind that the water needs to be kept at a high boil throughout this process in order to ensure that the blobs cook and don’t merge into a large amorphous doughy leviathan that will first destroy your stove, then maybe your life and the lives of your family. What I’m saying is that boiling water is a very important skill here.
While cackling like a madman/madwoman, fold all of the sour cream into the pot of reddish simmering chicken-based goodness. Spoon some of the final product over the spaetzel, charge up a portable defibrillator so it’s ready to go, then gird your loins for the taste explosion.
Sir @ September 6, 2010