Chicken Paprikash! A Heritage Recipe.
Out to impress my new In-laws!
Let me set the scene, it's August 1973. I've been a bride for almost three weeks. My first dinner party for my new in-laws. And let me tell you they didn't come in small batches. No, they came in a package of twenty two and that's just the immediate 'fam-dam-aly'. I didn't even own twenty two plates let alone matching ones or table and chairs to accommodate the whole fricken inner circle of his family.
Ring...Ring..."Hello?"..."Mom you wouldn't believe what Wayne did he invited his parents-grandparents-uncle and aunt-brothers and sisters with their partners...what am I going to do?.......Can I borrow....?"
I whined, tantrum-ed and pouted and tried to figure out what mortal infectious disease I could suddenly come down with. Nothing worked, the whole clan was coming. They were coming next week Sunday, arriving at 5:30 for pre-dinner cocktails.
My marriage had started off on very shaky grounds, as far as his family was concerned. (mind you, to be totally truthful my family had issues with me marrying him too, but that's a whole other kettle of fish). My mother-in law had wanted her favorite son to marry a French-Canadian girl, like she was. Her best friend's daughter Rochelle had been the obvious and perfect choice (she let me know this on numerous occasions). Can you tell there was never any love lost between the enemy and myself?
Any way, back to my story... While seriously contemplating what dishes I could make that would hide the taste of Ex-lax, I finally started to plan my first big dinner party menu.
Then out of the blue came "THE" call, Friday morning (two days before they were all to descend on us) from Wayne's Ma-mere (grandma). She told me that Pa-pere (grandpa) had been stationed at the border of Hungary during WW1 and there he had had Chicken Paprikas with Nokedly. He had liked it, so that's what I had to serve for the whole gang.
Never let it be said that I didn't pick up the gauntlet when it was thrown at my feet. Nope, I was going to show them, no French Canadians girl was match for me, a full blooded, fiery tempered Hungarian.
My Grandma's Chicken Paprikas recipe has no equals...there was none better, so the menu I had planned went out the window... but Chicken Paprikash was easy enough, I loved that recipe and had made it on many occasions when I still had lived at home. I could cook that recipe, no problemo.
The first home Wayne and I rented was a tiny one bedroom guest house situated on the south side of this 58 acre estate that was owned by a friend of my aunt and uncle. Lucky for me Gertrude, our landlady, for some reason really liked me and went out of her way to be helpful. She gave us permission to use the pool and the pool house/rec room to hold the dinner party. The rec-room was gorgeous, all varnished tongue and grooved cedar and very tastefully decorated in dark browns. There were enough tables and chairs (nice ones, all matching too; ha, they thought I wouldn't be able to pull it off. I'll show them).
Wayne and I had our biggest fight yet. He accused me of not wanting to be nice to his gang by refusing to use the beautiful hand embroidered matching tablecloths and serviettes (embroidered in Hungarian traditional style... gorgeous, gorgeous beauties) that my Godmother had sent us as a wedding present. He kept shouting that I didn't think his family was good enough for my 'hoity-toity-ness' (one of his favorite expressions). He just didn't want to understand that any accidental spilage of the paprika sauce would stain and ruin the beautiful cloths. I finally was able to calm him down when I told him that I was almost finished making special cloths just for the occasion.
I had compiled the grocery list and Wayne promised to pick them up on his way home from work. Which would leave me to finish all those last minute things before "THE DAY". (like find out where some hemlock grew)
As usual Wayne was late coming home. Most likely the store was busy... figures, when I needed his help too...
Gertrude had brought me a big basket full of her creamy yellow roses and tons of green stuff from her garden for the centerpieces. ( She was such a gem, such a nice lady)
The room looked fantastic. Mom had lent me my Grandma's beautiful big set of china. All pure white and so thin they were almost see through. I had spent an hour in the afternoon polishing my aunts silverwear. The rose centerpieces gave the tables the finishing touches. I didn't think there could be anything to make it more beautiful until my Mom and my two aunts came over with candelabras and creamy tapers. It was all going to be perfect. The aunts gave me a big list of extra cooking advice before leaving. I don't think I could have been more nervous if Queen Elizabeth had been coming to dinner.
Finally Wayne came home... He shouted for me to come and see what he had for me. I would be so surprised.....
As of then I had become the proud owner of a new puppy and 12 chickens. Live chickens...how much fresher can you get. The reason he was home late was that he had stopped in at the Grisholm's farm to buy the Springer Spaniel puppy as a gift for me and because the whole gang there wanted haircuts, which he traded for the chickens.
Okay! I fell in love with the pup within a split second. She was the prettiest pup in the whole wide world. A 61/2 week old white and black fur-ball with big enormous droopy eyes and long floppy ears that she stepped on whenever she was trying to get somewhere in a hurry.
Then the realization hit me LIVE CHICKENS? "What the heck? Live chickens?" I asked. Wayne's reply was "...you wanted fresh chicken for the dinner-party. Mrs Grisholm said that 12 chickens would be more than enough to feed everyone, but if you thought you needed a couple more, she still had a few and we could take it out of next months haircuts."
"You bloody idiot, who the heck is going to kill and clean those suckers? Won't be me" I shouted. "You get your behind right back into town, to the grocery store and buy me some chickens that don't squawk anymore...." Wayne looked at me as if I had suddenly grown antlers. "I can't buy any chicken because I spent all the money on your surprise and "duhhhh" it's Saturday evening the stores have been closed for at least an hour" he said. "...and further more, you haven't even thanked me for your present, the pup."
With this I totally lost it... I skreeched in a fishmonger wife's fashion "... you're a total moron, unbelievable, unbelievable, you're a total loony-toony imbecile. I can't make dinner with live chickens. You get your butt on that phone, call your family and cancel this whole damn thing." (I could see a glimmer of hope of getting out of this whole mess)
"No-way am I cancelling with my family. That's what all of this is all about, that's really what you want, right? Well it ain't gonna happen." He bellowed at me, turned and slammed the door behind him with an enormous bang, jumped into the car and squealed rock-spluttering down the long drive-way.
The guest house was at the back of her property but Gertrude had heard some of the ruckus and came chasing down all worried that something bad had happened to me. She found me in the kitchen crying not knowing what to do next. When she finally got the story out of me she fell apart and cried too, but only because she was laughing so hard. After all, I'm serious, I was an 18 year old city girl. What did I know about live chickens? Nothing! I had seen the chicken 'killing and plucking' procedure once in my life before and at that time I had walked in the other direction as fast as my feet could take me. When Gertrude was finished laughing, she wiped her eyes on her apron and still giggling told me not to worry she would show me what to do. She would teach me how to dress a chicken... Dress chicken? I didn't want to dress the chicken for dinner, I wanted them TO BE dinner.
I can honestly say that I had the worst couple of hours after that. It was years before I ever ate chicken again. I never forgave Wayne or his family for the the torture I had to go through. What a stinky mess...dunking in hot water... plucking...plucking...dunking...and more plucking...Thank goodness Gertrude was there because I sure as hell would have set those chickens free...free to fly south or wherever. (I would have been responsible for the first 4-5 lbs wild chickens roaming the earth...)
Even though we had a real shacky start the Chicken Paprikas was a great success. The whole "In-law clan" just about licked the plates clean.....no I didn't find any hemlock and I forgot to add the Ex-lax to the shopping list. Pa-pere, Ma-mere and my father-in-law became my friends, so I guess not all was for naught...(I never was able to win over my mother-in-law).
Grandma's Heritage Recipe ( 5-6 servings)
- 1 3-4 lbs frying chicken, disjointed and skin removed
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (substituted for lard)
- 3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (if not available Spanish paprika)
- 2-3 stewed tomatoes or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 chili pepper (optional more or less, if you like it spicy)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 cup light sour cream
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (for the pot and a xlarge glass for the cook)
Grandma's Heritage Recipe For A Large Crowd (20 servings+)
- 3 3-4lbs frying chickens, disjointed and skin removed
- 6 large onions, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil (substituded for lard)
- 1/4 cup Hungarian paprika (if not available Spanish paprika)
- 1 cup stewed tomatoes or 4 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1/2-1 chili pepper (optional depending if you like it spicy)
- 2 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 2-3 cups light sour cream
- 3/4 - 1 cup dry white wine (for the pot and a xlarge glass for the cook)
- Sauté onions in olive oil till light brown, remove from heat
- stir in minced garlic & paprika
- add 2 cups of water, return to heat
- add remaining spices and tomato paste, stir until all is well blended, add wine
- add chicken and enough water to just about cover the meat
- cook on low heat for about an hour or until tender stirring occasionally - at this time the water should have reduced. Remove from heat. To thickened sauce add 1/2 of the sour cream and gently stir until well diluted. Return to heat for one minute only. Turn off heat - cover and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes
Serve with a dollop of sour cream over a bed of soft cooked noodles, rice or over 'Nokedly' a Hungarian style of home made noodles ( recipe will follow) and a cucumber dill salad.
How to make Nokedly:
Fill a large stock pot or pasta pot with water add salt and a couple of splushes of oil. Cover and set to boil. Meanwhile in a large bowl whisk 6 large eggs, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder until frothy (a minute or two) combine with enough flour to make a kind of sticky stiff batter.
Wet a cutting board, plop some of the batter/dough onto it. Lean the edge of the board onto the side of the pot over the now boiling water. With a straight-edged knife cut a 3/8" -1/2" strip - then cut the strip into 3/8" -1/2" chunks and scrape into the boiling water. Depending how fast you can cut-cut-scrape do maybe a third or half of the batter at a time. Let noodles boil about 3 minutes. Remove 'Nokedly' with slotted spoon. Sprinkle with a bit of oil so they don't stick together. Continue until all batter is cooked. Yum...these are really delicious.
Peel and thinly slice an English cucumber. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt. Let sit for 1/2 hour, drain off all juice and rinse through a strainer for one minute in very cold water. Prepare vinaigrette by combining 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 minced clove of garlic or 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of sugar or a packet of Splenda, pinch of dried dill, salt, pepper to taste. Pour over cucumbers and let sit in fridge for an hour or more. (If there is any left over just pour into a jar with tight fitting lid. This salad will last in fridge for at least a week if covered in the vinaigrette)
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