The New Year brings with it, new hopes, new dreams and the setting of goals along with lessons learned as we close the previous year. In this last year I have stepped outside my box a little more and made even more videos for my channel and started this blog. My love of cooking has inspired me to do a lot of things that in the past I would not have considered doing. I have done things in the past year that I never would have done even 5 years ago due to the fear of rejection and quite possibly fear in general. Fear is a great motivator. Not a good one, but one that motivates you to continue doing nothing for fear that you will be ridiculed and made fun of. Fear is unnecessary.
My bank publishes a little magazine every quarter with information about the military and retired military, basically a marketing tool to make you feel like they are working for you. But, I digress, in a section of the publication, they had little quotes that people had submitted for a corresponding article and when I read the following entry, it really made a lot of sense. It made me cry, but it made a lot of sense:
‘My mother gave me the best gift of all when she told me life was too short to fear anything. The day before she died, she told me, “You know there really isn’t anything to be afraid of. I hat that I was so afraid of everything.’ My life changed that day, and I will be forever grateful.”
This kind of puts thing in perspective. Many of us spend our lives afraid of something. Worrying that things will not go our way. Lying awake at night thinking about the “What ifs”. At some point we have to stop being afraid and start doing something that we are afraid of and let our fears go, because the only way to let go of fear is to face it head on. If we don’t than we will never achieve anything.
I understand that this is quite unconventional talk for a cooking blog, but I promise I will get to the point. I have decided to embrace 2011 in a way that I have never before approached a new year, with gusto! I have been “thinking” about doing a cookbook for a number of years, at least 10 years in fact. I haven’t because more than once my own mother upon hearing the news of my idea looked at me and asked my “why do you want to do that?” “There are lots of cookbooks out there” “What would be so different about what you cook?” So with my self esteem crushed and doubting myself, I just put the idea back in its little mental box and let it go. Not anymore. I am doing the groundwork for my cookbook and all those fears be damned. I can do anything I want to do! And so can you! Put your mind to it and get it done.
So with all this talk about getting motivated and moving forward, I also began thinking about some of the wonderful recipes that I remember from my childhood. Now I’m talking about the foods that your doctor would not recommend, the recipes that made you run home from school because you knew that Mom was making THAT for dinner. The recipe that I wanted to make was Chicken Paprikash.
Now, my Mommom, my paternal grandmother made this Hungarian peasant dish on a regular basis, and it was always delicious. My mother made this occasionally while we were growing up and I remember it being one of my favorite meals. Seasoned chicken stewed to perfection and then enveloped in a tangy creamy sauce and served with elbow macaroni. Perfect, filling and delicious and relatively inexpensive to prepare.
So as it was, that I was at my parent’s house this weekend, I asked my mom to tell me how to make this recipe. I have not had it in an estimated 20 years time, but just the thought of it, invoked the memory of its flavor and deliciousness. And so, she explained how to make it. I went right to the grocery store to procure the necessary ingredients and planned on making it the next afternoon.
In the end, it was exactly as I had remembered. I was so pleased with it that I took some right over to my mom and she stood in her kitchen lapping spoonfuls of the wonderful sauce to her mouth and with her eyes closed, shaking her head in pleasant approval of a job well done.
I will tell you that there is nothing more satisfying than preparing a dish for your family that is met with such approval and delight! In the end, making my family happy is the ultimate goal, but this one came with the extra added bonus of outwardly making my own mom happy.
Here is how you make this dish. I will warn you that this is not quick and easy. It is not by any stretch of the imagination instant and it is not heart healthy, it’s not something you make all the time and it’s not on Weight Watchers. It is just plain, Eastern European peasant food. A meal that has been served countless times to countless numbers of people. A meal that may have gone by the wayside because of our busy lives. But I highly recommend that you take the time, plan for an afternoon and make this meal. You will be happy with your decision.
8 Chicken Thighs on the bone with skin
4 Chicken Breasts on the bone with skin
½ cup cooking oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Hungarian Paprika
2 Medium Onions Quartered and sliced
¼ Cup plus 1 Tablespoon Hungarian Paprika
6 Cups Chicken Stock
4 Cups good quality Sour Cream (I only use Daisy)
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Prepare chicken by trimming the fat from each piece and washing well and patting dry with a paper towel. Cut most of the rib section from each breast and then cut each one in half so that they are a similar size to the thighs.
**SIDE NOTE: You may also choose to use a whole cut up chicken or chicken pieces of your choice or even leg quarters that have been separated.**
Place oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat while you prepare the chicken.
Mix 2 cups flour, salt, pepper, and paprika in a large plastic bag. Dredge each chicken piece well to thoroughly coat and set aside on a sheet pan or plate.
Place chicken pieces, skin side down into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Make sure each piece has room around it. My pan is 14 inches across, so I am able to do this in only 2 rounds. Brown each piece for 5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a waiting plate. Remember our goal here is only to brown the chicken, not to cook it through.
Once your chicken has been removed, add in the sliced onion and the paprika. Sautee until the onions is somewhat soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the chicken on top of the onion and then add in the chicken stock on top of everything. Give everything a stir, lower the heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for 1 hour or until the meat is tender and nearly falling from the bone.
Constructing the sauce:
Remove chicken to a plate. At this point you have the option to remove the skin, it has given all it has to give and does not really taste great. Your call, leave it on or take it off, it will not really affect the overall dish.
Turn off the heat. Give the cooking liquid a good stir. Place ¼ cup of flour into a bowl along with the sour cream and blend well with a whisk. Take 3 ladles full of the cooking liquid and add them to the sour cream mixture to temper the sour cream and prevent it from curdling later. Once the liquid is blended well into the sour cream mixture, slowly whisk the mixture into the cooking liquid, continue to whisk until the sauce comes together. At this point you can skim the fat from the top of the sauce. It is easer to remove once you have added the sour cream.
Return chicken to the pan and turn the heat on medium low. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and allow to simmer while you prepare some elbow macaroni. About 30 minutes.
Now you are ready to serve with some of that elbow macaroni and some seasoned green beans. A meal fit for a king. You will think that you have died and gone to heaven. It will give you solace and hope that the New Year will bring you good things and who could argue when you see the bowl full of goodness you just prepared?
I hope that 2011 is the best for you as ever. I hope that you try this and I hope that you like it.
As always:Happy Eating!