No, intrepid reader, you did not miss the blog of the “G” meal. I skipped to “H” because Davida’s parents, Bernie and Barbara Fromm, were visiting from New York, and we thought Ghanaian food might be a bit too different for them. Ghana will have to wait. The other guests at this meal included my son Josh, his friend Jake, Davida’s daughter Hannah, and Davida’s nephew Jordan, who was interning with the Washington Nationals this summer. Unfortunately, in all the excitement of the meal, I forgot to take a picture of the guests, so you’ll just have to make do looking at a picture of the chef.
Davida and I felt that Hungarian food would be a good choice for her parents since many Ashkenazi recipes have connections to Hungarian food. I tried to choose some recipes that would be familiar and some that were different from dishes I had before. I definitely wanted to make Chicken Paprikash, since that is so strongly associated with Hungary (and, since it is traditionally made with sour cream, it is a dish I had never before eaten). But, the other parts of the meal were up for grabs.
Although not usually thought of as an appetizer, stuffed cabbage is quintessentially both Hungarian and Jewish. The only change to the recipe was, of course, to replace the pork with more ground beef. Also, since this was an appetizer, I used mainly the inner leaves of the cabbage and cut the larger leaves in half, so that the resulting dish would be more finger-food sized. This made the cabbages more difficult to fold up, and I had to be very careful so that the stuffing didn’t fall out during cooking. I loved the fact that these cabbages were cooked in sauerkraut – the tang of the sauerkraut infused the cabbages so nicely, and the sauerkraut was a pleasure to eat on its own (I know that not everyone shares my taste for sauerkraut, but fortunately Davida’s father did). This was reflected in the ratings given by the guests – spanning the range from 4-7, averaging 5.7, which is probably where I would have rated it – it was good soul food, but nothing really exceptional.
The Main Dish:
The star of the meal was the Chicken Paprikash. While I was unable to find authentic hot Hungarian paprika, I did find Hungarian sweet paprika and combined that with “regular” paprika for the dish. Other adaptations to the recipe included: Earth Balance vegan spread instead of butter; gluten-free flour (Hannah has celiac); and dairy-free coconut milk yogurt rather than sour cream. Those guests who had Paprikash before said that, while it was not as spicy as the traditional dish, it was otherwise a very good approximation. The first time I cooked through the alphabet, I studiously avoided dishes that combined milk and meat, to adhere to the standards of Kashrut. This time around, I am enjoying using dairy-free “milk” products, especially coconut milk yogurt, to expand my horizons. It has really been an enlightening experience!
Not only was the dish delicious, the bright red color and thick sauce made it a delight to look at. The dish was rated 6’s and 7’s, averaging just under 6.5. I would have rated it a 7; definitely a keeper. Not very fussy to make and great for leftovers.
What would a Hungarian/Jewish meal be without two starches! While the paprikash recipe that I used says to serve it over noodles, other sites that I looked at suggested that Nokedii dumplings are often served with chicken paprikash. They looked simple to make, consisting only of eggs, salt, and flour. The only real question I had was how well they would turn out using gluten-free flour. Well, that didn’t turn out to be an issue – the gluten-free flour worked just perfectly; the problem was the time it took to make the dumplings. It was very tedious making dozens of small dumplings; putting small dabs of the dough into boiling water, and fishing them out when done. Cooking them took about 45 minutes of constant supervision. While they were surprisingly tasty and went incredibly well with the paprikash sauce, soaking it up like a sponge (guest rating of 5.7, although one guest gave it a 2), I’m not sure it was worth the time. Next time, I’ll stick to noodles with the paprikash.
The other starch was a rakott krumpli (pleated potato casserole). While the recipe was from joyofkosher.com, I still needed to tweak the recipe, because it included dairy. Coconut milk yogurt to the rescue, once again replacing the sour cream in the original recipe, together with vegan “cheese.” The end result was not as pretty as the picture in the recipe, I think mainly because the yogurt didn’t bake as well as sour cream would have, and it wasn’t as creamy as I would have liked, but it definitely was quite tasty. The hard-boiled eggs, however, did not add much to the potatoes, onions, and yogurt. I would use twice as many were I to make it again. The guests all really liked it, though, giving it an average rating of 6.3!
Lecso is a tomato-pepper-onion stew. Apparently, some make it with hot peppers, but I just used a combination of sweet red and green pepper. It was a very simple dish, seasoned with just paprika and a bit of salt. Nothing special, but also did not compete with the other dishes. It got a wide range of ratings, from 4’s to 7’s, with a majority of 5’s (average of 5.4); personally, I give it a 4. Probably not something I would make again, but it was simple to prepare and not objectionable in any way.
I do think we did the right thing skipping “G” for this meal. The overall comments, especially about the Chicken Paprikash, were really quite positive. Always nice to cook for appreciative eaters!
Up next: Iceland! (after going back to Ghana, of course)