Archives for category: Chicken

When I decided to try making Hungarian food vegetarian, the motivation came from my love of Chicken Paprikas. This dish is my all-time favorite Hungarian meal. Growing up, if there was a special occasion and my Mom asked me what I would like her to make for dinner, Chicken Paprikas was my response. Coming home from college, Chicken Paprikas would be on the menu. I loved it so much, I probably could have had it every night. The funny thing is, the chicken wasn’t the star of the meal to me. It may have been the substance, but the star was the sweet creamy sauce, the tart green peppers, and the incredible homemade noodles/dumplings. When I became a vegetarian, my first thought was “How am I going to live without Chicken Paprikas?” Misha assured me that many meat-based meals could be made vegetarian, and even though I knew he was 100% right, I was so scared to try making Chicken Paprikas without meat. What if it failed? What if I really did have to live the rest of my life without my favorite meal?!

Frozen cutlets in the "well" of veggies, covered in paprika

Well, worry no more, vegetarian Chicken Paprikas lovers out there!!! I finally faced my ridiculous fears and made a delicious, authentic, meat-free Chicken Paprikas, and it is AWESOME. As I said earlier, the true star of Chicken Paprikas is not the meat, and so it survived the transformation fairly intact. Everyone knows the noodles/dumplings are the best part- you would always eat a bit of meat and then a LOT of noodles. In place of the chicken, I used Quorn, an incredible chicken substitute product first mentioned (and photographed) in my Chicken and Broccoli Casserole post. It is really amazing how well something called mycoprotein (read: mushrooms) absorbs flavor. My “chicken” was nice and tender, a bit pink, and very tasty. Of course, I made a TON of noodles (after lots of dough beating and numerous frantic picture text messages to my Mom asking if the dough was the right consistency), and the dish got DEVOURED by Misha. That means it was a success!

Noodles cooking, sauce with flour mixture gently heating

I may have cut my green peppers a bit too big. So know this: you need to cut your green peppers smaller than I did! And you may need to go to the gym to get enough upper-arm strength to beat the noodles. But otherwise, this meal is easy, slightly time-consuming, and absolutely delicious. You too will be a Chicken Paprikas fiend, and make it for every special occasion.

Speaking of special occasions, I turned 25 on January 24th!  My incredible birthday present from Misha was a trip to the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  It’s about three hours from our house, and we stayed in a hotel on the beach and drank fantastic beer and ate delicious food and went for a walk on the beach.  It was so fun and relaxing, and such a special trip.  I am so spoiled by Misha!  To cap off my b-day celebrations, a few girlfriends and I went out for sushi, followed by a vegan chocolate cake with vegan vanilla icing made at work by my friend Emily, and Misha’s Mom made me my favorite spring rolls!  Oh yeah, and my incredible parents spoiled me further by buying me an iPhone.  It was the best birthday in recent memory (although last year was pretty great too), and I am so lucky and blessed to have such giving, loving, wonderful family and friends!  If I had been able to be at my parents’ for my birthday, Chicken Paprikas would have been my special meal. Enjoy!

Me and Misha at the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth

tender "chicken"

Grandma Elek’s Chicken Paprikas

2-4 Quorn chicken cutlets

About 2 tablespoons shortening (olive oil, butter)

1 large sweet onion, chopped fine

1 green pepper, chopped fine

½ pint half and half

1 tablespoon flour

Sweet Hungarian Paprika

For noodles/dumplings (Nokedly):

1 egg

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soft butter

1 to 1 ½ cups all purpose flour

Water

**the noodles can EASILY be doubled or tripled, and the more the better! I tripled the recipe for my meal***
In a large, deep pan, sauté onions and green peppers in shortening until soft, tender, and transparent. Make a “well” in the center of the pan and add a little more shortening and the frozen chicken cutlets. Coat every inch of everything in the pan with a generous amount of paprika. Saute for about 5 minutes, turning the cutlets a couple of times and stirring the onions and peppers. Add more paprika as needed.

Add water to almost cover. Then simmer on low heat until the chicken cutlets are heated thoroughly. This does not take long, about 5-10 minutes. While the cutlets are heating, put a big pot of salted water on the stove on high heat and make the dough for the noodles. The cutlets will finish heating before you are finished with the noodles- simply turn the burner off and cover the pan for the time being.

To make the dough for the noodles, beat the eggs and then add salt, soft butter, and flour; keep beating, adding flour and a little water as you beat until bubbles form when you stop beating. (NOTE: I really don’t know if bubbles formed when I stopped beating, but the dough should be fairly wet and not too sticky. You really need to beat it hard and fast, adding a fair amount of water as necessary. See pictures below to get an idea of what the dough should look like!)

Turn the dough out onto a large cutting board, and cut the dough into boiling water in small pieces using a hot, sharp knife. Dipping the knife in the water periodically helps keep it hot and prevents the dough from sticking to it too much. The dumplings will be weird little shapes and if you cut a few too big or too small it’s not a big deal- I definitely cut a bunch of mine too big. Once you’ve cut all the dough in, cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the noodles taste done.  When you cut the noodles in, they sink, but they will float back to the top as they cook. Drain them in a colander and rinse them in warm water to help prevent sticking.  See pictures below to get a visual idea of the process.

Now turn back to your chicken and sauce. Turn the burner back on and get a little simmer going again. In a small bowl, mix the flour and ½ and ½ . Add to the pan and stir it in. Let it heat and thicken a little and serve hot over the noodles. DON’T LET THE SAUCE BOIL ONCE THE ½ AND ½ MIXTURE IS ADDED. That will just make it curdle and be gross.

One final note: it is best to dish the noodles and then put the chicken and sauce over the noodles. This way everyone can add as many noodles as they want, and then IF there are any leftovers they can be stored by themselves. If you mix the noodles into the sauce and store them like that, they will get soggy. This dish is great re-heated and had for leftovers the next day. Also, the best way to mop up any remaining sauce on your plate is with a piece of sliced bread!

this dough needs more beating, more water- it's too sticky and thick, clumpy

This is me in college, beating noodle dough for chicken paprikas. This is exactly what I had to do this time as well. The floor and your knees are helpful aids in beating dough!

this dough is looking much better- just about ready to turn out onto cutting board

The dough on the board, being cut into the water

Noodles in the water right after they've been cut in, and swirling my knife in the water to keep it hot

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Ok, time to come clean: I, Sarah Elek, have an enormous sweet tooth.  Courtesy of my beloved Dede, my mother’s mother, I crave sweets after every meal and always make sure I leave room for them.  It appears that Dede was not the only one who I inherited my sweet tooth from- the overwhelming amount of pastries and desserts in my Grandmother’s recipes leaves no doubt as to her penchant for sweets.  There are just so many incredible Hungarian delicacies featuring sugar that it can be hard to remember to make something savory.  My Dad reminded me that I should be making Trapacska and Paprikas, but these are heavy dishes, much more suited for winter and not the 100 degree weather we’ve been having.  So for this post I made a recipe that is not exactly Hungarian, but is one of my Grandmother’s nonetheless and incredibly delicious.  It is savory, not too terribly heavy, and even incorporates a little sour cream- one of the key ingredients to any Hungarian dish.  Best of all?  I finally get to introduce you to some vegetarian protein!

The base of the casserole, with the cheese ready to go

Many of you may have had some version of Chicken and Broccoli Casserole before.  It is a classic dish, one of many, many casseroles to come out of the 50’s, and it smells like home and comfort and mom.  Misha and I made Grandma’s version together one night, and tweaked it here and there.  Misha felt that rice was necessary, we substituted cream of mushroom soup for cream of chicken soup, and of course being vegetarians we did not use chicken, but instead used a vegetarian protein made from mushrooms masquerading as chicken.  It’s sold under the brand name “Quorn”.

Quorn is fantastic because it is soy free and much more nutritious than other vegetarian proteins.  I love that it’s made from mycoprotein (fungi, i.e. mushrooms)- the common saying, “tastes like chicken!” is very appropriate here.  Quorn makes a lot of different products that are great for all sorts of dishes (their chicken nuggets are an awesome post-late-night-party snack), and we used their naked chik’n cutlets for our casserole, cut into cubes.  Once blended in the casserole, you would never know it wasn’t the real thing!

The topping and the biscuit halves

We were both a bit skeptical about the final step in the recipe- the “topping” Grandma calls it.  Grandma tells you to mix sour cream and egg and spread it over the biscuits right before the second stage of baking.  I have brushed egg yolks on top of various doughs to give them a golden look at the end, but the last time I baked sour cream in a casserole it came out wrong and I was concerned the topping would come out wrong too.  Again, my Dad intervened and said if it’s in Grandma’s recipe, it has to be good.  And of course, he was right- Grandma would never lead me astray, and it turned out wonderful.  We loved it so much, and I’m sure you will too.  Grandma’s Chicken and Broccoli casserole is a family-friendly and comforting classic with a Hungarian twist.

With the biscuits and topping added, ready for the second bake

Could that be any more delicious looking?!

Grandma’s Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

3 Quorn Naked Chik’n Cutlets, cooked according to package directions and cut into cubes (microwave is the quickest and easiest for this recipe)

3 Heads and stems of fresh broccoli, chopped and cooked (About 3-4 cups)

10 ½ oz can cream of mushroom soup (I think ours was 12 oz)

1 medium red onion, chopped

¼ cup mayonnaise (you can use the vegan version, vegenaise, if you want)

½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Dash of curry

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

8 oz. can refrigerated biscuits (or you can make your own from scratch)

Optional ingredient: 1 cup cooked whole grain rice

Topping:

¼ cup sour cream

1 egg

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon celery seed (we omitted this, but only because we didn’t have any and didn’t want to spend any more money!)

Preheat oven to 375.  In a medium bowl, combine chicken, broccoli, soup, onion, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, curry, and rice if you are using it.  Mix well.  If you need more liquid to thoroughly cover all the ingredients, add a little bit of milk.  Pour mixture into ungreased 9 x 11 baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ cup of cheddar cheese and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Meanwhile, separate the biscuits into 10 pieces and cut each biscuit in half.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg, salt and celery seed if you are using it.  Take the casserole out after the timer has gone off and arrange the biscuit halves cut side down on top of the casserole.  Add the last ½ cup of cheddar cheese.  Using a spoon or knife, spread the topping over the biscuits.  Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 more minutes, or until golden brown.  Cut and enjoy!  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.