Saturday, April 25, 2009

Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash...

I love When Harry Met Sally. I've seen it approximately a million times and had fun imitating Billy Crystal imitating some eastern European fellow talking about paprikash and pecan pies many more times than that. One thing I have never done, however, was actually eat paprikash. Until this week.

Turns out this stuff is good. Really, really good. It's also easy and very nutrient dense. What more could you want in a dinner? And you get to talk like Billy Crystal all night... "have fun storming the castle!"

Chicken Paprikash

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced (or equivalent dark meat, or chicken pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, plus some olive oil plus some bacon grease
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 oz of mushrooms, sliced (could be replaced with green bell pepper or omitted)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sour cream
  • 3-4 tablespoons of paprika*
  • salt and pepper

Sautee the onions and mushrooms in butter, seaonsed lightly with salt and pepper, until well cooked but not too browned. Remove from pan and cook the chicken in more butter along with the garlic. (If I had had skin-on pieces of chicken I would have reversed the order of cooking here) Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Cook until the paprika is well blended into the fat and getting fragrant.

Add the vegetables back into the pan of chicken and add the chicken broth. Bring to boil and then drop to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through (this took just a minute or two with sliced boneless breast, it would take considerably longer with bone in pieces. Add more broth or water if you will be simmering for a longer time).
Lower the heat and stir in the sour cream. Let the mixture heat until it is warm, but do not boil or the cream sauce may break. Taste for seasoning, adjust salt and pepper and serve over butter noodles, spaetzle or rice.

* I only had cheap paprika in the house so I upped the flavor with the addition of some hotter ground pepper. I used approximately 2 teaspoons out of the 3 tablespoons of Ancho, New Mexico and Chipotle chile powders. So that's about 1 tsp New Mexico chile, 1/2 tsp Ancho, 1/2 tsp Chipotle and 2 tbs plus 1 tsp paprika. If you use good quality paprika you will get more flavor out of it so can reduce or eliminate the hotter chiles. I liked the little bit of a kick.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Adventures in Roommates, and Ketchup

I've lived with a lot of roommates over the years. I counted it up once and the number was over two dozen different people I have shared an address with. Generally speaking I love living with other people and I've had some awesome friends share my homes over the years. Yes, you have to deal with their dirty dishes, and their human foibles and drama but usually it's worth it.

Some of my favorite roommate memories revolve around food (big suprise there, right?). I actually met my first good friends in college because of our love of food - I smelled baking tofu in the dorm kitchen and went to investigate. I remember pigging out on one roommate's meat pie when I was still a vegetarian and pulling a red wagon full of vegetables back from the store with another. Did you know that sweet potatoes go great with black beans, or that black pepper and seasoning salt are just as good on popcorn as butter? If it weren't for my roommates I wouldn't either. One set of roommates and I enjoyed White Trash Dinner nights and perfected our Tater Tot Hot Dish recipe and our tuna noodle casserole (the tuna noodle may show up on this blog someday, but the Tater Tot Hot Dish most likely never will.)

I lived for a couple months once with the most wonderful man in the whole wide world. Eric is one of those people that everyone loves. He is generous, kind and will keep you laughing from morning till night. And if you want an adventure, just make sure Eric is around and adventure will find you. Often Eric and our other roommates would come home in the early hours of the morning after a night of adventuring and meet me as I was waking up for my work day. It was always a fun, bright start to a morning and almost always involved breakfast sammies. Bacon, egg, cheese, english muffin and ketchup... the breakfast of champions.

Eric has moved up to NW Washington to follow his bliss and I am still making breakfast sammies at least once a week. I still like my eggs overhard (yolk broken and not gooey at all, please!) but these days I'm just as likely to use sour dough as english muffins.

I also recently made my first batch of homemade ketchup. It really bumps a sammy up to gourmet status, and is much easier than I expected. OK.. it's easier to MAKE the ketchup, getting the flavors just right is going to take some time. I started with googling "homemade ketchup" and reading every recipe I could find. They're mostly the same - some tomato product, spices of some variety, vinegar and sugar. Which spices and how much sugar are often the big variables and I finally decided to go with a recipe and just try it.

I chose this recipe from Brooklyn Farmhouse, a blog I intend to spend a whole lot more time at in the future. It calls for some pretty basic spices all simmered together with the tomato product. I used tomato puree instead of whole tomatoes partly because thats what I had avaliable and partly to cut down on simmering time. In the end I tweaked the spices a litle bit and am still not 100% happy with the end result. I'm eating it, and making some seriously good sammies, but next time it will be better.

One More Homemade Ketchup Recipe
makes about 1 pint

4 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 cinnamon stick (1-inch long)
2 14-ounce cans of tomato puree
1/2 a large onion, chopped,
2 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 of an onion and 1 garlic clove

*Wrap the cloves, celery seed, chile flakes and cinnamon stick in a cheesecloth bundle. Combine everything except the second piece of onion and garlic in a heavy bottomed, 2 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for at least an hour.

*Remove the spice bundle and puree the mixture in a blender along with the second addition of garlic and onion. Return the mixture to the pot and simmer again until it looses it's "raw" flavor. Feel free to adjust seasonings and simmer longer to reach your desired consistency.

Like I said, this recipe isn't perfect. It's a little cinnamonny for my liking (the original recipe called for a 3 inch piece, I used a 2 inch, I'm saying you should use 1 inch) and there's still something not quite right. It's also a little chunky but pushing it through a sieve would have helped that as would cooking it longer to reduce the water content.

Eric would like it though, especially combined with some Secret Aardvark Sauce. He was always up for an adventure, and making homemade ketchup is truly an adventure.