October brings the true beginning of the flavors of the fall. The popular culture heads towards Halloween with ridiculous use of pumpkin as a flavor in everything and anything.
But for German-Hungarians, we crave a fall flavor more savory, warming, and spiced in a much more peppy way.
Hearty often one pot or roasted meals fit well with the colder weather, and the shorter days. The German recipes for Rouladen, Sauerbraten, Roast Pork, are staples of the season. But Goulash and Paprikash rule many of our members stovetops in the fall and the winter.
We don’t often see our German-Hungarian background or even any Germanic customs reflected in the popular culture of our time. Besides, “The Sound of Music” or “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” other examples don’t quickly come to mind. If they do, often the focus is on Oktoberfest and Bavarian specific traditions.
The Halloween season and the fall crispness, as well as the bat that was in my house a few weeks ago reminded me however, of a pop cultural reference which will be very familiar to our members and their families:
“We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem. get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called “paprika hendl,” and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians.”from Jonathan Harker’s Journal in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The city in which Harker has the dish, Klausenburgh is today a city called Cluj-Napoca in Romania. This is about four hours away from Timisoara or Temeswar which was the capital of Banat at one time. Stoker set the fictional castle of the Count Dracula somewhere along the route between Bistritz and Bukovina. Today a themed hotel exists (though it seems to be temporarily closed) called Hotel Castel Dracula in Piâtra Fântânele which is along this route. The location has scenic views, and a statue of Bram Stoker.
When in high school at Lansdale Catholic my literature and composition class read Dracula by Bram Stoker. I myself read part of the book but never finished it at that time. (I revisited a few years ago and read it cover to cover). Still at that time I remember getting quite a kick from the passage right at the opening of the book. Jonathan Harker having Paprika Hendl was something, probably one of the only direct things in the epistolary novel I could directly connect to. A later passage mentioned one other consumable I was familiar with:
“Then the driver cracked his whip and called to his horses, and off they swept on their way to Bukovina. As they sank into the darkness I felt a strange chill, and a lonely feeling came over me; but a cloak was thrown over my shoulders, and a rug across my knees, and the driver said in excellent German: ‘The night is chill, mein Herr, and my master the Count bade me take all care of you. There is a flask of slivovitz (the plum brandy of the country) underneath the seat, if you should require it.’ I did not take any, but it was a comfort to know it was there all the same.”from Jonathan Harker’s Journal in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Recently Jenn Linemann Blank shared a summertime version of a Chicken Paprikash. I for one love to read and see different recipes from the way in which I make my own version. There are numerous to be found in our club cookbook, but also in so many great cookbooks our members tend to have. In writing this article I was reminded of a time when Marlene Fricker, Janet Malofiy and my mother Lisa Fricker hosted a staff writer Betty Cichy and showed a version of the coveted recipe from Mrs. Susi Welch.
Read that article: Classic dish starts with paprika (buckscountycouriertimes.com)
Chicken: 4 to 5 pounds chicken parts, (or all chicken thighs)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 3 large onions, chopped
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 1/2 cup strained canned tomatoes
- Sour cream (optional)
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- Salted water
Sprinkle the chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, deep pot (a cast iron Dutch oven works well) and cook the onions until softened. Add paprika and stir to coat the onions. Add the tomatoes and the chicken pieces. Pour in enough water to just come to the top of the chicken. Let simmer slowly until tender, about 45 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, make the dumplings: Mix together the eggs, flour, salt and 1/2 cup water and beat with a spoon. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop batter by the teaspoonful into the water. Cook about 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain.
At serving time, add sour cream to taste to the paprikas sauce, if desired. Serve the chicken and sauce with the dumplings.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
It is interesting to note that this recipe from the article in 2011, does not include any garlic. Could it be that it was left out to please the count? We may never know.
AH, AH, AH.
Michael N. Fricker