Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Memories from Childhood and Comfort Food

I come from a large family. I am the oldest of seven children. My Mom and Dad liked to cook, and had to think of ways to stretch a meal to feed so many. Dad didn't have as much time to spend at home cooking, but now and again he would make one of his dishes. Some of his specialties were things like scrambled eggs with canned salmon, omelets, and his version of a Chicken Paprikas. As Dad's parents were both from what today is Serbia, his version of this Chicken Paprikas is far different from my Mom's Slovakian recipe. To avoid confusion, Dad started calling his version "Chicken Stew." I always loved both versions, but Dad's was made more rarely, as he wasn't always around to make it.  Perhaps for that reason my excitement was greater when I knew Dad was going to make that for dinner.

Dad was an innovative cook, and liked experimenting and trying new things. He and Mom would collaborate on some recipes, such as their Bean Soup and Stewed Tomatoes. Dad always had a garden and loved to plant things to see what would grow. Some things were less exciting to us kids, such as the year he planted eggplant. We had never had eggplant before and it just didn't fly. I have learned to eat eggplant since then, but I never eat it without thinking of Dad.

In reminiscing about Dad today, I made his version of Chicken Paprikas, or Chicken Stew, and I will share this recipe here:

Dad's Chicken Paprikas, aka Chicken Stew

Dad's Chicken Paprikas, aka Chicken Stew
Serves 6 to 8

1 whole chicken, cut into about 12 pieces
2 tablespoons butter
3 - 4 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 large onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 - 4 carrots, peeled, sliced
3 - 4 medium potatoes, peeled, cut into 1½-inch chunks
1½ teaspoons salt
Pepper, freshly ground, to taste
4 cups water

Cut the chicken into wings, thighs, legs, and after dividing the breast, cut each breast portion in half, and cut the back in half. Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven, and begin browning the chicken pieces; when browned, remove to a plate and brown the rest. Sprinkle paprika over both sides of all the pieces and return to the pot with the onion, garlic and green peppers. Toss to begin softening for about 5 minutes. Add in the water, salt, pepper and potatoes. This part should take about ½ hour. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, put a lid on the pot and allow to stew for about 1½ hours, or until the meat is beginning to fall off the bones. Check for seasoning. Serve in soup bowls.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.