Sunday, February 05, 2006

An Improper Paprikash

Rumor has it that when my Dear Papa married the Chef Mother, he couldn't even boil water.

I'm sure that must be a terrible exaggeration, for I can remember many good meals that he prepared as I was growing up, from a simple meatloaf or savory baked beans to wine-marinated steaks that still cause my devotedly vegetarian soul to heave a wistful sigh.

But if my Dear Papa had one true signature dish, it was chicken paprikash.

How he latched on to this recipe, I don't know, because there's no Hungarian blood in our family (to my knowledge). But I don't remember begging so ardently for any other meal in my childhood. The slow-cooked tender chicken, the plump dumplings, and the rich paprika-laden sour cream sauce -- ahhhh, even now it makes my mouth water.

After I went vegetarian, he made it once for me with tofu, which was acceptable but not quite right. (My Granola Girl, who enjoyed the original chicken version at that dinner, was charmed by my Dear Papa's teasing term of "foo-foo" for the tofu, and she never tired of calling my vegetarian version "foo-foo-kash." But I digress.) I have since made it with cauliflower, an improved but still not wholly satisfactory solution since the chicken fat really does add richness to the sauce's flavor.

I can't give up paprikash, though, no matter how feeble my vegetarian efforts may seem in comparison to the original recipe. And after coming across an intriguing soup a year and a half ago that inspired me, I don't have to give up paprikash. I just have to change my expectations.

After all, the idea of onions sauteed with plenty of paprika, augmented by other vegetables, and eventually coated in a sour-cream-laced liquid still has merit. And if this paprikash is in soup form, well, you'd expect the flavor to be a little thinner.

So it was that I created my own vegetable paprikash soup, loaded with good local and organic vegetables (corn, beans, potato, carrots), thickened with rich local sour cream, and dotted with homemade herb dumplings.

On a cold and snowy day (yes, winter's back!), such a rich, hearty soup warms the stomach and the soul.

No, it's not authentic like my Dear Papa's chicken paprikash.

But it satisfies my craving very nicely, thank you.

Vegetable Paprikash Soup

I don't know where my Dear Papa originally found his recipe, but this soup is derived from that. The dumplings are a slight variation on the herb dumpling recipe found in Local Flavors.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 T paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 c peas or green beans (in bite size pieces); you can use frozen
1 c corn (again, you can use frozen/thawed)
4-6 c vegetable stock
1 c sour cream (more if needed)

Herb Dumplings
1 potato, peeled, chopped, steamed until tender
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley or 2 T dried
up to 1 c whole wheat pastry flour

In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat until onion begins to soften and brown. Add salt, paprika, and pepper, and continue browning until a darker golden color. (I like my onions to be almost carmelized so that the flavor really sings.) Add carrot, potato, peas/beans, and corn, and saute lightly for less than a minute before adding the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour.

Make dumplings: Mash steamed potatoes with a ricer or pastry blender. Add egg and seasonings and mix well. Add flour until dough is fairly stiff but still a little tacky. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough a little more in the bowl or on a floured counter. Allow to rest 15-30 minutes, then pat out into a square and cut into small pieces.

Bring pot of water to boil. Add dumplings to the water and simmer gently until they float to the top, from 4 to 7 minutes. Lift dumplings out with a slotted spoon, transfer to a buttered plate, and continue with remaining dumplings. Set aside.

Add the sour cream to the soup, one large dollop at a time, and whisk into soup. (If the soup is too thin for your taste, add more sour cream.) When ready to serve, float dumplings in each bowl as you serve it. (If dumplings are made ahead of time, add to soup first and allow to warm up before serving.)

Serve in beautiful bowls to beautiful people and expect many beautiful compliments!

Serves 6


At 7/18/2008 10:28 AM, Blogger Kirstin said...

Can't wait to try your dumplings. I love chicken paprikash (my mom made it often) but wanted to find a whole wheat dumpling recipe. Glad I found yours. I'll browse your site some more.

At 7/18/2008 12:35 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Kirstin, welcome! Hope you like the recipe... I haven't made it in a while, but I'm sure I'll pull it out again come fall.


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