Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chicken you can't stop eating

That is indeed the real name of this dish in Hungary. I had to prepare it with sub par ingredients, but even this way, I find it is aptly named.

8 chicken thighs
2 tbsp flour
4 cloves of garlic
1 yellow onion
2 tsp paprika
0.25 tsp cayenne
0.5 tsp black pepper
1.5 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
0.5 cup sour cream
4 oz smoked cheese

Mince the garlic and mix the spices with the flour.

Coat the chicken pieces with the flour mix.

Place into a glass baking dish. Cover with sliced onion and sour cream mixed with the oil. Sprinkle with the grated cheese. (As you can probably tell from the picture below, I didn't have sour cream. I used a little bit of milk instead to make a sauce with the flour as it bakes.

Bake at 400F for 40 minutes, covered. Remove cover and bake until golden brown on top. If your oven doesn't brown things, after a 10-minute baking period you can just broil it.

Serve with rice and a side salad.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Six-strand challah braid

The softest, most delightful bread for a weekend.

3.75 cup flour
0.75 cup water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp honey
0.25 tsp salt
1.5 tsp yeast
2 eggs

Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl. Add in 1.5 cups of flour and allow to bubble for 15 minutes. Cut in the butter and slowly work in the remaining flour.

Knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and a little sticky.

Coat with a little oil and place in a covered bowl in a warm place for 1.5 hours. Cut into six equal pieces and stretch each into strands.

Bring the pieces together and distribute into three+three strands. Cross the outer strands over all the way to the other edge.

Bring down the one that was crossed first and place it in the middle. Replace it with a strand from the other side. Now bring down the other strand to the middle and replace it with one from the other side.

Continue on in this spirit, until you are at the end. Pinch the ends together and fold under. Now open up the starting end and braid that one as well, for a neater finish.

Brush lightly with oil and cover with foil. Allow to double in size in a warm place (1.5 hours). Brush with egg wash and bake in a 375F preheated oven until golden brown and cooked to the middle (~30-40 minutes).

Remove onto a cookie rack, cover and allow to cool. Perfect for French toast, bread pudding...or just to eat with some butter and honey.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chicken and broccoli casserole

I'm not a fan of mac and cheese. In fact, last time I was asked if there was any food I didn't like, the only thing I could think of was mac and cheese. It's boring.
Then I ran into some homemade versions that use cheddar cheese, and the "mac and cheese" concept was somewhat salvaged in my eyes. Not completely. It's still pretty low on my favorites list. But my husband likes it a lot. The homemade version that is.

1 chicken breast
4 slices of bacon
8 oz broccoli
8 oz gemelli
0.25 cup butter
0.25 cup flour
1 tsp salt
0.25 tsp black pepper
1.25 cup milk
1 cup cream
2 cups cheddar
4 oz mozzarella

Cover the chicken breast with the bacon slices, then bake at 400F covered with aluminum foil. Allow to cool. Dice.

Chop the broccoli, grate the cheddar and slice the mozzarella.

Cook the pasta, drain, set aside.

Melt the butter and fry up the flour on it until it smells like the Maillard reaction (the reaction that takes place when bread browns). Add the salt and pepper, then quickly stir in the cold milk and cream to avoid knotting.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until thick. Mix in the cheddar.

Fold in the pasta, chicken and broccoli.

Place into a baking dish and top with the mozzarella. Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes, until the top browns.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creamy tomato soup

Literally creamy, there is cream in it. If you make the sauce a little thicker (double the flour), and leave it a little more sour (just a little, mind you!) then it's a perfect Hungarian tomato sauce.

In Hungary, when the chicken gets cooked for that wonderful, clear Sunday lunch broth, the cooked meat is removed from the pot before the broth is filtered. The meat is then served as a second course with salty, boiled potatoes and a sauce. This sauce can be a tomato sauce, garlic sauce...and there is even one made of chicken gizzards. So, if you wish to try this traditional dish, give it a shot. You may even want to skip the potatoes, and serve the cooked meat with the sauce alone. This is how it's done if there is extra cause for celebration, like at a wedding.

28 oz of tomato sauce
1 cup cream
1 tbsp flour
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp paprika
0.5 tsp black pepper

Prepare a smooth roux from the flour and oil. You can substitute butter here, if you wish. When the roux smells like bread, add the paprika and pepper. Stir, and cook for about 20 seconds. Don't let the paprika burn, or it will turn bitter.

Quickly pour in the cold tomato sauce, stirring constantly. There will be no knots at all this way.

Add in the cream, and salt and sugar to taste. This should be on the sweet side (~2 tbsp sugar, depending on the tomato sauce). Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute.

Serve with low-sodium saltines and top the soup with smoked Gouda. Unbelievable tasty!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tres leches cake

Three milk cake. Quick and easy.

1 box of Duncan Hines yellow cake, prepared
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
0.25 cup light cream
whipped cream

Prepare the yellow cake mix. Allow to cool.

Poke with a fork or a skewer all over. Mix the milks and slowly pour on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and cool overnight. Serve topped with whipped cream and berries.

Strawberry-cream cheese pastry

I was looking for some Valentine's day inspiration, though I don't usually celebrate the day. As I have mentioned before, I'm not a particular fan of chocolate. Strawberries were a good alternative to create the terrible, horrible, evil color pink in my pastry. Pink is unnatural. It's the only color I can't wear. Anyway, back to strawberries: while they did create the color I aimed for, the flavor simply doesn't carry through. I've done this before, I should have known that putting fresh strawberries into pastry doesn't work. Anyway, a note for next time: use blueberries and go for purple. Purple is a much nicer color. Or maybe go for lemon and mix in an egg yolk for color. That should work too.

0.5 portion Hungarian pastry dough
8 oz Philly cream cheese
1 tbsp semolina
10 strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla flavor
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Blend the cream cheese, semolina, sugar, vanilla, strawberries and one egg for the filling.

When the dough is prepared and had time to rise once, roll out to the size of your baking shape. Cut in slits as shown in the picture below.

Spread the filling in the middle and braid. Brush top with egg wash.

Cover and allow to rise for 20 more minutes. Bake in a 375F oven for ~30minutes, until golden brown.

Allow to cool on a cookie rack. Slice and serve warm.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chicken pizza

I had some leftover baked chicken meat, and since we love pizza I turned it into pizza topping.

1 portion pizza dough
1 chicken breast, baked, shredded
0.5 cup creamy ranch dressing
0.25 yellow onion
0.25 bell pepper
1 Roma tomato
4 oz mozzarella
2 oz sharp cheddar
1 tsp oregano
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp olive oil

Mince the garlic. Dice the onion, pepper and tomato. Slice the mozzarella and cheddar.

Mix shredded chicken with half of the ranch dressing.

Saute the garlic on the olive oil for 30 seconds, just until fragrant.

Shape pizza dough, spread with garlic olive oil. Cover with the ranch dressing, then add dollops of the chicken-ranch mix. Sprinkle with oregano. Bake for 5 minutes.

Remove from oven, add the cheese and drained veggies. Bake until done.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Winter fruits

We tested this strange fruit over the weekend: star fruit or carambola. The flavor reminds me of something from Hungary, but I cannot figure out what. It has a strong aroma and a lightly sweet flavor. Pick a nice yellow one with no brown spots for ultimate ripeness. Cut off end, slice and remove seeds. Serve. It's perfect for decorating fruit salads.

And reprise of a much beloved dish in our household: acorn squash baked with maple syrup and brown sugar. Oh my!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Brazilian fish stew

This was a new experiment. the smell was pungent. I have a far too strong association between coconut and having that flavor in something salty was weird. But served with rice and garlic bread, the dish tasted surprisingly good.

1 bunch cilantro
2 pound cod
3 tbsp lime juice
2 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 onions
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Chop fish and marinade in a mixture of pepper, paprika, cayenne, lime juice, salt, cumin, minced garlic.

Saute the chopped onions in the olive oil.

Chop the bell pepper, and layer onto the onions, add fish on top and tomatoes at last. Pour on the coconut milk.

Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the cilantro and cook for 5 more minutes. Allow to sit in fridge overnight, serve reheated for best results!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fried egg puffs

Breading schnitzel seems such a wasteful process. One can never exactly estimate how many eggs are needed. What's more, coating the meat is easier done with excess breadcrumbs too.

So, my mum used to make these little egg and breadcrumbs fried puffs from the leftovers, cooked in the same oil as the schnitzel. It's actually quite nice, with a crunchy outside and soft inside.

2 eggs
0.25 cup milk
fresh parsley

Whisk the eggs and milk, then start adding in breadcrumbs little by little. You want to get a liquid consistency, then wait for 5 minutes and the crumbs will absorb most of the moisture.

At this point you can adjust with more milk or breadcrumbs to get a sticky texture. Don't forget to mix in some salt and chopped fresh parsley!

Take two spoons and cut dumplings into hot vegetable oil. Fry the puffs until they are golden brown on medium heat. Remove onto paper towels, serve as a side dish, or a snack.

Shepherd's pie

A quick and easy comfort food British-style. One can add mashed carrots to the green pea layer as well.

1.5 lb ground beef
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
black pepper
1 cup beef broth
2 tbsp flour

1 lb green peas

6 potatoes
4 oz cheddar
3 tbsp butter

Peel the potatoes and cut in large chunks. Cook in salty water. Drain. Mash wit butter and half of grated cheese. Add milk if necessary to get to a smooth consistency.

Peel and dice onion. Fry in oil, add minced garlic until fragrant, then mix in beef. Spice with paprika, black pepper, salt.

Brown the beef and drain off all the fat. Add in flour, fry up a bit and add broth to make a thick gravy. Add ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 1 minute.

In a glass baking shape, layer beef gravy, followed by green peas. Top with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese.

Bake in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Schnitzel is a traditional food in the territory of the former Austro-Hungarian empire. In Hungarian it's called "rantott hus", and my family used to have it on Sundays as a holiday meal, following a chicken soup. In essence it's meat hammered into a thin cutlet, then breaded and deep fried. We usually made it out of chicken and pork. As you will see below, the pork slices have a particular shape...there was a running joke in geography classes at home: Hungary is schnitzel-shaped. I don't know if you agree...

2 pork chops
0.5 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 tbsp milk
0.24 cup flour
black pepper
vegetable oil

Hammer out the meat into thin slices.

Dust with salt and black pepper and allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Dip into flour, then whipped up egg-milk mixture, finally into breadcrumbs.

Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes while heating up the oil to a high temperature. The thin meat will cook through fast, and it's not desirable to have too much oil to get absorbed into the coating. To avoid that, we fry these at high temperature.

Fry the slices until golden brown on both sides. Flip once. Remove onto paper towels.

Serve with your favorite side, like acorn squash.

Ostoros retes

A Hungarian chocolate bread, really more of a challah, with a moist, sticky consistency. Ostoros retes means whip strudel. The animal herding kind of whip.

600g flour
400mL milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp yeast
0.5 tsp salt

250g butter
3 tbsp cocoa powder
200g powdered sugar

egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk

Butter a 9x11 inch baking shape.

Bloom the yeast in the warm milk with the sugar. Add the flour, egg, salt and oil. Knead into an elastic dough. Separate into 6 equal balls.

Mix the ingredients for the filling.

Roll out each of the dough balls and fill with chocolate cream.

Roll the sheet up into a tube.

Braid the tubes and place into buttered baking shape.

Brush with egg wash. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 35-40 minutes in a 400F preheated oven.

Cool and slice.