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It is that time of year again! The time where I get to spend a week in Pennsylvania with my family! Last year we made Slovak food, since my grandfather came to the United States from Czechoslovakia in 1937. This week’s dinner goes back even farther, to my Great-Grandmother, who was from Hungary. These foods are not just traditional Hungarian, but they were traditional in my grandfather’s and my mother’s houses growing up. My grandmother, who was celebrating her 90 1/2 birthday, declared the meal to be delicious and spot on! That’s the best compliment I could get. Jó étvágyat! (Bon Appetit in Hungarian.)
Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
Celebration foods happen in every culture and at every table. For this birthday celebration, I made Hungarian Easter bread, which is sweet, rich, and full of flavor. Most Eastern European countries have their version of Easter Bread, which is eaten after the strict fasting of Lent (hence the multitude of “forbidden” ingredients like sugar, butter, and various fruits) as well as other times of the year when a party is in order. A large number of eggs (a symbol of fertility, rebirth, spring, and the Resurrection) figures prominently in them. Their names are often some form of the word paska, which means “Easter.”
Below we will explore some of the variations of this celebration food from around Europe, as taken from articles posted on http://www.TheSpruce.com and http://www.Saveur.com
- This rich, eggy, slightly sweet yeast bread exists in almost every culture. Bohemians and Czechs call it vanocka or mazanec, while other refer to it as houska. Poles, who call it chalka, adopted it from their Jewish countrymen who refer to it as challah, and on and on. Leftovers make great French toast and bread pudding.
- This Bulgarian bread, known as kozunak, is featured at Christmas, Easter and other special occasions. It is an egg-rich braided loaf stuffed with rum-soaked raisins.
- Croatian Easter Bread Dolls take center stage on a table all decked out in Easter linens, silver, and crystal. Kids love them! But the most popular Easter bread is a sweet yeast-raised round loaf known as pinca or sirnica. A small loaf of this cake-like bread is placed in the basket of food to be blessed on Holy Saturday
- This recipe for Hungarian egg twist or fonott kalacs is a slightly sweet braided loaf with raisins served for Easter, Christmas or any time of year. In general, kalacs (kaw-lahch) refers to any yeast-raised cake or sweet bread.
- Lithuanian Easter bread is similar to many other Eastern European offerings — a sweet yeast dough with raisins. It’s delicious on Easter morning slathered with butter and a good accompaniment to the hard-cooked colored eggs everyone “clinks” together to see whose egg is the strongest.
- Russian Easter bread takes the form of kulich, a tall, cylindrical sweet yeast-risen bread. On Easter morning, Russian ladies engage in a little good-natured rivalry centering around who has the tallest kulich while waiting for the priest to bless their basket of delicacies.
- This sweet braided egg bread features red hard-cooked eggs, symbolizing the blood Christ shed and his rebirth or resurrection. Some people shape their bread into a cross with an egg at the head, foot, and arms of the cross. This is very similar to Bohemian houska.
- The recipe for Slovak Easter bread or paska (PAH-skah) is made into round loaves decorated with religious symbols made of dough. it also makes paska peeps — small, chick-shaped rolls.
- Ukrainian Easter bread or paska is also served by Slovaks at Easter time. It’s similar to other slightly sweet yeast bread of its type mentioned here but this recipe doesn’t contain fruit. This paska bread shouldn’t be confused with the Ukrainian molded cheese dessert known as paska, paskha or pasca or pascha in Russia, Lithuania, Poland and other Eastern European countries.
- Tsoureki, a braided Easter bread that is probably Byzantine in origin, gets its spicy kick from makhlepi, an essence made from the pits of wild cherries, and black cumin seeds. Red-dyed hard boiled eggs that symbolize the blood of Christ are usually tucked into the bread’s folds.
- In the Friuli region of Italy, the practice of preparing Gubana, a strudel-like Easter bread filled with walnuts, pine nuts, raisins, and cocoa, dates back to the 16th century.
- Made with currants and iced with the shape of the cross, hot cross buns are traditionally eaten in England on Good Friday. During the Elizabethan Age, the Protestants in England tried to stop the sale of the buns, saying that they were a Catholic tradition, but Elizabeth I passed a law that allowed the sweets to be sold during Easter, Christmas, and funerals.
Chicken Paprika with Dumplings (Paprikas Csirke val vel Galuska)
- 8 Chicken Thighs, with bones and skin
- 2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
- 2 Large Yellow Onions, diced
- 2 tsp All-Purpose Flour
- 2 tsp Hungarian (Sweet) Paprika
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 3 Cups Sour Cream
- 4 Eggs
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 4 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
- 3/4 Cups Water
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 Tbs Butter
Step 1: Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the vegetable oil and heat. Season the chicken thighs evenly with salt and pepper on both sides. Once the oil is hot and starts to shimmer, place the chicken thighs in the pot (do not crowd the chicken, you may have to do this in batches) and sear for 2-3 minutes per side. Once the chicken has been seared, remove the thighs to a plate and set aside.
Step 2: Add the diced onions to the pot that the chicken as in and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are transparent, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the paprika. Stir well to thoroughly combine.
Step 3: Place the pot back on the heat and add the seared chicken. Stir to combine. Add enough water to the pot to just cover the chicken. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 40 minutes.
Step 4: While the chicken is cooking, make the dumplings. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and 1/4 tsp salt together. Then, in the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, eggs, oil, and water until a soft dough is formed.
Step 5: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add 1 tsp Salt. Stir to dissolve the salt. Take the dough and either cut it into tiny dumplings or force the dough through the holes of a grater (I use a potato ricer) and add drop the dough balls into the boiling water. The dumplings are done when they rise to the surface.
Step 6: Remove from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer once they begin to float and allow the dumplings to drain in a colander in the sink. Once all of the dumplings have been cooked, put them in a large bowl and add the butter. Stir to melt the butter and evenly coat all of the dumplings (this will keep them from sticking together.) Set aside.
Step 7: In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp of flour and 1/2 cup of sour cream. Whisk until smooth. Once the chicken is cooked through and tender, add about 1/3 cup of the chicken cooking liquid to the flour/sour cream mixture and whisk until smooth.
Step 8: Remove the chicken from the pot and remove the skin from the thighs. Set the chicken aside. Add the flour/sour cream mixture to the chicken cooking pot and whisk to fully incorporate, breaking up any lumps. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Step 9: After 5 minutes, add the remaining sour cream and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the chicken thighs back to the pot and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce is creamy but not thick.
Step 10: Remove from the heat and serve over the dumplings.
Yellow Pepper Salad (Paprikasaláta)
- 4 Yellow Bell Peppers, cored and cut into thin strips
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 4 Cups Boiling Water
- 6 Tbs Sugar
- 6 Tbs White Vinegar
- 2 Cups Cold Water
Step 1: Place the sliced peppers in a large, heat-proof bowl. Season the peppers evenly with salt.
Step 2: Pour the 4 cups of boiling water over the peppers. Then, add the sugar and vinegar to the bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover with a towel and set aside for 1 hour.
Step 3: After 1 hour, add the 2 cups of cold water and stir.
Step 4: Cover with the towel and set aside in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
Hungarian Easter Bread (Fonott Kalács)
- 4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1/3 Cup Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
- 1 Stick Butter (4 oz,) at room temperature
- 1 Cup Lukewarm Milk
- 1 Envelope Rapid Rise Instant Yeast
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- Zest of 1 Lemon
- 1/2 Cup Raisins
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 1 Tbs Milk
Step 1: In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 1 cup of lukewarm milk, 1 tsp sugar, and the yeast. Set aside from 10 minutes.
Step 2: Once the yeast is foamy, add to that bowl the flour, salt, 1/3 cup sugar, butter, eggs, lemon zest, and raisins. Stir on low until a soft dough is formed.
Step 3: Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the large bowl, cover with a damp tea towel, and allow to rise in a warm, dark place for 1 1/2 hours.
Step 4: Once the dough has risen and has doubled in size, turn it out onto a clean surface and divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Cover the dough portions with a damp towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Step 5: After the dough has rested, roll each portion into a rope that is about 12-14 inches long. Lay the three ropes side by side and pinch the tops together. Then, carefully braid the dough ropes and pinch the bottoms of the ropes together, once completed. Tuck the ends under the loaf and move the bread to a baking sheet.
Step 6: Cover the loaf with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm, dark place for 30 minutes.
Step 7: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Step 8: In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg yolk and 1 Tbs milk. After the dough has risen, brush the dough all over with the egg wash. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees.
Fun Fact(s) about Hungary: 1) Erich Weisz, better known as illusionist Harry Houdini, was born in Budapest in 1874 before earning his fame escaping from handcuffs, strait jackets and a Chinese Water Cell. 2) Dracula was Hungarian! Count Dracula is believed to have been based on the 15th century villain Vlad the Impaler, who terrorized Wallachia (formerly part of Hungary) until he was jailed by King Matthias. 3) The word ‘coach’ derives from the name of the Hungarian town Kocs, where multi-passenger wheeled vehicles first appeared around 1500. 4) Hungarian inventions include: the noiseless match (Jànos Irinyi), Rubik’s cube (Ernö Rubik), the krypton electric bulb (Imre Bródy), and the discovery of vitamins B6, riboflavin, and biotin (Paul Gyorgy). Several other notable inventions were made by Hungarians who fled the country before World War II, including holography (Dennis Gabor), the ballpoint pen (László Bíró), the theory of the hydrogen bomb (Edward Teller), and BASIC programming language (John Kemény and Thomas E. Kurtz). 5) Wine has been produced in Hungary since the 5th century A.D. In 1737, King Karoly named the Tokaj wine region a national wine area, making it the world’s first official wine region, almost 120 years before France’s Bordeaux.