Old world recipes can be very difficult to pass on from generation to generation. Back in the day, recipes were not written down and made from memory. Since they weren’t written down, you just add a little of this and a little of that until you get the “right consistency” and if not you add a little more of this and that.
As I grew older and took interest in cooking, I wanted to learn from my Grandmas how to cook their traditional meals. I didn’t want to see these recipes lost forever. Funny thing, as I look back it seemed like some recipes were a big family secret.
Today I made one of my favorite main Czech dishes and transcribed the recipe with measurements. Measurements are a bonus because some of the old cook books that my Grandma owned listed ingredients without measurements. I think you were just supposed to know what to do!
This recipe is so easy and the gravy is absolutely delicious! Gravy always seemed to be so daunting to make from scratch…but really it is easy!
Czech Chicken Paprika
- 2 TB cooking oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 8 pieces of chicken (breast & thighs with skin on)
- 8 cups of water
- 2 TB paprika
- S & P
Chicken Paprika Gravy
- 1 cup flour
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 TB paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
In a large dutch oven or stock pot, add cooking oil and onions over high heat. Cook until the onion softens. In the meanwhile, salt and pepper chicken pieces. Place in the pot, skin side down. Cook until the skin is browned scraping the bottom of the pot, then flip and brown the other side. Add 8 cups of water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Cook chicken in boiling water for one hour. Reduce the heat, transfer chicken to a platter and strain the juice. (I use a slotted spoon to get little pieces out)
For the gravy, whisk flour and water in a small mixing bowl, getting all of the lumps out. This will create a paste. Whisk the paste into the large pot of chicken juices, constantly whisking until the gravy comes to a boil and it will slightly thicken. Add sour cream, continuing to whisk to get any lumps out. Then season with paprika and salt. Let gravy simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Place the chicken back in the pot to heat through.
Serve chicken pieces on a large platter with a gravy boat filled with hot gravy. Traditionally this would be served with dumpling. But it is also delicious with egg noodles.
Happy Easter! Easter is a holiday that brings back a lot of memories from my childhood. One of my favorite memories is the Polish tradition of baking the Lamb Cake, then placing it in a basket to take to church on Holy Saturday to be blessed with samples of the food we would eat for Easter dinner. The basket would even include decorated hard-boiled eggs, lamb molded butter, salt and pepper shakers and a small carafe of wine.
I borrowed my Mom’s cast iron lamb cake mold. It is very important to grease the pan and every nook and cranny very good, then dust with flour!
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and say “I only eat this cake once a year”.
My Grandma’s Pound Cake
yields two lamb cakes (or one lamb cake and 12 cupcakes)
1 lb. butter, softened
2 cups sugar
9 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease both sides of the cast iron lamb mold, then dust with flour.
Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract, the gradually add one egg at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl. Once combined, reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour and baking powder.
Place the batter into the bottom of the mold. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 more minutes until browned.
I also made 12 cupcakes with the remaining batter. Bake in the same oven for 25 – 30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
Gently unmold the cake and let cool completely before decorating. For this cake, I used cream cheese icing and piped it in swirls. Raisen eyes are very traditional.
What are you traditions for Easter?
The preparations for Easter dinner have begun! Pierogi have been made for Easter dinner as one of the Polish traditions in family. The cheese filled have been my favorite since I was a kid! Pierogi can also be filled with potatoes, sauerkraut, ground meat and fruit. My family would serve them along side a baked ham and Polish sausage. I can even remember helping my grandmother stuffing the sausage by hand.
My Polish family has been in the Chicagoland area for 4 (and now 5) generations. This is one recipe that has been handed down and I am honored to know how to make them from scratch, just like my grandma tought me. They are actually easy to make!
4 C flour
1/2 lb. butter
2 tsp. salt
1 C milk
Mix all ingredients and knead on a well floured surface. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 1 tsp. salt.
2 lbs. cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tsp. sugar
salt & pepper
Cut the dough in half and roll out on a well floured surface. The trick is not to roll the dough too thin because the filling could poke through. When my grandmother tought me, we used to cut, fill and crimp the pierogi by hand. A few years back, I found this inexpensive kitchen utensil called a dumpling crimper that makes the process a lot quicker. Cut a piece of the dough large enough to fit over the handy dumpling crimper. Place a teaspoon full of the cheese filling into the middle and carefully close the crimper. Pull off the remaining dough and tada…you have a beautiful dumpling!
Once you have made a first batch of dumplings (around 8 dumplings), gently drop them into a pot of boiling water for 10-12 minutes. At first the dumplings will sink and after a couple of minutes they will float to the surface. Flip each dumpling over after 5 minutes.
Let the boiled dumplings cool on a plate to remove the excess water. The steam will evaporate. At this point I am going to freeze my dumplings in a single layer (so they don’t stick together) until the day before the dinner. Using Sweet Stackers, I can get two trays of pierogi dumplings in one 3″ deep container – perfectly divided and condensed for storing in the refrigerator or freezer. These pierogi were made two weeks in advance and will be served for Easter dinner.
The dumplings are cooked and are edible, but traditionally they are fried in butter and sliced onion.
Oh, the pierogi smell so good, my mouth is watering!
Wishing you all a Blessed Easter with family and friends!