Welcome to the fourth edition to my dinner and a song list series. If you missed the first installment, “Italian Night; Spaghetti Bolognese” you can find it here, the second installment; Memphis BBQ Night see it here, or the third; Old English Chaucerian Night with Baked Cod and Bragot you can find it here.
I couldn’t, with a clear conscious, write this series without including a piece of Hungarian decent for my dear friend Johnny “Pizanni”. No, he’s not Italian, but a true Hungarian with a knack for keeping radio towers up and running, camping, cooking, playing the accordion, miscellaneous trivia (he seems to know everything about everything), and also “breaking Jimmy’s ya-ya’s”. We call him “Pizanni” because, well, I don’t know why we call him that, we just do. Someone in our group of friends –I think it was Jimmy that once mentioned it, and now that’s become the endearing nickname that seems to have stuck. It’s because of him I’m including this segment. So, “Here’s to you Pizanni!” oh, and Jimmy says, “I spit on your shoes!”.
Johnny “Pizanni” kindly answered my inquiry by email and said this,
“If you ask a Hungarian what our national dish is, Paprikas Csirke (paprika chicken) is what they would tell you”.
So, here’s the recipe (just like his Mom used to make) in all it’s paprika glory (with the addition of a starter and dessert).
Dinner Menu for Hungarian Night:
Cucumber Dill Dip, starter
Chicken Paprikas, entree
Yams, side dish
Esterhazy Torte, dessert
Chicken Paprikas is one of the most basic, and perhaps one of the easiest of all Hungarian recipes.It is reasonably fast and requires few ingredients and little preparation time, especially if the onions are chopped in your food processor. Common side dishes are yams and Cucumber Dill Dip is a good starter.
Starter: Cucumber Dill Dip
8 oz cream cheese room temp.
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded, unpeeled cucumber, well drained
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. dry dill or 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh dill
1 clove minced garlic
Combine cream cheese and sour cream, add cucumber and remaining ingredients. Blend well
and chill for 1 hour. Serve with raw vegetables or potato chips.
Entree: Paprikas Chicken
The cooking time will vary with the amount of chicken, but because the chicken simmers slowly in the paprika broth, it is easy to tell when it is cooked. One step that must be followed religiously is sauteing the onions slowly for at least 20 minutes. Many Hungarian recipes-all of the true goulashes –begin with this step. Any recipe that says to dump all the ingredients together at once and begin cooking is just not authentic.The secret to all of these dishes is the slow, careful sautéing of the onions.They should not get brown- just very soft, and almost pink in color. Chicken paprikas fills the house with a wonderful aroma from the paprika and bell pepper-it’s hard to wait for it to be ready to serve.
Once the technique for removing the firey veins and seeds of red pepper was invented in Szeged, Hungary in 1859, paprika was referred to as the “noble sweet rose.” Used as a primary spice for seasoning meats, poultry, fish and vegetables, the Hungarian cook keeps her pantry well stocked with Hungarian paprika.
1 large chicken, cut up or use an equivalent amount of your favorite chicken pieces
(thighs and upper thighs are very good)
2-3 large onions chopped- or an amount to be about 1/3 of the weight of the chicken. Don’t skimp! Chop using the pulse feature rather than the regular chop which may over chop the onions, resulting in a pulp. (The onions should be finely chopped, but still be individual pieces)
Oil or bacon fat for sautéing onions
3 Tablespoons paprika– or enough to give it a vivid color
Salt to taste
1-2 tablespoons ketchup
2-3 slices of bell pepper
1 small carton sour cream
2 Tablespoons flour
In a large cooking pot, add about 3 Tablespoons oil or bacon fat and heat.When oil is hot, add onions and stir immediately.Reduce heat to medium and continue to saute onions. If they begin to stick, add about ¼ cup water and continue stirring.They should not stick to the pan and they should not get brown.Reduce heat even more if necessary, but onions should still be cooking. Salt the onion lightly while cooking. Salt helps soften the onions and will be needed anyway for seasoning. It is best to watch onions constantly, stirring often, to make sure they don’t burn. When they are really limp and transparent, they are ready. Careful cooking of the onions is the most important part of this dish. Cooking the onions takes anywhere from 20 minutes or more, depending on how large a quantity you are making. When the onions are ready add the chicken pieces to the and turn the heat up and quickly sear the chicken, stirring the onion and chicken thoroughly for about 3 minutes.The skin side of the chicken pieces should be just lightly golden, not brown.Add enough water to the pot to cover the chicken.Reduce heat enough to keep pot simmering. Immediately add 2 heaping tsps. paprika, ketchup, and bell pepper. The color should be a rich orange red. If it looks anemic, add more paprika. Cover and continue to cook until chicken is tender. Reduce heat before adding sour cream. Blend flour into sour cream. When chicken is tender, finish sauce by adding the sour cream and flour mixture to the sauce. Stir to blend completely and cook for about 2-3 minutes.Add salt to taste.Serve over noodles or homemade dumplings, with a side of sweet yams.
Dessert: Esterhazy Torte
Double recipe Easy Chocolate Mousse
1/2 recipe Easy Fondant Icing
1/4 cup melted apricot jam mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water
2 ounces melted semisweet chocolate mixed with 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 ounces toasted or untoasted sliced almonds
Preparation:Prepare a double recipe of Easy Chocolate Mousse. Line an (8-inch) round pan with enough parchment so it hangs over the sides and you will be able to pull up on it to lift the torte out of the pan after it is assembled.
Place one wafer, oblaten or Honey Wafer in the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread with 1/4 chocolate mousse and repeat 2 more times, topping with another wafer. Reserve the last 1/4 of mousse for the sides. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, 1 hour.
Strain the apricot jam glaze, brush entire top of cake with it and let dry for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a half recipe of Easy Fondant Icing.
Remove torte from refrigerator and pull up on the parchment paper to remove it from the pan. Carefully slide a thin spatula between the parchment and the torte and transfer to a serving platter.
Place chocolate-oil mixture in a squeeze bottle and set aside. Pour warm fondant over torte, tilting so the entire top is covered. If some drips down the sides, that’s OK because it will be covered with the reserved mousse. If it looks too transparent, you will have to apply another coat, but wait until this one dries.
If the fondant is the way you like it, before it dries, take the squeeze bottle and draw 4 or 5 concentric circles of chocolate on the top of the torte. Using a skewer or the tip of a knife, drag it lightly through the lines from the center of the torte to the edge 8 times to make a chevron pattern.
Frost the sides of the torte with the reserved mousse, pressing in the sliced almonds. Refrigerate until ready to serve. For easier slicing, cut the torte while it is cold but let it come to room temperature before serving. This is a very rich dessert, so small slices work best.
Music choices for Hungarian Night
It wasn’t an easy task, but I’ve narrowed it down to my top 8, as there are so many beautiful offerings of Hungarian music that it made my choice very difficult indeed. But, the following eight cd’s I’ve chosen are all a wonderful additions to any classic music lover’s library and would add not only an authenticity to your Hungarian evening, but create a night filled with sparkling fun and haunting heart to round out the meal, bringing a closeness that only great Hungarian music can offer.
According to “Pizanni”, he said,
“Next to Liszt, the music of Bela Bartok is the music of Hungary”.
If you can’t sample all eight chosen pieces, at lease check out the top three on this list, you won’t be disappointed.
1. Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta; Hungarian Sketches– Bela Bartok was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered to be one of the greatest composers of the 20th century and is regarded, along with Liszt, as Hungary’s greatest composer. Through his collection and analytical study of folk music, he was one of the founders of ethnomusicology.
2. Liszt: Piano Works [Box Set] – Franz Liszt (Composer), Georg Solti (Conductor), Ivan Fischer (Conductor), London Philharmonic Orchestra (Orchestra), London Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra), Jorge Bolet (Performer)- beautiful piano really sets the mood. Franz Liszt has emerged as one of the most awe-inspiring figures in all of music history. Regarded by most as the greatest pianist of all time, Liszt’s genius extended far beyond the piano to expand musical composition and performance well beyond its 19th century limitations. His unique compositions bewildered, inspired, and inflamed the imaginations of his own era, yet quite miraculously, he also laid the seeds for a series of schools that would flourish in the near and distant future. Namely, the Late Romantic, Impressionist, and Atonal schools. For these remarkable contributions, Liszt is unique, and his immense influence is unquestionably monumental.
3. An Evening In Budapest With Bela Babai (Digitally Remastered)– Bela Babai, a popular violinist since he was a youth in Hungary, performed in Chicago nightspots in the 1940s and ’50s and was billed as “The King of the Gypsy Violin.” He and his Hungarian orchestra played at the Blue Danube, Ray Caruso’s and the Palmer House, among other places. Mr. Babai grew up in a gypsy area outside of Kaposvar, Hungary, where he was a child prodigy with the violin. A yellowed clipping he kept told of him playing at a cafe there at the age of 12. A resident in recent years of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., he died Oct. 1 in Nesconset, N.Y.
4. Gypsy Music From Hungary– Sandor Deki Lakatos. The Hungarian Sketches are lively examples of Bartok’s dedication to bringing folk traditions to orchestral music. Since Reiner ranks among the 20th century’s greatest conductors, and since Bartok brings a supreme scholastic energy to his music, it goes highly recommended.
5. Csárdás: Hungarian Gypsy Music Anonymous (Composer), Vittorio Monti (Composer), Grigoras Dinicu (Composer), Hungarian Traditional (Composer), Ferenc Sánta & His Gypsy Band .
Sánta Ferenc ( pronounced “Shanta” with the first ‘a’ sounding like the American ‘aah’ and the second ‘a’ sounding like the vowel in ‘up’.) is a well respected virtuoso gypsy violinist & composer, who was born in Kaposvar, Hungary. The music on this CD is beautiful and is known to most Hungarians. It is played by a master violinist and his gypsy band with perfection . This is the music one would hear played by a strolling “primas” (first violinist) and his band as they wander from table to table, serenading the patrons at a fancy restaurant.
6. Hungary: Gypsy Violin Laszlo Berki & His Gypsy Ensemble – Laszlo Berki (1941 – 1997) was born in Budapest and was one of the most renowned exponents of Gypsy violin. His father Karoly Berki, known as the “King of the Gypsies”, was himself an excellent musician and conductor of Hungarian Group, Bura Brothers Orchestra, began to teach Laszlo to play violin at the age of 6. At 14 while still studying at Oszk School of Music, Berki became the first soloist for Rajko Gypsy Orchestra. In 1985 he formed the unique 100 Gypsy Violins of Budapest for which he was artistic director, music arranger, vice-president, conductor plus he composed many works for the group. He was also active with the National Folklore Ensemble and in 1992, Berki organized an international festival of the Gypsy arts. This festival was an important event which presented the Gypsies – a people with a long-established reputation as nomads – the opportunity to come together and cement the cultural and ethnic bonds which link them. In 1973 he received the “Gold Sitar” Award for the best folk music record. He was also a recipient of the Hungarian Radio Award and a member of the “Order of the Star of the Republic of Hungary”. Laszlo Berki died suddenly of a heart attack on October 25, 1997.
7. Ottorino Respighi: Ancient Dances & Airs (Philharmonica Hungarica) The Philharmonia Hungarica was comprised of Hungarian emigrés who escaped (most without their instruments) following the 1956 Soviet invasion.
8. Epithalam zu Eduard Remenyi’s Vermahlungsfeier, S129/R466 – A great Hungarian violinist, the one and only Edouard Remenyi, an illustrious musical figure of the 19th century, a court violinist to Queen Victoria and Louis Napoleon, a lifelong friend of Franz Liszt, and the man credited with bringing the talents of Johannes Brahms, to light after discovering the impoverished, barely 18 year old genius, playing in a sailor’s saloon on the Hamburg waterfront.
I hope you enjoy your Hungarian night as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you. And as they say in Hungary, “Egészségedre!”
Until our next meeting, stay happy, healthy and stay tuned for the next installment of this series.
“Egészségedre!” can both be used to say “cheers” and to say “bless you” when somebody sneezes. You can also say it as a host at the end of a meal after your guest thanked for the meal. (A waiter can also say this to you after you finished your meal; though he will probably say the formal form: “Egészségére!”) “Egészségedre” literary means “to you health.” After somebody says “egészségedre” to you because you sneezed, you say “köszönöm” or “kösz.” When people cheer, everybody says “egészségedre” or they can say the plural form, “egészségünkre” (“to our health”).
If you’d like to know how to pronounce it a snippet can be heard here.
torte pic ; http://www.thurnbichler.net/images/hlesterhazytorte.jpg
Bela Bartok; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Bart%C3%B3k
Laszlo Berki; http://www.last.fm/music/Laszlo+Berki/+wiki/diff?&a=1&b=2
Franz Liszt; http://www.d-vista.com/OTHER/franzliszt2.html
Edouard Reminyi; http://www.amazon.com/Edouard-Remenyi-Musician-Litterateur-Appreciation/dp/0898751470
“cheers” or “bless you” in Hungarian; http://www2.ku.edu/~magyar/courses/103/unit1/basic.shtml
How to pronounce Hungarian words, listen here; http://www2.ku.edu/~magyar/courses/103/unit1/basic.shtml
More about Hungary; http://www.hungarotips.com/
Recommended Reading; Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802132502?ie=UTF8&tag=yellowessent-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0802132502
Cooking the Hungarian Way: Revised and Expanded to Include New Low-Fat and Vegetarian Recipes (Easy Menu Ethnic Cookbooks) – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0822541327?ie=UTF8&tag=yellowessent-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0822541327
Hungarian translator; http://www.hungarotips.com/translator.html