Monday, April 17, 2006

The Voices In My Head Win Again

Harry: Repeat after me. Pepper.
Sally: Pepper.
Harry: Pepper.
Sally: Pepper.
Harry: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Sally: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Harry: But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.

I've had this snippet of dialogue from "When Harry Met Sally" rolling around in my head for about a week now (pee-can pieeeee), and it has reminded me how much I like chicken paprikash. (How's that for a segue?) I tried paprikash for the first time about nine years ago at a Hungarian restaurant here in Toronto, and it has remained one of my favourite comfort foods. Don't ask me which restaurant it was, I can't remember. This was during my "Find-a-new-restaurant-featuring-foreign-cuisine-I've-never-tried-before" phase. Hmmm. I guess I could have called it my "Exotic Foreign Cuisine" phase, but that would have been too easy. Come to think of it, I'm still in this phase.

But I digress. In addition to making the paprikash, I had been wanting to try to make gnocchi. Gnocchi tastes best with sauce I'm told, and paprikash goes well with noodles or dumplings, so I thought that the two things would work well together.

I downloaded a recipe for chicken paprikash from Find the recipe here. The recipe I used for the gnocchi is adapted from a recipe scrounged from Rob & Rachel at Hungry In Hogtown. I say adapted, because instead of the russet potatoes called for in their recipe, I used sweet potatoes. Have I mentioned that I really like sweet potatoes? But, aside from scaling back the quantities a bit, that was the only substitution I made.

The paprikash itself went pretty much according to plan. The recipe requires that the chicken be browned in quite a lot of butter (¼ C) . Now, I like butter, but I thought that ¼ C was a bit excessive. So, I cut back a bit and only used about 2 tbsp to cook the chicken, and added a bit more for the onions. While the chicken was simmering, I started on the gnocchi. I had already cooked the sweet potatoes, and pureed them in the food processor. Rob and Rachel mention in their post that they prefer to bake the potatoes rather than boil them, as this reduces the amount of moisture in the potatoes. I decided to boil them anyway, but after I drained them I returned them to the empty pot on the stove over reduced heat to attempt to cook out some of the excess moisture before putting them in the discombobulator. Never having actually tasted gnocchi before, I really don't know whether this made any difference.

After the potatoes were ready, I added the nutmeg, flour and egg and mixed up the dough. I'm not sure how much flour I ended up using, but the dough didn't stick to the sides of the bowl, and after kneading it a bit, it became nice and pliable and easy to work with. I split the dough up into about four pieces, and started to roll out each piece between my hands. Despite having the directions in front of me, I was unsure as to how big to make each nugget o' gnocchi, so I settled on the size of my thumb. Upon talking to some people at work this morning, I found out that I should probably have made them about half that size, but oh well, live and learn.

At this point the water for the gnocchi was boiling, so I dropped in a bunch of the little suckers, swished them around with a big spoon to make sure that they weren't sticking to the bottom of the pot, and shifted my attention to the paprikash.

It had been simmering for about twenty minutes, so that meant only one thing - time to add the flour/water mixture to thicken the sauce, and the sour cream to give it some body. Having done that, I mixed everything around a bit, then covered the pan and removed it from the heat. I had read over several recipes for paprikash before settling on this one, and although this particular recipe didn't specify, I removed the pan from the heat at this point because one of the other recipes had said that if the sour cream is allowed to boil, then it will curdle in the pan. Eeeeuwww. So, off the heat it came. The gnocchi was also finished cooking at this point, so I drained them, put some on the plate and poured the lovely paprikash over the top.

The whole thing turned out very well, and it was certainly tasty, but the jury is still out as to whether or not I actually like gnocchi well enough to make them again. I don't know whether it's because I made them wrong, or whether I simply prefer mashed potatoes, but the meal seemed awfully heavy. I think my next assignment is to find an Italian restaurant and try some real gnocchi. Life is rough.

I'm also planning to make some pee-can pieeee. Stay tuned.

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