Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hungarian Stuffed Chicken

In my previous post, you may have noticed, was a sneaky sentence about how matching the sides to the main is important in Hungarian cuisine. And then my sister pointed out, justifiably, where is the recipe for the stuffed chicken that this goes with?

Quite right. My bad.

I luuurve this recipe, but, yes, I realize for some people it can be a hurdle to make a whole chicken if you're not used to it. I didn't realize there were people who were squeamish about this sort of thing at all until I was 20-something years old, when I dated met some of them. I, apparently, grew up in the European tradition of eating animals that, yes, you could tell that they were once animals.

Silly Americans and their silly squeamishness.

On the other hand, the first time I made this, I was quite grossed out by the thought of actually touching a dead animal. Still sort of am. So when I made this recipe for the first time, it was after years of having been a vegetarian, and, instead of being easy on myself and making something that I wouldn't need to touch, like goulash, I jumped right in to whole chicken (see above for why I thought this was normal.) Also for some odd reason, I had friends over when I was cooking. (I think they were 'helping' me.) And one of those friends thought it would be HILARIOUS to open and close the chicken's legs while shouting out 'chicken butt!'

I ran out of the kitchen. I don't know how that chicken got stuffed. But somehow I managed to get it into the oven, and cooked it, and everyone ate it and had a great time. Point is, don't make friends with your food.

Hungarian Stuffed Chicken - Töltött csirke

Yes, it tends to burn the pan a little. Aluminum helps.
  • 3-4 slices old, dry, disgusting, freezer bread
  • 3/4 to 1 1/4 cup or 200-300 ml soy milk (or regular milk if you don't keep kosher) 
  • a bit of oil or schmaltz
  • 1/2 a small onion, chopped small
  • bunch of parsley, chopped up
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 whole chicken, WITH skin
  • bit of salt, pepper to taste
  1. Make sure to assemble the ingredients before you do anything else. Chop the onion. Chop the parsley. Get out the eggs. You're less likely to forget them that way, like I just did. 
  2. Soak the bread in soy milk while you prep the rest of the recipe. Preheat that oven too while you're at it - 200-220C is good, according to my oven manual. 
  3. Heat the oil or schmaltz (give yourself a high-five if you're using schmaltz) and fry the onion slightly, until it gets a little yellow.  My recipe says to add liver if you're using it, but I never have, so I can't comment. 
  4. Remove onion from heat and add it to the bread. Mix. Add parsley, egg, a bit of salt, pepper if you want (I generally don't) and mash it all up with a fork or your fingers. Don't be concerned if the bread falls apart - you want it to. This is your stuffing.
    Lotsa parsley
  5. Put the chicken on the tray you're going to be baking it in. From the cookbook, "Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin around the neck opening, without damaging the skin." Basically pry the skin away from the chicken. Not all the skin. Mostly the skin around the boobs and/or the back, I find, is the easiest. Yeah, kinda gross. I use gloves. 
  6. Take the stuffing and stuff into chicken (still got those gloves on). Under the skin if you can (not that much fits there) and shove the stuffing into the absolute biggest kitchen euphemism I know of - the "cavity." Yeah. That's right. Into the cavity. 
  7. Gloves.
  8. Chicken butt.
  9. The recipe adds two more steps here that I never ever do, but you can if you want to. One, is use needle and thread to sew chicken closed. Yeah right. Two, is probably a good idea, but I also just have a hard time following instructions, is to then top the chicken with melted butter (or oil. Or schmaltz.) Yeah, that does sound good. Maybe that's a good idea to do. I never have, but maybe I'll start.
  10. Stick in oven. I find this chicken takes a good 2 hours to cook, but that depends on the size of the bird. Officially cook until it reaches 180 (that's fahrenheit) on a cooking thermometer, or, you could do what my roommate used to do, and cook until juices run clear when it gets poked. But you probably know how to cook a chicken by this stage in your life, and if you don't, call me. I'll come over with my kitchen thermometer.
Oh, sides - "Serve with potatoes or rice, braised vegetables, and salad. Töltött csirke (don't ask me how to pronounce that, I don't know) is also good served cold."

- You can tell this recipe is my peeps, right? A "bunch" of parsley. How much? Some. A bunch. If you want it less parsley-y, you use less. More, then you use more. A bunch. 

- Pro-tip - for the first time you make this recipe, yeah, go ahead and use oil. However, in FUTURE times, save the chicken fat drippings* and put it in the freezer, and use that in place of oil. It's much better and it's good sustainable living. Plus it's fancy - like how the French pair the wine with the cheese from the same region. Pair chicken dishes with chicken fat. 
*Do this with a spoon or turkey baster in the first hour of cooking, otherwise it cooks away. 

- Really one of the reasons I love this recipe so much is that it fits perfectly with my food philosophy. Whole chicken is one of the cheapest ways to eat chicken (I think because people are afraid of it), eggs and parsley are cheap, and this recipe is the perfect way to use up all that disgusting old bits and bobs of bread in your freezer, and elevates it to something simply divine. There you go, that's me going all food-blogger speak. 

Confucius say, take off rings when shoving hands into chicken cavity.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hungarian Cucumber Salad, no thanks to Apple

This blogpost is dedicated to Apple. The jerks.

Once upon a time, I actually spent money on an app. Yes, I know. It was like $2.99, too. Almost broke the bank. But it was this wonderful little Hungarian cookbook, and it was written by an Israeli guy with Hungarian roots, and he had recorded his grandmother's precious recipes to be kept for posterity. How could I not buy it? Also it was really cutely designed and there were pictures and videos and whatnot. Adorable. I used it and I loved it, but mostly only used this one recipe - for cucumber salad. The other recipes I meant to try, one day, but never quite got around to it.

Really one of the things I loved about this app was that the recipes weren't fruffy. Take noodles and cabbage, for example. One of my absolute favorite Hungarian dishes. It goes like this - cook noodles. Fry cabbage. Put together. Done. But if you look on the internet, they get all complicated and tell you to add sugar, or dill, or balsamic vinegar....NO. Noodles. Cabbage. Stop getting all fancy, internet. This is how you do good food, and that app GOT that.

Then one day, a few months ago, I went to get my precious precious Hungarian Cucumber Salad recipe from the app, and I discover, to my abject horror - gone. As if it had never existed.

I contacted the developer on facebook. He had no idea why it was gone. He said his was gone too. I contacted Apple. They said the developer must have taken it down, and tough titties for me. Here, have three Apple credits. I told them they could basically take their credits and shove it, I want my recipes back. Shockingly, they did not respond.
Thank you, D. You get a shout-out.

Fast-forward a few months, the weather has gotten cold again, it's time to make Hungarian stuffed chicken, and, obviously, cucumber salad. (Because apparently having the sides matching the dish are very important in Hungarian cuisine.) That meant I NEEDED my cucumber salad recipe.

Bastard Apple jerkfaces.

Thank heavens and all one holds holy, at some point in the even further distant future, my sister had asked for this recipe, and, instead of just telling her to download the wonderful app (which I think I did, too) I sent her the recipe. And she kept it. And...wrote it down. Which it seems, in this age of digital wonder, is the only way to actually keep one's information and recipes. Oh, and it doesn't help to google it, because there are millions of recipes, and every single one is oh-so-slightly different, and no two Hungarian grandmothers made it the same way. Mine probably made it yet a different way, for that matter.

So, here you have it, the only precious remainder of my app of forgotten Hungarian recipes.

Hungarian Cucumber Salad - Uborkasalata

  • 5 small cucumbers
  • 1 small onion, sliced finely
  • 1.5 tbs salt

  • 1/8 cup vinegar
  • 1.5 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 cup water 
  1. Slice the cucumbers finely. Sprinkle salt on them and let them sit for 30 min. Squeeze water out and add sliced onion. (I find that I sometimes need to rinse them as well, to get the salty taste out. 
  2. Combine vinegar, sugar, water in a small bowl or cup. This is your dressing. After the cucumbers are ready, mix the dressing on the cucumbers and give it a mix. Serve immediately or let marinate in the fridge until ready to serve. 
  3.  Alternatively, sometimes I have no time to let cucumbers sit for half an hour, and then I use less than the full amount of salt and mix with dressing. Mix and serve.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We are Going to Eat You

Why hello loyal readers.

I do believe I made a promise about Zombie Vegetables. I believe I also made a declaration of sorts that this blog is for testing Pinteresty things, and also somewhat for DIY.

Behold. I have kept my promises. Zombie Vegetables. 

"They're baa-aaack."

So you know those links with the 12 or 18 or whatever Vegetables You Can Regrow from Table Scraps?

Yes, they actually work! I know, I'm surprised too. At least for two of the vegetables that I tested - green onions and leeks.

It's pretty darned simple, costs next to nothing (basically the price of the dirt, which you can either buy for not very much money, or just, you know, get some OFF THE GROUND), and is really a life-saver on days like today when it's cold, potentially (or maybe by the time I finish writing this blog post, actually) stormy, and you really can't be bothered to go out to the store to buy token green things so you can say you ate your vegetables. Plus, as far as I can tell, they are immortal. (By which I mean you cut off the tip and they just keep growing back.) Obviously. You can't kill Zombie Vegetables.


"Are you eating it ...or is it eating you?"
  1. Buy, steal, or otherwise get tips of leeks or green onions. 
  2. If you bought them or stole them whole, when you use up most of your green onion, leave enough at the root end so that you will be able to replant - about an inch or two. (You can see in the picture where the original death...um, cut...line is on those leeks.)
  3. Stick into dirt. Root-side down. Bury it vertically so that the root gets, well, planted, and the tip is just barely above the earth.
  4. Water periodically or hope that it rains. 

Enjoy, and be sure to tell me if you successfully grew one of the other types of....Zombie Vegetables. (One day when I become a B-rated movie producer, you know that's gonna be a title.) 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pasta with a side of philosophy

As may be evidenced by the previous few posts, I've been thinking a lot about the connection between food and money.

You see, I had this conversation tonight with people who told me they spend about 4000 NIS on food a month, for two people. We got down to the nitty gritty, and discovered that that's probably because they enjoy the finer things in life - fresh salmon, a good steak - and those things don't come cheaply.

I had another conversation a few weeks ago, about that food challenge that all the cool kids are doing these days of living on $150 for food per person for the month. (Ok, it wasn't really a conversation, it was a facebook comment and another comment.) Bottom line is - I said I could do that, easily, and other person said, 'Teach me your ways, Oh Wise One, I spend a gazillion times more than that.' (I may be paraphrasing. A tad.)

Point is, and I may have mentioned this before, I make CRAZY things from scratch. Like, truly crazy. Not just granola and cookies and cakes and bread, but, like, croissants and mayonnaise and yogurt and (most recently) pasta.

So yeah, usually those things save me money by making them from scratch. But the [white privilege] thing that happens here is - I FRICKIN HAVE THE TIME TO DO THIS. I am mostly unemployed. I can afford to spend the time making yogurt. Some people are partially employed or just amazing at managing their time, so they can "only" make bread from scratch. Someone I know, who is even crazier than I and only eats fair trade locally grown cow patties or something, purposely has a flexible hours type job so he can grind his own buckwheat flour and make it into coq-au-vin with home fermented wine, or something like that.

Not everyone can do this.

I am even realistic enough to believe that most of the people reading this blog (anyone out there other than my mom?) may just have day jobs and come home and not want to frickin make bread from scratch.

So what's a blogger to do?

Well, one could subscribe to the whole 'Make Amazing Meals in just 13 minutes a Day!' cookbooks, which frankly I think are full of bullshit.

One could become a stay-at-home-mom/dad/furry green alien, and spend all their time following oh so perfect blogs about how to perfectly make a perfect 10 course meal complete with truffle oil, and then take gorgeous photos and blog it and pinterest it or snapchat or instagram or whatever the kids are doing these days. Anyway that's how the Patriarchy keeps women down and out of the workforce, so I'm not sure I support this method.

One could be absolutely batshit crazy and scavenge for food and make bread out of thistles and leftover cat fur. There are bloggers like that out there. I ain't one of them.

Or....one could just say screw it and spend 4000 nis a month and eat good food.

Middle ground? Yes, I suppose there is. There are, like, freezers and crockpot meals and gazillions of websites promising 10 Amazing Meals that Cook in your Crockpot Overnight. I suppose some people are organized enough to do that.

What about you, readers? What is your middle ground? Can we  all be humble, admit we're not perfect, and maybe spend more than we want? Or buy more instant food than we want? Is that even allowed??

Obligatory Recipe: Pasta with Melty Cheese

  • pasta
  • cheese which you can totally keep in your freezer and it's fine
  • salt
  • make it fancy - top with green thing
  1.  Cook pasta in salted cooking water.  
  2. Strain, but keep a tiny bit of the cooking water (super cool Great Depression type cooking trick for making everything better.)
  3. Put pasta back in the pot with that cooking water. Grate cheese. Stir. Melt. Add more cheese. 
  4. Top with some sort of green thing. I'm thinking basil or parsley or green onion which you can totally grow like a zombie. More on that later. 
  5. Serve with a large glass of red wine. 
The fine life - we has it.