Czech Cooking: Hearty meals rich in flavor and tradition
Once you have tried these rich and filling recipes, you may just have to book yourself a ticket to Prague.
The Czech Republic is home to some of the most delicious and satisfying meals worldwide. Salty meats and flavorful sauces are often served up with steaming dumplings and accompanied by a frosty mug of pivo (beer), and a healthy dose of good conversation. You certainly won't leave the table hungry.
The Czechs are the first to admit that a steady diet of these deliciously filling meals is not going to help you lose weight. But with food this good, sometimes you have to say "dobrou chuÅ¥" (the Czech equivalent for bon appetit) and load up your plate.
Czech kitchens are generally stocked with such staples as pork, onions, vinegar, paprika, and eggs. Meals commonly begin with soups, followed by a main course and rye bread or a salad. Though difficult, you just have to save room for dessert -- Czech pastries are like nothing you have ever tasted! Light and sweet, they are the best way to end the evening on a delectable high note.
Prep time for meals is significant if you want to truly bring out the subtle flavors that characterize these delicacies. However, as a Czech saying goes, "Everything good requires lots of dirty dishes." Such complex recipes may be intimidating, but the sumptuous end-results are worth it. The following versions are somewhat Americanized to make things easy on the first time Czech chef. Once you have tried these, you may just have to book yourself a ticket to Prague.
MAMINKA'S CZECH DUMPLINGS (Knedlíky)
2 cups Wondra flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Milk, as needed
2 cups dry bread cubes
Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Make a space in the center of dry ingredients and crack the egg into the space. Beat the egg with a fork, gradually mixing it in. Add milk a little at a time until batter is sticky. Mix in bread cubes. Wet your hands, divide the mixture in half and shape two oblong loaves. Drop the loaves into boiling water and cover immediately. Cook for 10 minutes without lifting the lid, then use a wooden spoon to dunk the dumplings down and turn them over. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Slice immediately.
*Note: For bread cubes, buy a loaf of French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and let it dry out two days before you make this dish. Bread cubes will remain discernible in the finished product. Start boiling water for the dumplings before you begin cooking the paprikash below.
BABI'S CHICKEN PAPRIKASH
4 ounces butter (1 stick)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 1 tablespoon flour
In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter and sauté onions until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add paprika and continue to sauté until brown, about 2 minutes. Add chicken and continue sautéing until meat is browned on all sides, about 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper and a small amount of hot water (about 1/4 cup). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes. If sauce disappears, add more hot water and bring to a boil. Add sour cream mixture, bring to a boil again before serving over dumplings.
OLGA'S CUCUMBER SALAD
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and serve cold.