My Grandfather, Bertsi (Bertolon) Schlesinger declared one day to My Grandmother Lily, that he was going to set out for America. They were in Budapest, Hungary, and they had two little girls, my mother Martha, (Marto-Lenke), and my Aunt Edith, (Editke). The growing Anti-Semitism in Hungary in the late 1920’s had become too much for him.
Not family, nor the Beautiful Danube, not the passionate Hungarian Csárdás Music, nor the food he was so accustomed to, could dissuade him. One day, in 1927, he set out in search of a better life, and a more secure future for he and his family. He crossed the Atlantic on a big ship, and disembarked in the Port of Tampico, in the State of Tamaulipas, on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. My Grandfather got settled in Tampico, and sent word to my grandmother that she and their little girls should join him as soon as possible.
One day, shortly after my grandfather sent for them, my grandmother and her two little girls boarded a ship and traversed the Atlantic for two weeks, heading for Tampico. It broke my great-grandmother’s heart to see her daughter and little granddaughters leave their native Hungary. She and her husband owned a beautiful restaurant in Budapest where my grandmother had learned to cook, and also where she entertained the clientele in highbrow style, for she was a concert pianist.
When she arrived in Tampico, my grandmother tried to adjust to life there, but could not. She missed her mother terribly, and she couldn’t adjust to the language nor the food. She didn’t like those round discs made out of corn flour, called tortillas. She didn’t like beans, nor the spicy sauces and other typical foods in that new land. She decided to take her little girls and go back to Hungary. She remained in Budapest for several weeks until my grandfather convinced her that their future lied in Mexico, and to give it another chance, and so she did, and she found herself again on a ship back to Tampico.
Gradually, my Grandmother adjusted to her new life. She learned the language and the cooking, yet she continued making the same dishes that she had learned from her mother in Hungary. She began to love tortillas and spices so much that she served them side by side with her Hungarian dishes, and she found they made a good accompaniment.
My mother and her sister, and eventually their little brother, were raised in Tampico, Tamaulipas, practically the only Jewish kids in town, in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s.
I vividly remember my Grandmother Lily preparing this recipe for many of our Sunday afternoon meals in Mexico City.
Ingredients for my Chicken Paprikash
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- 2 chickens cut in 10
- 1 onion diced
- 5 fresh red pimentos diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup roasted red pimentos from a jar, chopped
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon fine Hungarian Paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups water
In a large saucepan heat the teaspoon of canola oil. Add the chicken pieces skin down, and allow them to brown for ten minutes. Turn the pieces over and brown the opposite side for another 10 minutes. I do this in two batches, removing the browned pieces to a large bowl, as they are ready.
When finished browning the chicken, remove some of the chicken fat which has been rendered during the browning process, and set it aside, (The fat may be discarded, refrigerated or frozen for other use, such as in my Kosher Tamale recipe).
Retain about 2 tablespoons of fat, and keep the saucepan over a high-medium heat. Add the onion and mix for about 3 minutes. Add the fresh red pimentos, mix in well with the onion, and then add the minced garlic, followed by the roasted pimento. Stir for three minutes and add the tomato sauce, bringing the mixture to a boil. Add the paprika, salt and pepper, stir and add the water. Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place them back into the saucepan, into the sauce to finish the cooking process. Bring to a boil, lower the heat a bit, cover, and cook at a high simmer for one hour.
While the chicken is cooking prepare the Hungarian Dumplings or Nokedli.
Ingredients For Nokedli
- Large pot filled with boiling water
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup water
- Just under 2 cups all-purpose flour
Fill a large pot with water about 3/4 to the top. Place it over high heat and while it begins to boil, prepare the dough.
Combine the eggs, salt, and water and beat well with a whisk. Add the flour a little bit at a time and mix well, until you have a soft but sticky dough. With a teaspoon take very small amounts of dough and drop them one at a time into the boiling water. If you stick the spoon into the boiling water, these slide right off.
When the dumplings rise to the surface they are ready. Using a slotted spoon remove them to a large colander. Make batches of about 20 dumplings at a time, to avoid overcooking. Repeat the process until you have finished all of the dough. Rinse the dumplings in gently running, cold water.
Plate the Chicken Paprikash in a large rectangular serving dish and cover it generously with the sauce. Separately, plate the dumplings, and top them with a generous amount of the sauce as well.
Serve hot and enjoy!