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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mixed Metaphors, a Festival Begins, and a Recipe

Mixed Metaphors, a Festival Begins, and a Recipe

I am working on another writing project. Just think of these few paragraphs as a flare gun so that people can see that I haven’t sunk to the bottom of the sea—not that anyone is actually looking for me. And this definitely isn’t an SOS although some people would probably argue that every word I have ever written is a desperate cry for help. So perhaps this essay is less like a flare gun and more like one of those proof-of-life signs that kidnappers provide to insure that their hostage is alive and well.

Valencia is in its pre-Fallas mode when there is a lot going on to prepare for the huge blowout festival to come. Lights are being strung up everywhere, especially on Calle Sueca which looks like the wet dream of Clark Griswold from the Christmas Vacation movie. I even saw my first buñuelo stand being erected last night. These are little street-side booths that sell deep-fried donuts along with hot chocolate. They have all kinds of crazy neon lights and some of them are absolutely beautiful. They are only here for a couple weeks during Fallas and then they disappear for the rest of the year. I wonder where they go.

The daily mascletà ritual begins on the afternoon of March 1st. This is the percussion fireworks display held at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento at 2pm. No matter what I am doing I try to make it down to the square for this. I call it the cheapest of cheap thrills. Actually, it’s better than cheap; it’s free. I love how much energy in pumps into Valencia. Every day tens of thousands of people show up to have their hearing damaged just a little. Ten minutes later it is over and everyone runs off to do whatever it is they are going to do.

Fallas officially begins on the 15th of March but there is a plenty happening before that. The bull festival begins on the 9th which helps to usher in the Spanish season of the Corrida de Toros. All of the little terrorist kids are chucking firecrackers all day long. Luckily, the little animals don’t play near my building so I am spared most of the noise.

The weather has been crap for the most part. It’s been kind of cold all winter which you might expect unless you lived here last winter when we had clear skies and temperatures around 20 degrees even in January. I have only missed about three days this year because of rain but my bike rides have been rather cold on most days. In Seattle it is pretty much a given that you stay in the gym for your workout during much of the winter so I shouldn’t complain. I just think that complaining makes me more Spanish.

Someone sent me some paprika from Hungary so I made chicken paprikash last night. I used to know someone who made this dish and it was always one of my favorites although I never learned how to make it from her. What a pity, Kimberly. My first attempt was pretty good but I didn’t thicken the stock with the flour which I will do the next time I make it. You can also serve this with potatoes or noodles instead of the dumplings.

I also learned that to make an adjective in Hungarian you add the letter S to the end of a noun but it is pronounced "sh." So "paprika" becomes "paprikash." I love little stuff like that and the dish itself is one of the best things you are ever going to put in your mouth.

Chicken Paprikash

Chicken broth
Chicken cut in pieces
Butter
Olive oil
Chopped onion
2 heaping tsp. paprika
1 Cup sour cream
2 tbsp. flour

Brown chicken in butter and olive oil; remove and set aside. Add onion to butter and cook until tender. Return chicken to skillet and add broth. Add paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes.
Blend flour with a little water then blend into chicken. In a separate bowl mix the sour cream with the broth from the pot. At the very end add the sour cream to the pot and immediately turn off the heat or the sour cream will curdle. Serve with dumplings.

Dumplings

3 Beaten eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
¼ Cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 Cups flour
To prepare dumplings: Combine eggs, milk and salt. Stir into flour. Drop by teaspoons into boiling salted water. Cook 5 minutes after they float. Don’t over-cook the dumplings or they turn into little bricks.