Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Holocaust Survivor Cookbook" - (for Hanukkah) - Chicken Paprikasch

Date I made this recipe:  December 8, 2012 (first day of Hanukkah)

Holocaust Survivor Cookbook Collected from Around the World
Published by:  Caras & Associates, Port St. Lucie, Fl
© 2007
Recipe:  Chicken Paprikasch submitted by Marie McIntosh to honor her mother, Erika Weibel Kuss of Frankford, DE

It’s hard to believe that Hanukkah started already—seems like we just had Thanksgiving, no?  As per usual, I often try to select a cookbook with a theme and this book, a recent acquisition, seemed perfect.  Or was it?

Here’s the thing: some would argue that Hanukkah is not exactly the Jewish holiday in which to celebrate a book about Holocaust survivors.  And so at first I was reticent until I thought about the one basic theme that we all carry with us, no matter what religion we practice (or don’t) and that is - Hope.

December is really an awful month when you think about it.  Darkness descends and is only lifted, minute by very long minute, by the Winter Solstice on December 21st.  You have no idea how I, living is this dark and cold part of the US, long for that day because every day thereafter means I get closer to having more light – hooray!  And for Christians everywhere, December 25th of course, celebrates the birth of Jesus and the hope for a better tomorrow.  “Better days ahead,” was what my father always said.

Similarly, the eight days of Hanukkah celebrate the hope and miracle of a lamp holding one day’s worth of oil lasting longer than anybody anticipated.  For eight days, Jewish families celebrated light in a season of darkness.

And when you think of it, hope was probably one of biggest reasons that many Jews (and others) survived the Holocaust - hope that God would deliver them from their suffering and get them on the way to a new life.  It was because of this theme that I could read the endless stories told by both victims and family members about this terrible, terrible time in our history.  Every recipe in this book comes with a story, many of theme similar, some of them not, along with favorite recipes.

This recipe for Chicken Paprikasch was submitted by a daughter to “honor” her mother who was born in Prussia, then a part of Germany, and who landed in a Russian concentration camp at age 17.  She managed to escape, walking away from the icy Russian concentration camp with her feet wrapped in rags.  My brain just doesn’t even want to process that.

I may have mentioned before in a previous blog that reading Anne Frank’s diary as a youngster made a monumental impression on me and led me to do a lot of reading and studying of Nazi-occupied Europe during that time.  In eighth grade, I read and wrote a book report on The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (yup, eight grade people) and in high school, I wrote a paper about Auschwitz, a concentration camp I visited in 1995.  I also went to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam a few year’s before that (with a killer migraine no less but I waited my whole life to see where the family hid).  I have since moved on to other types of books (like cookbooks) but do like to collect Jewish cookbooks to add to my collection whenever possible. (This book came from my favorite bookstore, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in NYC.)  I was pleased to see that Erika Weibel Kuss’ daughter (our recipe submitter) noted that her mother instilled in her and her siblings a love for reading.  That’s how it all starts, people!

As to the recipe, although many were tempting, I went with the Chicken Parprikasch for one sole reason:  I had leftover mushrooms in my refrigerator from another dish and wanted to use them up.  My mother hated to waste food and so do I.

This has to be one of the easiest recipes I ever put together as it required chicken, mushrooms (which I had already prepped), chicken broth, spices, including paprika, chicken broth and noodles and it took me all of 8 minutes to make (cooking the noodles took the longest).  It was good that evening for dinner and even better the next day when the flavors had time to develop.

So there it is – Happy Hanukkah!  Remember out of the darkness, there is light…and hope.

Chicken Paprikasch - serving size not given but I'd say 4
1 8 ounce package egg noodles (parve - containing no meat or dairy - if you are Jewish or observing Jewish dietary laws)
1 pound boned skinned chicken breasts – chopped
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, quartered
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chicken broth
1 cup parve sour cream substitute (or regular sour cream if you are not observing Jewish dietary laws. Depending on where you live, this product might be difficult to find.)
1 tablespoon paprika

Cook noodles according to package directions and drain.  Transfer to covered baking dish.

Coat a skillet with olive oil and place over medium-high heat, add chicken, and next 3 ingredients.  Cook 5 minutes or until chicken is done.

Remove from heat and stir in sour cream substitute and paprika.  Spoon over noodles.  Sprinkle with additional paprika.

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