Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mushroom Paprikash with Nokedli

There are times, as I mentioned last week, to rage against the shackles of winter. To take yourself on a culinary holiday and cook up something befitting a spicier, sunnier clime. And then there are times to embrace the cold slog. To cook up something roasted or long-simmered, something hearty and comforting. Ideally enriched with a few Eastern European spices and a swath of sour cream, and served over buttery noodlebits.

A few months ago I received a package from a European friend — one who had previously expressed an aversion to spices, no less — with two little parcels of paprika from his recent trip to Hungary. Foreign post and imported foodstuffs? Needless to say it was a thrilling day for me. I've been spooning the rich, red spice into my everyday cooking here and there, but wanted to find a recipe where it could really shine. So why not go with the dish named for it?

Paprikash (or paprikás, if you're feeling Hungarian) is a simple homey recipe, usually made of chicken stewed in a creamy, paprika-scented sauce. I swapped out mushrooms instead, and a splash of sherry (because I couldn't help it), and put my own slight tweak on that rich red sauce. Egg noodles would make a fine bed to sop it all up, but when I couldn't find any in the pantry, I decided to complete the Hungarian theme with a batch of nokedli. These little dumpling are cousin to spätzle, a simple egg-and-flour dough that's formed into small, sauce-grabbing bits. A spätzle-maker would work well, but I just used a spatula to push the batter through a large-holed cheese grater, and it made for surprisingly quick and easy work. And while this meal isn't the most photogenic, it's crazy delicious and satisfying, perfect for fortifying you against a cold winter day.

Mushroom Paprikash with Nokedli

serves ~4

2 tablespoons butter, plus more if/as needed
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 pound mushrooms, sliced (thinly or thickly, as you choose)
splash sherry
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup broth
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
a few tablespoons minced parsley, dill or chives (optional)

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups flour
few pats butter for finishing

Melt the butter over a medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion, and saute until softened and translucent but not colored, ~10 minutes.

While the onion is cooking is a fine time to start your nokedli batter. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, salt and water until combined, then stir in the flour. Mix gently until smooth, though a bit of lump is okay (they may dissolve while the batter rests). Set a lid or towel over the top, then set aside to rest. Put a large pot of salted water to boil, then go back to your mushrooms.

When the onions are done, add the garlic, and cook another minute. Add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and the liquid has mostly evaporated, ~7 minutes. Add a splash of sherry, and let it cook off.

If the pan is dry at this time, add another pat of butter. Add the paprika and flour, and stir until they're coated with the fat and liquid in the pan. Add the broth, pouring it in slowly at first, and cook until the liquid comes to a simmer and thickened (raise the heat as needed if your broth is cold), ~5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, and turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Now to finish the nokedli! At this point your water should be at a boil, and your batter rested a bit. Grab a large-holed cheese grater or colander, and a spatula.

Hold your grater or colander over the pot of water, and place a blob of batter in it. Using your spatula, wipe the batter over the holes, firmly pressing it through. Little noodly bits of dough will form, and fall into the water below. Working quickly, press the batter through, stopping once or twice to give the pot a stir. The nokedli will float to the top and be done in just a few minutes. Repeat with all the batter. I found the process surprisingly quick and easy, and did it all at once and then dumped the mass in a strainer set in the sink. But if you find it slower going (and don't have the magic cheese grater I seemed to have), you can just scoop the nookedli out with a simmer as you go, and dump into a waiting bowl. Either way, place your cooked nokedli in a bowl, and toss in a few pats of butter to keep them from sticking together (and to make them more delicious).

Serve the nokedli with the paprikash, and top with the chopped fresh herb if desired.


  1. sounds great! Two questions: would a ricer work and did you use vegetable broth? Thanks!

    1. I used veg broth, but I'm sure chicken would work as well. And for the ricer: I haven't tried it (mostly due to the fact I don't own one). The holes are a bit smaller than a grater/spatzel-maker, but you've got some force behind it. It's not a terribly stiff dough, so it certainly seems worth a try.