Labor Day has come and gone, which means summer is coming to an end.
One glorious season closes out and a new, beautiful season is ushered in. In northeast Ohio, this is marked by a party called Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest was originally a wedding feast in Munich, Germany held in 1810. It lasted weeks. The festival continued on ever since and now runs about 16 to 18 days.
In Ohio, there are many, albeit shorter, similar Oktoberfests. They all share in common the consumption of beer, lots of beer, good German beer, from large steins. And hats, the quintessential German felt hat. The food of Germany is celebrated as much as the beer and it is always a welcomed sight for this old German. I love to see the large crowds of folks, many in traditional German garb, waiting in line for potato pancakes, schnitzel, pierogies, strudel, bratwurst, sausages, noodles and cabbage – you name it.
The season here is kicked off with the Cleveland Oktoberfest, the largest annual outdoor event held in Cleveland. It happened Labor Day weekend, with absolute perfect weather and huge crowds. Cleveland’s Oktoberfest has what is called the world's largest live glockenspiel. A group of people come out, every hour on the hour, to perform songs and get the crowd singing along on a giant glockenspiel-clock-inspired stage. This is a salute to the very old glockenspiel clock in Munich.
I took my cousin, David, and his wife, Janet, coming up from Lexington, Ky. last year before my wife and I made it to this amazing festival and we returned this year. We had a great time. My wife is still waiting for an explanation of why they sing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” as part of this hourly glockenspiel exhibition. I am waiting on an explanation of why the words “so good, so good, so good” aren’t replaced with “sehr gut, sehr gut, sehr gut!”
If you missed this one, despair not. There are several more in our area coming up soon. The German Central Foundation in Parma, 7863 York Rd. has one going on right now, Sept. 6-7.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church just off the historic Medina square is holding their third annual Oktoberfest on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 1-9 p.m. They will have food from the Hofbrauhaus in Cleveland, Dunkel and Hefeweizen German beers, a Biergarten, Weingarten, a “Masskrugstemmen” Stein Holding Contest and several bands. Pre-sale tickets and more info available at www.stpauls-medina.org
All this talk of Oktoberfest is making me hungry! So while I do not have a recipe for a Schmidt’s Giant Cream Puff or a decent strudel, I can give you my wife’s chicken paprikash recipe, which is wunderbar!
So, here it is, Yvette’s version of the "Joy of Cooking" Perfect Chicken Paprikash.
You will need 2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 ½ tbsp. butter, 1 ½ tbsp. vegetable oil, 1 cup finely chopped onions, 2 tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika (or more, she says), ½ tsp. salt, 2 tsp. flour, and 1 cup cultured sour cream. Using the right paprika (big red can) and fresh paprika is critical.
Heat butter and vegetable oil in a heavy pot, add onions and simmer until glossy. Add paprika and stir until everything is red. Add the salt and chicken stock. As soon as these ingredients reach the boiling point, add the chicken and simmer covered, until tender, for about one hour. Shred chicken at this point with forks. Stir the flour into the sour cream and stir it slowly into the pot and simmer until thickened and smooth for about 5 minutes. Now add in the very important dumplings. The dumplings can make or break this dish. Prepare the dumpling batter while the paprikash is cooking.
The dumplings are made by mixing together 1 cup cake flour and 2 tsp. double acting baking powder and ½ tsp. salt. Break into a measuring cup 1 egg and a half cup of milk. Beat well and add the mixture slowly into the flour mixture to make a stiff batter. You can add in ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley or other herbs here if you wish. Add dumpling batter into the paprikash a tablespoon at a time. Lightly push each dumpling under the liquid, then cover and let simmer an additional 10-15 minutes or until the dumplings are done. Comfort food at its finest!
May your fall be filled with the beauty of nature, conversations with good friends and great, comforting food!