While most Americans sidestep super market meat counters steering their carts in the direction of the chicken and fish aisle, the Czech population in Prague is picking up the slack. In this land where protein and starch are daily diet fare, restaurant menus list every kind of meat imaginable, especially pork. Knuckles, knees, necks and more, Czechs can’t seem to get their fill of pork or other meats. With the exception of chicken paprikash (chicken with paprika) chicken and fish are limited menu items. Pork, beef, goose, lamb, duck, veal, wild boar and any kind of sausage, have a prominent place on Prague dinner plates.
And what do they serve with all that meat? Multiple helpings of starch. Of course there’s a vegetable thrown in here and there like, spargle, which is white asparagus and commonly found at farmers markets. But its hard not to notice that some plates come with one or more types of potato as well as several, huge, disc shaped dumplings, risotto and spaetzel, which is another dumpling shaped a little like a small worm. The shape is achieved by forcing the dough through special tools or large vented serving spoons. Of course any Prague meal is accompanied and further starch-enhanced by some of it’s fabulous regional breads. Carb counting anyone?
Carbohydrate counts have to be very high for the majority of meals in Prague when beer is the choice for washing it down. Served with a creamy tall head, Prague boasts many excellent local beers like Gambrinus a type of Pilsner, Branik, Staropramen, and the very smooth Velvet. But the two most famous local beers are Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser. Fresh and inexpensive, the two labels are available nearly everywhere for every meal including breakfast.
Ranked as the number-one beer-drinking nation in the world, the Czech Republic has a long and interesting history with the beer industry, one worth reading about. Budweiser and Pilsner beer originated in the Czech Republic. If you hail from the town of Plzen, you are called a Plzener or Pilsner in English. Another town in the Republic is home to the brewery, Budejovice, or Budweis in English. A resident is called a Budweiser. But this “Bud” has nothing to do with Anheuser Bush. The American company is not allowed to distribute its product to many parts of Europe because the Budweiser name has been in contention for nearly ten decades.
A previously unavailable bounty of food became available in the Republic after the fall of Communism. Czechs finally discovered the luxury of eating well. Although influenced today by Western culture with fast food on every corner, you won’t find the following recipes at McDonald’s in Prague.
Beef Goulash – serves 4-5
1 large chopped onion
2 lbs. of beef cut into pieces
¼ cup lard
¼ tsp. or more of paprika
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon of flour
pepper to taste
pinch of marjoram
- In a deep frying pan, brown meat along with the paprika, and onion in lard. U.S. paprika is very different from Czech paprika, which may account for its more interesting flavor in the Republic.
- Add the clove, pepper, marjoram and ½ cup of water.
- Cover and simmer ingredients until tender. Check often and add more water as it evaporates.
- Uncover pan when meat is cooked through and let moisture evaporate.
- Sprinkle in the flour and brown ingredients.
- Add one more cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes or more till the sauce has thickened.
Serve with dumplings and wash down with beer.
1 beaten egg
1 cup of flour
½ cup of milk
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 slices stale bread cut into cubes, and crust removed
- Mix the beaten egg, milk, flour, baking powder and salt together until smooth.
- Add the bread cubes to batter and combine thoroughly.
- Form two small loaves.
- Drop loaves into a large pot of vigorously boiling water.
- Cook for 10 minutes, then roll the dumpling over and cook for 10 more minutes.
- Remove from water and drain. Cut ends off to release steam.
- Slice loaves into 1/2 inch pieces and serve.
Chicken Paprikash serves 4-5
chicken paprikash and spaetzel dumplings
3-4 lb. chicken
1 chopped onion
½ cup of sour cream
¼ cup of chopped bacon
½ teaspoon of paprika
2 tablespoons of flour
salt to taste
1 ½ cups of water
- Cut chicken into small pieces.
- In a pan, brown the onion in bacon and add paprika, chicken pieces, and the salt.
- Add water, cover, and simmer until tender (about 45 minutes).
- Remove the chicken pieces from pan.
- Mix sour cream with the flour and stir it into the pan. Simmer the gravy for 5 minutes. Pour over the chicken.
Wash down with beer.
2 lbs. flour
5 ounces melted, cooled butter, unsalted
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
½ cup milk or more as needed
½ cup Confectioners sugar
1 oz. fresh yeast
½ cups finely chopped walnuts
1 beaten egg
½ cup granulated sugar
- Sift flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Create a small well in the middle of the ingredients and fill it with crumbled yeast. Pour lukewarm milk over the yeast. Allow it to rise 10 minutes.
- Place the yolks into a bowl and pour in the cooled butter. Add a pinch of salt.
- Mix ingredients of both bowls together and work it into a firm dough.
- Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
- After it has increased in size, make five equal loaves by dividing dough. Let rise for 20 minutes.
- Roll out loaves to a thin 2/3”, cylindrical shape.
- Wrap dough tightly around a buttered trdlo, or wooden 2” or 3” round stick and allow to stand for ten minutes. Support the stick ends so the dough is not in contact with the counter surface.
- Mix nuts and sugar and spread them on the counter surface.
- Glaze dough with the beaten egg and roll in the nuts and sugar.
- Bake over a grill of hot coals or in the oven. Pastry should be turned often until a golden color.
- When cooled, slide pastry off the stick and cut into 2” or 3” wide slices and enjoy.
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