Category Archives: Eastern European

Rhonda’s Schnitzel

2 C fine bread crumbs (unseasoned)
3/4 C fine grated aged cheese (I used manchego).
2 T finely chopped fresh parsley (italian)
approx 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

3 eggs, beaten
1 T dijon mustard
1 large clove of garlic, chopped

1 – 2 C of flour
1 tsp. smoked paprika

Combine the above in their respective groups (note spaces). You should have three seperate shallow dishes.

Cut 3 half chicken breasts into approx. 3 – 4 equal sized pieces each. Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to approx. 1/4″ thickness.

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Dip each piece of chicken into the shallow dishes starting with the flour mixture and ending with the bread crumb mix. (Egg in the middle obviously)

Fry until golden brown – hopefully 2 minutes on each side.

Drain on paper towels.

Chicken Paprika with Spaetzle

1 2.5 – 3 pound fryer, cut-up (I used breasts and boneless, skinless thighs)
1/3 C all purpose flour
2 T oil (may have to add a bit more)
2 medium onions thinly sliced1
1/3 tsp salt
1 T Paprika (I used the Czech. “HOT” variety)
1/8 tsp pepper
1.5 C chicken stock
½ C sour cream

Coat chicken w/flour, reserve remaining flour. In 12” skillet over med-high heat, in hot oil, cook chicken until browned on all sides, about 7-10 minutes. Remove chicken.

To oil in skillet, add remaining flour and onions, cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in salt, paprika, pepper, and stock.

Return chicken to skillet, cover and reduce heat to medium, simmer for 25 minutes or until chicken is tender. Turn chicken, once.

Meanwhile prepare Spaetzle. Place Spaetzle on platter and cover w/Chicken Paprika.

SPAETZLE

In 6 quart Dutch oven over high heat, heat 4 quarts of water and 1tsp. salt to boiling.

In medium bowl, beat:
2 C flour
½ cup water
3 eggs
finely chopped fresh Rosemary(about a teaspoon)
1/2 tsp salt until smooth.

Reduce heat to medium. Over boiling water with rubber spatula, press batter through colander or use your Spaetzle maker. Stir water gently, so Spaetzle will not stick together. Boil 5 minutes or until tender and drain.

(from Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook)

Eating in Prague: May 2007:2

Before we manage to imbibe, we stop by the Museum of Communism. We almost miss it because it is behind the entrance to a casino and beside a McDonalds. And basically shares the same color scheme. Unfortunately, that’s the most interesting part of this (even following the soul draining experience of St Agnes). It’s rather unremarkable considering the material they must have had to draw from.

From there it is on to one of the Pivovarksy outlets. Pivovarsky is a brewer of fine beer and this particular place was a small one with about three tables, a fellow behind a bar with about 6 brews on tap and about 200 different brands of beer for sale. We sample a few beer (you can get them in small glasses). To get to this place, we had walked through our first taste of mundane Prague (not unlike some dowdier commercial areas of Edmonton). On the way back we hop on the metro.

That night we go to the Cantina, a great Mexican restaurant near where we are staying. Have banana and chicken fajitas, refried beans with bits of bacon, Urquell, and a Spanish coffee after. It is hot and busy and the portions are large enough that we leave with enough to make a good breakfast the next day. To supplement this we stop at a grocer and pick up some cherry tomatoes, melons, and strawberries.

Back in the apartment I have a shower with cold water (the only kind in that place) and then watch a Spanish soap dubbed in Czech. In the opening credits, the young studs all canter about on sweaty horses, the sultry women lean and heave against the posts of the corral, and all eyes flash dangerously. In the show itself, the horses have been replaced by pickup trucks; somehow it doesn’t seem the same. Though I’m not sure, it seems like some kind of High Chapperal type show, a Western soap, a matriarchal ranch with youngsters feeling and sowing their oats. The men and women look very good in their pants.

Eating in Prague: May 2007:1

That morning we ended on the train to Prague. An amazing amount of graffiti with a surprise appearance of a figure very much resembling my beloved Saladfingers.

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Saw a man sitting on a chair in the middle of a field, another with a spade contemplating a large mound of dirt, many run down decrepit dwellings. Crossing into the Czech Republic was like the old east/west difference; abruptly the buildings were less formulaic and better maintained.

A couple of women, possibly teachers, got on with a group of young girls and the two adults sat in our compartment. In a very low voice, the one woman started talking to the other in Czech and she spoke at a steady unbroken pace for about 15 minutes without any variation in intonation or sense of sentence breaks like a teletype machine clattering away. The other just listened and then at one point, she started talking but the other did not stop and they both chattered at the same time for a couple of minutes until the second woman stopped and the first continued on for a while like a bus after disgorging a passenger. (I was to hear this contemporaneous speech one more time on the trip later in Barcelona when two Spanish women redefined conversation into something where no one listens and everyone speaks; non confrontationally I might add).

We made our way by cab to the place to pick up our keys for the apartment we were renting, promptly got on the right bus but going in the wrong direction (a pattern that would become all too common in that city) but eventually found our place in Mala Strana.

We went through a large old wooden door beside a busy loud restaurant/bar, through a locked iron gate and up four floors to a large spacious and dead quiet apartment with a kitchen. A little Scandinavian in feel with the only down note being the lack of hot water in the shower. Bathroom and kitchen sinks had hot water aplenty but the shower was never better than cool.

We dropped out stuff and headed down to explore the nearby streets and after a bit of that chanced on a restaurant and had our first but not our last Czech goulash. Fabulous. Realized that this was something I would have to learn how to make (and did). The only thing was, and as good as the goulash consistently was, the dumplings were as uniformly bad. But even if they little more than round packets of mucilage and flour (or so it seemed; they looked like hockey pucks crossed with soggy English muffins) we ate every one just to mop up the glorious rich brown gravy.

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The picture is fairly representative though the meat and gravy were more of a rich brown and had finely cut strips of fresh white onion and red pepper to complement the meat.

Finished off the meal and tried some absinthe which caused me to think that perhaps Jager was not the foulest drink on the planet (and this from a man who likes the taste of Buckley’s). No relation to Pernod which we had expected. Later I found out that the Czech version, most often called “absinth”, did not have the famous licorice flavouring. This was just bad stuff. I was also later to buy a very expensive little bottle to smuggle back. Described in in a quiet but exuberant broken English by the guy who showed it to me as “you drink this, they will not let you back in your hotel”. How could I resist? So the demon drink was bought and just made it through the various checkpoints (it being illegal everywhere except India) and found it on homecoming to be a disappointment….70% alcohol and bitter and vile. Mixed with sugar and then a little Pernod and still ended up pouring it out. Still have half of it left and might take another run at it someday.

However the little shot glasses we got them in were very nice. C offered to buy them from the waiter and he just gave them to her. We left him a good tip.

First impression of Prague was beautiful women and beautiful architecture. T had suggested that I buy a pair of sunglasses to hide the reaction to the eye candy and thus avoid being unduly pummeled by C. T, who had lived in Prague for a couple of years, always railed on about the failings of Edmonton and it was only now that I saw that she had a point. Walking through these streets made E-town look sad indeed.

Eating in Warsaw (and more) May 2007:3

Earlier in the day it was rainy and slightly cold. Not having planned for this, and working with carryon luggage only, we were raincoatless so it was a damp morning. And I had only running shoes with airgrids since I was expecting heat so the socks and feet were wet as well. No matter it was great to walk the old town.

The three of us (C an I and my colleague) found a croissant and coffee place after about a kilometre of walking (Warsaw is still more Polish than international so it is not quite as accomodating to the Western idea of breakfast or of multiple eateries at one’s disposal.) (I remember my father telling me about a trip he took through Russia years ago before the change and how the bus would stop at the side of the road and if you didn’t have your own food you would go into town and knock on doors and see if someone would feed you for a little money; most towns did not actually have restaurants).

We did walk by a couple of very smoky places and one strange white industrial room where someone was amassing a large mound of chopped pink meat. But we got some food in our bellies and then walked some more looking at the old buildings and then parted ways since colleague wanted to look at some Warsaw Uprising sites.

C and I trundled about some more and then found another cafe with pastries. This had a menu of espressos from about 40 sources with detailed descriptions of all. We selected a couple and found them to be utterly bland though the pastries were absurdly good (in general all the Europe we visited well knew its way around baking). A major difference sitting there as we remarked throughout the trip was the relaxed atmosphere in these places. There was no sense that you ever had to leave. In many cases, getting the bill was difficult. That’s it for the writing for this day. See the pictures.

Eating in Warsaw (and more) May 2007: 2

A note about one odd moment in the day’s events (conference that is). A British woman, Baroness someone was describing efforts to improve the situation in prisons. She explained at one point, in a very royal sounding voice, that hers was not a hereditary title but simply one given to members of parliament. Nonetheless, it seemed bizarre to hear recounts of condom distributions and nonconsensual sex in prisons in that particular dialect. Not unlike the queen doing the voiceover for a foreign porn film.

We had decided the night before to move to the Bristol and worked out late that night online. That morning after breakfast we moved our bags into storage and while we went back to the conference C hung out in the room a little and then tootled off to the other hotel just before lunch. We had already electrical issues with my shaver practically flying out of my hand: we had a converter but it did nothing to help with the more powerful current. C on the other hand became curly haired for the rest of the trip since her straightener blew out entirely.

I was able to get over to the hotel around seven or so and C and I wandered the few blocks to the square to look for a place to eat. We were looking at the menu at one place and were cajoled in by a very young waiter. He got us down a long hall and then downstairs into a series of crowded rooms. We said “no smoking” and he said ‘yes” and made for what we thought must be that but he was shooed out by a woman who ended up being our waitress. They were full there so we were seated in the room next to it right next to a table of four Russians chain smoking the foulest cigarettes on Earth. We realized that when you ask for no smoking in a Polish restaurant that translates into “oh no, you do not have to smoke at your table unless you want to”. But the meal was good…she warned me off the game and towards the goulash and roast potatoes.

At the end of the meal I found out they did not take mc so I had to find a bankomart. I asked the waiter and he beckoned for me to follow him. He set off at a good clip out the door and across the square pausing to light a cigarette and then to hail others outside of other establishments. It was a very warm night and it made me feel like I was following Eric Idle at the end of Meaning of Life. He took me to a machine about two blocks away and then told me he had to get back to the restaurant. I got my money and took my time strolling back, perfectly content to be walking beside the old buildings over the rough cobblestones down the narrow street to the square in this perfect night in a city so far from home.

We paid and decided to have coffee and or dessert somewhere else. C told me that when I was gone the smoky Russians had tried to sweet talk her but with no common languages it was a bit of a chore.

Heading back in the general direction of the hotel we chanced on a hopping little student vodka bar. We got two cool shots of vodka and a couple of espressos. Never been a big fan but this was very good…..it came out of some bottle with a red stripe and started with an S I think. (We are going to find it again one of these days; we were hoping they would be selling it on the flight back but no such luck). We wanted to have more but we were already on a few glasses of wine but at least for a bit there we felt a little Polish. And maybe it was partly the alcohol but it felt very warm and good to be there; felt like part of the crowd rather than tourists. Next posting there will be pictures for sure….walking the morning rain in old Warsaw….cold, beautiful and old.

Eating in Warsaw (and more) May 2007: 1

Breakfast was a not atypical hotel assortment of eggs (a little oranger than ours), buns and bread (much much better than what passes here), cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, coldcuts and a large rack of wieners. Orange juice in very small glasses and coffee in half size cups to fill from a Nescafe machine with settings for espresso or regular. This was very much a portent of life for the next week as regards coffee; bad and always machined Nescafe (with a couple of exceptions only) and bread worth writing home about.

Here in Canada, I fear to buy bread even in bakeries at times for the poor quality about but there I had not one slice or bun that didn’t rank high. Didn’t like the butter but it did not matter at all. And cookies or pastries….a very dangerous place for the weight conscious. And in general, the vegetables and fruit tasted better than here; even the potatoes tasted home made. Food in Poland was good (even the hotel convention food) with only the coffee substandard.

We ended up sitting at a table with K, an Australian whose wife was at the conference but he was trying to keep himself amused. He knew a bit of the history and had already done one day in town and offered to be personal tour guide for C. They spent the rest of the day in the Old Town visiting the palace, some of the gardens, various military sites and also the Warsaw Ghetto. C said that she saw a Rembrandt which struck her as somewhat postmodern in that the figure’s hand extends over the picture frame within the painting.

Rembrandt

She was also quite moved by seeing the holes in the bases of the palace walls which had once held German explosives and only by chance had not been detonated during the retreat. So much of Warsaw had been bombed and in fact one of the interesting displays at the Old Square was photographs of the destroyed buildings and the reconstruction which took place using Canaletto paintings of the same. (We were to see many more Canalettos later in the Prado.) I could not find the painting displayed but this other one of his will give you an idea of the sort of detail he was capable of (and when 85% or so of your city is destroyed and you would rather recreate the old glory than start fresh, this just the sort of thing you need).

Canaletto

When C and I reunited later in the day she remarked as well on how many beautiful 17 years old girls were in evidence as well as strapping young security guards. But before that I spent part of the day warming seats and listening to others jaw and another part having others listen to me flap my gums. My colleague and I presented in the same session and ended up after in the Gromada bar with our other presenter (from Nigeria) and some amusing individuals from a couple of tobacco companies. Three beer each later and we ended up (with C) in a very fine restaurant (U Fukier) off the old town square. That’s the square below (not our picture) we have some to come during the wet days that followed. But this is kind of what it looked like that night.

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After fine dining (Russian crab in crepes, tomato and onion salad, fine red wine, dessert and a good latte) we spilled out into a hot night onto the cobblestoned square which had people under canopies drinking beer (almost all Poles as opposed to the tourist haunts for most of the rest of the trip). As we walked across the square I recalled a German concept I had recently read about called “Platzangst” which is the fear that can overcome you as you are attempting to traverse a square that you will never actually reach the end of it.

We tottered into the bar at the Bristol (an art deco bar dating from around 1905 where Marlene Dietrich reputedly used to hang). Most of us had beer and C at my suggestion tried the bison grass vodka we had read about. Interesting but not repeatable. (I could not find a picture of the bar itself and did not take one regrettably but see one of the hotel below; we did not know it at the time but we would end up spending a couple of nights there). (C almost ended up taking a side trip with one of the others to Krakow and the camps (Dachau and Birkenau) but the price was a little out of range. Krakow would have been great since it had most of the old architecture still intact.)

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