Monday, July 26, 2010

Waiter, There's Too Much Pepper On My Paprikash

The obvious reference to the line in the wonderful film, When Harry Met Sally, just couldn't be avoided.

I recently returned to the Golden Goose Restaurant and Bakery for a mid-day Saturday meal. My visit happened to occur the Saturday after Lisa Abraham had written about the establishment in her weekly Food section in the Akron Beacon Journal. As I pulled into the parking lot, I was amazed at how full the lot had become. Fortunately, as I walked in the front door, I wasn't greeted by a long line, but definitely a full restaurant. As I waited for one of the helpful servers to scout me out an empty table, I took a look at the daily specials whiteboard situated above the pastry case:

While I had originally had an inkling for the same fried chicken sandwich I had enjoyed on a previous visit, when I saw chicken paprikash with spaetzle as a daily special, I was definitely hooked. Sadly, the pastry case was completely empty at noon on Saturday. I would find out later when I inquired about the Saturday bread special, brioche, that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING pastry-related had been sold out for hours. Apparently, the Beacon article had done the trick in helping to drive in new customers. I asked my server if it had been a busy morning for the restaurant, too, and she indicated that they had been slammed for hours. In fact, they were also out of the challah for the French toast and the homemade mashed potatoes. Fortunately, they still had servings of the chicken paprikash.

The chicken paprikash also came with one side and I decided to originally go with mashed potatoes. When I learned they were out, I went with something I've had previously, the homemade coleslaw:

While I won't rehash the flavors here since I did it in an earlier post, it remained a tasty side. My only complaint was that the cabbage and carrots were absolutely swimming in sauce. After finishing the shredded vegetables in the dish, there was easily 1/2 cup of sauce left over in the bottom of the dish.

Next up, the chicken paprikash and homemade spaetzle:

When this was sat down in front of me, the first thought that popped into my head was, "Doesn't paprikash have paprika in it? Isn't paprika, like, really red?" There was a definite lack of ochre in the color scheme in the dish in front of me, so I wondered if there was even paprika in the dish at all (which pretty much defines paprikash). In fact, after I got home, I did a little digging around the Internet and found this picture of a chicken paprikash that more closely matched what I thought it should look like:

(Image courtesy of Is That My Bureka?)

Clearly, you can see a difference between the two sauces. I asked my server about the presence of paprika and while she initially said that she wasn't sure, when she returned from the kitchen minutes later, she told me that the kitchen had used quite a bit in today's preparation. The question having been asked and answered, I tucked in to Golden Goose's version. I tried the spaetzle first and was rewarded with wonderful little egg noodles that were tender and still had a bit of toothsomeness to them. While I don't know that it is particularly Hungarian, I personally would've sautéed the cooked spaetzle in a bit of buerre noisette to give an extra layer of flavor and texture. That being said, the noodles were still pretty darn good. The copious amount of caramelized onion sauce added a nice sweetness and savoriness at the same time.

Finally turning my attention to the piece of chicken, I discovered it to be a bone-in, skin on chicken breast. My first task was to remove the rather flabby chicken skin. While I'm a big fan of crisped chicken skin, this version didn't really entice me all that much. I gently pulled the chicken breast meat apart in rather large pieces. Here was a shot of the inside of the chicken breast:

While there was plenty of sauce in which to coat individual bites of meat, ultimately long cooking breast meat is a futile act. I learned this many, many years ago when my mom used to make CrockPot chicken using breast meat. No matter how much she sauced the meat, at the end of the day, the long cooking process had robbed the meat of any moisture. Her chicken used to "squeak" in my teeth as I chewed it. Today's chicken paprikash did the exact same thing. While it wasn't as utterly dehydrated as my mom's version, it still wasn't the luscious, juicy chicken breast that I knew was possible when cooked properly. I think the cooking process for chicken paprikash screams out for legs and thighs, cuts of meat that would be much better suited for this cooking method. Then again, I'm guessing most of the guests who would order this dish would prefer breast meat over dark meat. Sadly, it was their loss.

All of this nitpicking aside, this really was a tasty dish and even though I personally missed the paprika (at least in color), I would order it again. While I was hoping to take home a loaf of the homemade brioche bread today, fate and large crowds beat me to the punch. I suspect that pastry chef Michael Bruno will be ramping up his production to meet this new demand, but it may take a bit of time for him to fine tune his production schedule. I'm more than willing to wait.


k j said...

As a Hungarian I can tell you that in the greater Cleveland area if you purchase the sorry excuse for paprika that is sold in the grocery stores your sauce indeed may come out brownish looking. Secondly what makes a paprikas a paprikas is not only the the paprika but also a generous amount of sour cream. Without it you are eating a so called "pörkölt" Best Hungarian food to be had in town is at Balaton restaurant in Cleveland. Not as great as it used to be when the original owner still was cooking, but pretty authentic for sure.

Tino said...

@k j: I've not yet tried Balaton, but have heard good things about it. I'll have to move that up a bit on my "To Eat" list. Thanks for the information and the suggestion.

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