Chicken Paprikash all over the place

I think now I understand why people get so frustrated with my disorganization and sloppiness. This time, I even got on my own nerves. I decided to make this recipe from the All Recipes site. I had some leftover Tofu sour cream and some chicken breasts to get rid of. I’ve also always wanted to learn to make dumplings, so I thought I’d give it a go.

OK, first of all, my typical style of cooking is pretty haphazard, and this was not a recipe you could do this with. This recipe looked deceptively simple. It didn’t have a lot of ingredients — and I had them all on hand. The prep time seemed pretty quick. So I thought this would be mac and cheese style fast.  Ha.

First of all. While I had all the ingredients, I had no idea of the sheer amount of labor you need for dumplings. Also, dumplings need some special equipment if you want a more efficient and painless way of making them. I had no special equipment. I hadn’t the slightest idea what sort of equipment one might need.  But soon after starting, I discovered that a flour sifter would be a good idea. I had almost three cups of flour that I needed to gradually stir in ever so carefully into an egg mixture. If I put it in too fast, the batter would get lumps. I knew this because.. OK, I didn’t know this. But I figured it out when I tossed in the first handful.  A sifter would have allowed me to put all the flour in a container and sort of sprinkle on a little at a time. Instead, I had a teaspoon and was jiggling it over the eggs, sometimes barely getting out any batter until I suddenly got a big clump.

Now, dumpling batter is supposed to be stiff. I had no idea how stiff it was going to be until I was stirring away and suddenly — oh dear. I could barely turn the spoon. So .. this is where things get.. really .. really.. nightmarish for clean freaks. For me, it was just frustrating.  I decided that it would be easier to stick one hand in the batter and stir by hand. WHAT was I thinking? As soon as I stuck in my hand, it made a SPLORCH sound and immediately turned into this thick gluey crud that completely engulfed my hand. I couldn’t wipe it off. I was still doling out meager teaspoons of flour over the batter with one hand. The other hand is a useless wad of dough/batter hybrid.

Then suddenly, I wish I could tell you how or why this happened, but for some idiotic reason, I jammed my OTHER fist into the batter. Now it’s Bre’r Rabbit and the tar baby in my own kitchen. I’m totally covered from fingertip to elbow in this goopy batter. I’m desperately dipping a paddle-hand dough monstrosity into my measured out flour trying to get the batter to turn into dough so it will get off my hands. For a good while, the batter/dough is just getting fatter and doughier — but not any less sticky. My attempts to wash off the stuff from my hands just make it more glue-like.

This is when my husband comes in and says Genie is refusing the bottle once again. I needed to drop everything and nurse her. She’s getting really cranky and I could tell that she was about to start showing off her high powered screams to get my attention. And I have dough blob appendages– made with raw eggs.

I beg my husband to keep trying to bottle feed her. I’m getting dough all over my face, shirt pants, all over the kitchen counter.. the sink. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is dough on the ceiling from this cooking experience. My husband just stares with his mouth open. “You can’t touch the baby! Don’t touch anything!”  Genie is working up an epic howl of  hunger. It’s been a mere 90 minutes since she last ate, but she’s teething, so feeds more frequently. If you looked at the recipe, you can understand how I thought I’d have a finished product by now. The recipe calls for 30 minutes prep time. I’m 90 minutes in and I’m a little less than half way of the first half of the recipe.

I make a desperate attempt to just take a paper towel and wipe off the gunk. My husband refuses to hand Genie over and tells me to wash up more. I’m getting dough on the soap and instead of cleaning my hands, there is just soapy mush all over the soap dispenser. He’s standing in horror and saying “I’m going to have to clean up this kitchen and the whole house by the time this is finished! How did you even get dough over.. (points out several places.. )” I usually feel sorry for him in these situations. I do have a special knack for making a mess. And a special knack for not being so great at cleaning up these messes — and this one is absolutely abysmal. This could be my worst culinary disaster ever. And I was going to take it to the next level and cover Genie up with dough/batter/soap.

Do I apologize? Heck no! I just about lose it and shout “Fine. YOU nurse her!”  After stomping around the kitchen for a minute or two, I destroy a few scouring pads and manage to mostly clean my hands.  I yanked Genie out from my husbands arms and stomped off into the nursery. I started to get set up to feed her. Two things happen that melt my heart. Even though I’ve made a huge mess and thrown a temper tantrum at my husband and I can tell he’s not happy, he comes in and turns on my meditation and relaxation tape. Then as I start to nurse my little screamer, she just stops and gives me the biggest grin ever. And instead of demanding to nurse, she starts cooing at me and blowing raspberries. She has a look on her face that says she really wants to play more than eat.

So even though there is a big pot of boiling water, a hideously messy kitchen, a frustrated husband and a dinner thats already 30 minutes late and doesn’t show any signs of being ready soon, I just drop everything and play with her and then nurse her. We take 45 minutes. It was worth every second. I just think that I’m working myself into a frenzy to make my family a great meal so they will be happy, when really the thing we most want is to spend quality time together.  I had no idea whether or not dinner was salvageable, but I didn’t care. I was going to soak up this time with my little girl.  I sat with her until she dozed off and then put her in her boppy chair as I went on to tackle the dumplings.

OK, I was ready to start the dump part of the dumplings. My batter has turned to dough, but that’s OK. My grandma used to make pie crust dumplings, so I figure they will be just fine. But I had no idea how even though dumplings are simple, they are time consuming to make. You can’t just dump in the dough into boiling water. You have to tear off little tiny pieces and then drop a handful at a time at most into the boiling water and then wait about ten minutes. Then you scoop them out of the water and put them into a colander. I could tell there were going to be 6 – 8 hands full of dough. So there will be another hour to ninety minutes .. just on the first half of the recipe. But Genie has worked her magic and I feel calm instead of frantic. I just carefully drop in the dough and wait — and I’m patient for a change.  It feels like a cool science experiment. I’m having fun trying to fish out the dumplings when they are done. I should mention here that I needed a sieve to get out the dumplings. I didn’t have a sieve. I used a measuring cup and a wooden spoon to trap them. This makes catching them a lot more difficult and probably added an extra hour to this whole process.

Before I’m finished with the dumplings, it’s time for another feeding. I ask my husband to come in with me and we all sit together in the nursery. I first tell him that I KNOW what I’ve made, even if it turns out amazingly awesome, it was not worth the effort. So I begged him not to tell me that when we sit down to eat it.  Then I apologize and we have a talk about how frustrated he gets with my sloppiness. And we agree that this one is the worst ever, but he’s always trailing around me with a rag and sometimes he puts in as much effort into the meal as I do. But he doesn’t get the fun part.

And I totally get it. He DOES stop to compliment me on being able to calm down and be much more serene in a short period of time.  He’s really good about finding something positive in everything. We talked about how all in all we get along well because even when we disagree, we have the same goal of having a happy healthy family. And so things felt even better.

So round three. I finish up the last of the noodles. Then I actually start making the recipe, chicken paprikash. This part is pretty straightforward, for the most part. I need to cut up my chicken pieces and drop them in my (too small) cast iron skillet. Then cook it up and toss in an onion and all of the spices. From here on everything went off without a hitch — except that I was using tofu sour cream. In all of my recipes, the tofu sour cream has worked out exactly as regular sour cream. But this recipe called for mixing flour into it. And this was beyond what tofu sour cream could handle. I had this funky tofu dough instead of a creamy sauce. It was pretty darned ugly, to be honest.

But amazingly enough, it tasted pretty good. My husband agreed.  Genie sat at the table with us in her car seat and babbled happily all during the meal. She seemed thrilled to participate at the family table even though she wasn’t eating. I’d definately make the paprikash again soon. I’d just put it on premade noodles instead of making the dumplings from scratch.

We cleaned up the kitchen together. And then we made rice crispy treats together. Those took about 5 minutes to make. And they were just as good as the paprikash.