Thursday, May 19, 2011

Smazeny Kureci Rizek, Bramborovy Salat, a Tatarska Omacka

I think I was a pretty smart kid. I had this idea that I wanted to be a Grandma when I grew up. There are some pretty cool things about being a grandma. There are all those joys of having kids filling up your house with joy, but you don't have to be the one responsible for late night baby feedings, dealing with the stomach flu, or the pesky task of discipline. Instead you get to snuggle sweet kids who are delighted by your presence, dole out the sweets, and buy adorable toys and kid clothes at your pleasure. A pretty sweet gig.
You also get to be known for specialties. There is no need for a long repertoire of meals to prepare, just a couple of basics for holidays (when you have other people around to help pull it off) and some classics like mini pancakes with berry syrup, sugar cookies, and lefse. You manage those things and you're totally covered as far as the kids go. And chances are that if you have a husband he'll be old enough to know better than to expect anything more than jelly toast for breakfast and regular meals out. After all, you're a grandma and you deserve to be treated after all those years of slaving away to take care of your family.
That's where the clincher comes in and ruins the whole perfect scenario. The thing is, you can't just skip to being a grandma. There's a whole lot of other stuff that has to come first in order to acquire that title. That's what I'm learning about now.
By Jr. High I'd come to the conclusion that I wanted the whole getting married and having a family deal to be a part of my future as well. There have always been novelist dreams, even fantastic fantasies involving the silver screen and recording labels. Most of those have chilled, although I've got a couple of books in the works that I'm trying to mull through and figure out how to get them into the hands of the masses. It took a long time to get to the marriage point, but today I've made it three months into wifehood, and I can see that I still have a LONG way to go.
Yesterday, I decided that I wanted to make a grand gesture. The type that hopefully makes up for some of the general mundane existence life so easily falls into. Anyone who knows much about me, or has even read a wee bit of my blog, realizes that cooking is NOT my strong point. Not even close. I can muddle my way through, and given guidance even pull things off for the most part, but it's not with out a lot of failure and a good deal of squeamishness.
My husband is from the Czech Republic, for anyone not aware, and he has been challenged by his foray into American cuisine. He grew up in a small town riddled with four and five star hotels, and even studied things about the restaurant business in school, so to say he has "ideas" is an understatement. I've been well aware since his arrival here, that he has been hugely missing the food of his homeland. We went out a lot when we were back in Czech, and there were certain dishes that he positively adored. His birthday is coming up next week, and it's my dream to recreate one of these dishes for that occasion. In preparation for this task, I decided to start making some attempts at other Czech food.
So, after finding some lovely resources online, including a blog that I think will become my new go-to for all things helpful and Czech, I was able to plan a menu for the evening. Just a brief plug for this blog, it's written by a woman who moved to the US from Czech several years ago and wanted to provide an updated sight for other Czechs and Slovaks who find themselves in the US. I already think she's wonderful, even after visiting her sight a few times. Anyhow, I decided on the above title. For those not familiar with Czech menus, that's a fried chicken steak, potato salad and tartar sauce. Granted, none of these things are like their traditional American counterparts, so I couldn't just cheat and substitute, but had to really work with the recipes.
I started working on it around 5, thinking that it shouldn't take terribly long to throw it all together. First, I started boiling the potatoes. It was a good thing I thought of that first since the internet informed me it could take 40 to 60 minutes for them to be ready, then they would need to cool to make the salad. Did I mention I'm a cooking novice? Anyhow, I at least trusted my boiling egg and potato skills enough not to stare at the pots for the duration, and I mixed up the tatarska. It was a bit sour, but with a few suggestions from my Love, I was able to add some sugar and help it to be okay. Except when making spaghetti sauce, improvising is definitely NOT my strong suit.
Once I had a bunch of ingredients chopped up and ready, I decided to tackle the chicken. I remembered watching the cooking show and seeing Agata Hanychova, a famous Czech supermodel, making the same dish. (I wanted to supply a link, but had trouble finding any with only appropriate pictures...) I decided that if she could get her hands all covered in raw chicken then I should be able to as well. So I forced myself to just go with it. To make this dish the meat has to be pounded, but I couldn't find a meat pounder. Julie didn't have one, and when I called Mom she said she didn't actually have one either. So, with Mom's advice, I improvised. I put the meat between two plastic cutting boards and beat it with a big pan. It was, well, I guess effective. It took quite a while and I never got the meat as thin as I should have, but at least it sort of worked.
In the end, I managed to get the meat all nicely breaded and fried, gently peeled and cut the potatoes and mixed them gently into a salad, and served it up with tatarska on the side. I won't say that it looked or tasted quite like the Czech originals, but it worked. And when I brought it down it was accepted as pleasing and he even told me it tasted really good. I think the fact that it took me three hours also showed him what an act of love it really was.
So at 8 we ate, and by ten I was nearly falling asleep in front of the TV. I can't say that this inspired me to dedicate all day every day to the art of cooking, but at least I managed. I did take some pictures, but they didn't turn out super good, and I haven't put them on my computer yet, but I'll have to have a photo post one of these days. My blog has gotten awfully wordy, and that only works for so long, so I promise to make it more colorful soon.


Anonymous said...

Yay! That's awesome! I loved that you made the attempt and it sounds like it turned out really well! Way to go you and happy 3 month! :)

Transient Drifter said...

Well, I'm not sure I'd say "really well" but it was edible at least. Still got a looooong way to go on this road to domesticity.