When Hubby and I began dating, I was not the least bit adventurous when it came to trying new foods. Being that he was from a different ethnic background – Serbian, I learned rather quickly that I had to learn to at least be somewhat open to trying things beyond my comfort zone. This was difficult for me, as I was a hamburger and hot dog kinda girl. Yogurt, cottage cheese, even polish sausage were not things I would consider eating. I’d have to say I was rather boring and unsophisticated.
Growing up my mother had around 20 different meals that she made using beef, pork roast, and chicken breasts. She never made Chinese food; of Italian dishes she only made spaghetti; Mexican she only made tacos; and the remaining dishes were either grilled or what I consider “American” food – hamburgers, meatloaf, beef stew, roast beef, pork roast, very rarely roast chicken, and ribs. Very limited, although what she did make was good.
After a few months of dating Hubby, going out to dinner or lunch got old, so I began to experiment a bit in the kitchen. My mother taught me very little about cooking. I had a home economics class in junior high, but about the only thing I remember making there was zucchini muffins, which I refused to eat (zucchini, YUK! right?). So everything I learned about cooking was a hands-on learning experience. Some meals turned out pretty good, some were inedible, and others needed improvement.
The more I cooked, the more I wanted to try new ingredients and recipes. This has continued through the years and now, although I might not eat some of the recipes I make, I am more than willing to try making practically anything. Hubby is a more than willing guinea pig and even the kids have enjoyed some of my culinary experiments.
When Hubby and I got married I asked him what meals from his heritage he wanted me to make. He told me flatly, “None!” His mother was not a bad cook, but growing up in Serbia she had little opportunity to experiment with different ingredients. Having food to eat was the objective. Pigeon soup, biscuits with scraps of bacon fat, and smoked meat with bread were some of the highlights.
Still, whenever we went over to his parents house for dinner, his mother always put out a very nice spread showcasing many things she’d enjoyed making since arriving in America some 40+ years ago and Hubby ate it. Some of them were her take on American dishes and others were meals that she had learned to make from her mother, but had little opportunity to make because of not having the ingredients.
If there is one thing I am good at, it is observing. This is what I have done for the past 20+ years of being with Hubby. I have watched him eat his mother’s cooking and enjoy it. Not everything, but there are definitely some things he truly loves, although I’m not sure he’d admit it. One of the meals that he always enjoys when we are over there is lamb paprikash, which is a traditional Christmas meal for them. I have never been crazy about lamb, but this is one method of preparation that I do enjoy.
Now that Hubby’s mother is no longer able to have holiday dinners, I decided this year I would give making lamb paprikash a shot. I had no recipe, as my mother-in-law has nothing written down, no measurements for ingredients, and speaks broken English. I decided to go on taste and memory for this one. Basically I figured making lamb paprikash had to be similar to beef stew and took it from there. The results were a success. Hubby told me it was better than his mother’s. But let’s keep that between us — his mother and I don’t get along that well already, this would certainly not help matters in that department.
- 1 Semi-Boneless Leg of Lamb
- 1 Large Onion, diced
- 2 Tbsp. Butter
- 5 Tbsp. Bacon Grease
- 6 Tbsp. Flour
- Salt to taste
For me the most important characteristic of any meat that I serve is that it be tender. To attain this in a stew, I cook it all day.
The first step was to sear the leg of lamb in the pot and brown it on all sides, salting as I turned it. Once brown, I filled the pot with water, covering the lamb completely. Bring the pot to a boil. Cover and simmer anywhere from 4 to 6 hours.
When the lamb falls away from the bone, remove from the pot and cut into chunks. Some of mine turned out to be shreds, which is fine too.
Return the lamb to the pot and bring to a slow boil.
In a small fry pan, melt butter and cook onion until tender. Add to pot.
To thicken paprikash, melt bacon grease in fry pan, add flour and use broth from the paprikash to make a rue. Slowly mix the rue into the paprikash and cook for 45 to 60 minutes longer.
The only difference I would make in this recipe next time is to add the sautéed onion earlier so it’s flavor incorporates more into the gravy.
Giving Hubby a taste of home is important to me. Family recipes are a treasure to pass down through generations and now I have one from Hubby’s mother for books, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.