The beginning… and cheesy chicken legs

cheesy chicken legs from the Taste of Memories Hungarian country kitchen www.tasteofmemories.comFinally it has started.
After a rainy, stormy weekend in a sunny, but still really windy morning the backyard of our house is filled up with life. The track based bobcat is easily moving around the muddy soil and it digs up so much soil in half a day for the basement of the attachment that we have suddenly a little Himalaya in the middle of the garden. For a single day time stops: I don’t care about the cold, the wind or the fact that the schnitzel-filled sandwich that Áron brought me at 3 pm. is the the first “real food” I eat since morning. I must see every little step, I must be present. At least on the first day. On our BIG day.
My heart breaks when the bobcat separates the shabby entrance stair from the house with one single pull, then breaks it quickly by tossing it up and letting it to fall down a couple of times. If you are a regular Taste of Memories reader you might remember that this stair was my favourite place to sit and it appeared in many posts on the blog. I used to have breakfast there, I wrote blog posts or had important phone calls because that was a place in the house where you could have good reception.
We destroy something from the old to create space for the new.
Sometimes I am asked why we didn’t tear down the complete house and build a a new one. Every time I face this question I look at the person with a shocked face. “Tear down? Our little house? Only over my dead body!” , I would shout, but instead I only murmur a kind of answer something like we don’t want a new house.
What would have happened to pyramids if Egyptians had decided that they are already a bit shabby so they would replace them by block of flats? And what would have happened to the cathedral in Córdoba, if the Catholic church hadn’t decided to build the church around the mosque instead of tearing it down?
I cannot explain, that even if our little Swabian house is neither a pyramid nor a cathedral, but its 80 year old thick stone walls tell stories; that I love its old cellar, the shelf which was created naturally by the stone wall in the pantry, I like its proportions. And I believe that by keeping the old part and adding new elements we continue writing the story of this place. It is a challenge and joy to think about what materials we removed could be possibly used in the new part. The old house has spirit- I am sure even if I seem strange or crazy because of my theory.
“An old house will always remain an old house”, a builder -who came to measure the house-told me at the beginning of this story. He meant it as a threat, I meant it as an opportunity.
On the starting day of the renovation our neighbour, aunt Marika hands over a bowl of grapes to me over the fence and warns me to dress myself warm. It is Othello grape, my favourite. Tibor, our neighbour on the other side wishes us good luck and I can feel he is happy for us that the work has finally started. I hope our cherry tree won’t be angry because we laid down the water pipes near its roots and the bobcat bumps into its branches a few times. I cut down one with a lopper, than- maybe after seeing my worried face- the young guy who operates the machine try to do his best to avoid touching the other ones. (Obviously we have our reasons why we leave low branches- this way cherries can fall into your mouth directly, as my grandmother used to say) One of the builders takes a shovel and pulls up the branches of the old Japanese quince bush so the bobcat can remove the soil without breaking it.

When I was a childhood my mother used to make cheesy chicken leg every time we had a busy weekend, since she was able to prepare it the day before and we only needed to grill it with the sour cream and cheese 5 minutes before lunch. We are busy this time as well and instead of opening a bottle of champagne I will make cheesy chicken leg. While I am preparing it, in my thoughts I am in a different place: in my old-new kitchen. The scent of the frying chicken leg fills up the air but it is mixed with something else… The scent of home.

Cheesy chicken leg

Ingredients:
4 chicken legs (1 per person)
all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sour cream
50 g grated cheese (pl. kézműves trappista)
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
sunflower oil for frying

Rinse chicken legs in water and dry with paper towel. Season with salt. Prepare some flour in a bowl which is wide enough to place a chicken leg into it. Add freshly ground pepper and mix properly with the flour. Dip leg into the flour, turn it to get flour on both sides and shake off any extra. Pour roughly 2 cm sunflower oil into a large frying pan. Starting at high-heat fry both sides of the legs until they get a nice colour. Reduce heat and fry the legs covered for 1 hour while turning occasionally. Switch on the grill function at your oven. Spread sour cream over the chicken legs and sprinkle with grated cheese. Place the legs on a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil or baking paper and grill for 5 minutes until they get crispy and golden brown. According to my opinion it goes best with rice!

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Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer is a food photographer, chef and writer living in a small village in Northwestern Hungary. Her bilingual blog, Taste of Memories is about life in the Hungarian countryside. While she is bringing new life into the 90 year-old house and orchard of 18 fruit trees she cooks and bakes her family’s old recipes and tries to preserve traditions and old knowledge about how to live in rhythm and harmony with nature.

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