Chicken Paprikás ... a Hungarian Classic!
In my latest blog, I took you to Budapest to bask in its breathtaking riverfront. I find it only fitting to share a traditional Hungarian meal with you this week for "Foodie Friday!" A simple meal and one of MY FAVORITES is Chicken Paprikás, also known in Hungarian as 'Paprikás Csirke'. This meal is essentially chicken braised in a delicious onion and paprika sauce. Although there are only a few ingredients and a few steps, a few tips can make it much tastier.
Two ingredients that are present in this dish and COMMONPLACE staples in Hungarian cuisine are paprika and sour cream. I discussed paprika and the importance of using QUALITY Hungarian paprika in my very first blog about Hungarian Goulash (Gulyás), but here, too, it is of utmost importance. Hungarian paprika has a bright red color as well as a pungent peppery flavor. I would highly recommend using a 'Sweet Hungarian Paprika' from Szeged or Kalocsa. If you like your food a bit spicy, then you can add a bit of 'Hot Hungarian Paprika', also from those regions. But making this dish without quality paprika is just not worth it! Sour cream is another common ingredient in Hungarian dishes. I would recommend using whole sour cream and not a watery 'reduced fat' or 'no-fat' version.
One more ingredient worth mentioning before I get to the recipes, and which happens to be the main player in this dish, is the chicken. This recipe is traditionally made with skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks. This produces a sauce that is more flavorful and thicker and yields meat that is more tender and moist. Certainly, some people prefer to eat the breast meat, which can be drier, but if opting that route, then I recommend you stick with skin-on and bone-in breast pieces. Also, I recommend free-range organic chicken, if possible.
This dish is most traditionally served with small egg drop "dumplings" called 'nokedli', similar to the German 'spätzle.' It is also served with a chilled, vinegary cucumber salad, often with sour cream mixed in (no surprise). Both of these accompaniments are easy to make. I will provide the recipes for all three below.
Chicken Paprikás recipe
1/2 stick butter
~3 lbs. chicken pieces, bone-in and skin-on
2 medium onions, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 Hungarian banana pepper, cut into slices
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 heaping Tbsps of QUALITY Sweet Hungarian paprika
1 Tbsp of QUALITY Hot Hungarian paprika
1 tsp of ground cumin
4 cups of chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 heaping Tbsps sour cream
1 heaping Tbsp all-purpose flour
Melt the butter in a Dutch Oven on high heat. Wash and prep chicken pieces. Season chicken with salt. When butter is hot, sear the chicken pieces on both sides and then set them aside into a bowl.
Once all chicken has been seared, place the onions into the remaining butter and fond. Sauté until translucent. Add the sliced peppers, the diced tomatoes, and the minced garlic. Saute a bit longer. Remove from heat and add the paprika and cumin. Don't add the paprika over heat, because it will burn easily and taste bitter. Once the paprika is well mixed in, add a little chicken stock. Then place all of the seared chicken pieces into this mixture. Add more chicken stock to just shy of 'completely covering' all of the chicken. Turn heat to high.
Bring to a boil, and then cover and reduce to low. Let chicken simmer on low for about 45 minutes, until looks done. Stir frequently to prevent sticking to bottom or burning.
Once the chicken is done and looking as if it will soon 'fall off the bone', then remove the chicken pieces with tongs and place them into a baking dish.
Turn the heat up to medium beneath the sauce. Mix 2 heaping tbsp of sour cream with 1 heaping tbsp of flour into a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together until smooth. Temper the sour cream with a ladleful of the hot paprika sauce and whisk briskly together so that there are no clumps. Add this whisked mixture back to the sauce and let cook for a short while to allow time for the sauce to thicken.
At this point, many people add the chicken back to the sauce and consider the dish 'done.' I , however like a thick and smooth sauce without bits in it. So once the sauce has thickened somewhat, turn the heat off. Process the sauce through a food mill (one of my favorite kitchen tools). This will create a smooth, rich sauce. Then pour the sauce over your chicken pieces in the baking dish. Can serve immediately or heat up in the oven for later. Garnish with parsley sprigs and a dollop of sour cream immediately before serving.
Ingredients: (for 4 adults)
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a tsp of salt to the water. In the meantime, mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Beat well with a wooden spoon.
Process the nokedli batter through a 'Spätzle noodle dumpling maker' directly into the boiling water. Alternatively, with a knife, you can scrape small "bites" off of long narrow strips of dough from a small wooden hand-held cutting board directly into the boiling water. When the dumplings rise to the top, then they are done. Drain nokedli in a colander. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with a touch of oil so that they don't stick together. Mix oil throughout.
Chilled Hungarian Cucumber Salad
2 English cucumbers, peeled and sliced
~ 2 Tbsp sour cream
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
White wine vinegar
Hungarian paprika and dill for garnish
Wash and peel cucumbers. Slice cucumbers using large side of a box grater into a bowl. Salt cucumbers lightly and let them sit for about 15 minutes to release some of its water.
Squeeze juice from cucumbers with hands and transfer to a serving bowl. Add in sour cream and pressed garlic and mix well. Make a solution of vinegar to water in a 1:2 ratio. Dissolve ~ 1 Tbsp sugar into vinegar-water solution. Taste for sweetness. (Don't want it too sour and vinegary). Pour solution over the cucumbers, but don't submerge. Mix well. Garnish with paprika and dill before serving.
What I shared here is a classic Hungarian meal. These three items are traditionally served together, for they make a perfect combination! This offering can be found on almost every restaurant menu throughout Hungary. So WHEN you venture to Budapest, I hope you find a table along the Danube River, see the awe-inspiring views of the riverfront, taste and smell this delicious meal alongside a bottle of Hungarian wine, and listen to a Hungarian Gypsy band serenade your heart, and soul. Tantalize all your senses and check this amazing experience off of YOUR bucket list!