Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chicken Paprikas

Here is how I make my chicken paprikas. I won't claim that this is entirely "authentic" for a number of reasons. First, I didn't learn to make this from my Hungarian grandmother or even Mark's Hungarian grandmother for that matter. The first few times I made it were the result of Googling for something that sounded like it would produce the chicken paprikas I had experienced. Then last spring Mark's grandma and Aunt Rose mailed me my own copy of the Hungarian cookbook their parish sells so I have the supposed recipe now. The thing is, with those types of cookbooks (you know, the ones put together by church ladies and students' mothers) a lot of times key ingredients are mysteriously omitted or something else just isn't quite right. In addition to that, each cook tends to have their own special touches and way of doing things, so with each generation things can change. For example, Mark's grandma doesn't keep the onions in with the sauce, Aunt Rose does. With that disclaimer, here it goes:

The first thing, and this is vital,is to start with the right paprika. Don't use the random "paprika" in from a spice collection. Hungarian paprika is sweet, and most grocery stores carry authentic Hungarian paprika like this: The actual first step is to chop a large sweet onion and brown it in oil. Once the onion is soft, add a tablespoon or so of paprika:
At this point, add the chicken and brown it. There is some flexiblilty with this. Mark's family uses chicken breasts, and they are very good and easiest to eat I think. I have used a cut up whole chicken before, tonight I used legs and thighs because they are cheaper. Once I have the chicken in the pan I usually sprinkle more paprika on it. When the chicken is browned on both sides, add about 1 cup of broth. The recipe I have call for water, but I think chicken broth gives better flavor. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Now here is another place directions can vary. In the past I have cooked the chicken entirely on top the stove like the recipe says, but I have found it can come out tasting too boiled. So tonight, after simmering about 20 minutes I transferred the chicken to a baking dish and put it in the oven at 350 degrees until everything else was done (probably about 20-30 minutes more). I also spooned some of the onions on top of the chicken. So here is what was left in the pan after I took the chicken out:
I turned the heat up on this to reduce the liquid since I use this for the "gravy."

The next step is to make the dumplings. This was a near disaster for me until I obtained this handy-dandy device (known as a spaetzle dumpling maker) from the kitchen section at Bed, Bath & Beyond:

To make the dumpling dough combine 2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon milk, and 1 cup flour. I mix that and then I position my spaetzle maker over a large pot of rapidly boiling water. I spoon the dough (which is about the consistency of pancake batter) into the square portion of the dumpling maker, and then I slide that back and forth and the batter runs out the holes and I end up with something that looks like this:
I cooked these for 15 minutes and then drained them. Now it is back to the paprikas and onions on the stove. Over low heat, I add a container of sour cream and stir to mix well and heat through. Then I add the dumplings (and tonight I doubled that recipe above because they are almost better as leftovers!) and stirred to coat them in the paprikas gravy. By that point the chicken is done (I always use a meat thermometer to check) and dinner was ready to serve:

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