Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chicken paprikash

Chicken paprikash is one of our all-time favorite recipes, and thus it's a perfect fit to be the introductory post to our third year of posting recipes. My SO's grandmother regularly cooked chicken paprikash, and since my SO had always liked it, we quickly learned how to make it (following a recipe in Joy of Cooking, not an old-family recipe, sadly) when we first moved out on our own. This was one of the stock recipes my SO and I made all through the time I was in grad school.

Chicken paprikash is a relatively simple dish composed of browned chicken covered in a rich, onion- and paprika-based sauce and served over egg noodles. Since we just cooked this tonight, it's this week's first middle-of-the-week recipe blogging post.

2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (we use thigh meat; use more chicken if you want a meat-heavy dish)
Sprinkling of salt and ground black pepper for the chicken prior to cooking
2 tablespoons butter or lard
6 cups finely chopped onions (about 4-5 medium onions; a food processor is your friend)
1/2 cup sweet paprika
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika (optional)
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons garlic, coarsely chopped or pressed with a garlic press
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups sour cream
lemon juice or white vinegar, to taste
Cooked egg noodles (at least 1 pound dry)

0a. Plan to have some cooked egg noodles ready by the time the dish is complete.
0b. Mix the paprika and flour together in a small bowl, and have the onions chopped well before the chicken is finished browning.
1. Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed stick (i.e., not non-stick) pan over medium-high heat. You can use a non-stick pot, but using a stick pot helps generate more browned-chicken flavor.
2. Sprinkle the chicken with some salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken and fry until it is thoroughly browned (turning the chicken as needed; see notes). Remove the chicken from the pan when browned (~5-10 minutes); cook the chicken in multiple batches if it doesn't fit in the pan in a single layer.
3. Add the onions immediately after removing the chicken, and cook, stirring nearly constantly, until most of the liquid has cooked out of the onions and they start to brown (~10-15 minutes). If you browned the chicken well, it will be hard to determine when the onions brown, as they'll absorb the brown color of the browned chicken bits; just estimate based on time and liquid level if this occurs.
4. Add the paprika and flour and fry, stirring constantly, for a minute. The contents of the pan should be a thick paste at this point.
5. Add the chicken stock, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and black pepper; mix, and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes (or until the chicken is cooked through).
6. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sour cream. Stir to mix.
7. Return the pan to the heat and cook until it just starts to boil. Taste, and adjust the salt level if needed.
8. Serve over cooked (unrinsed) egg noodles with lemon juice or vinegar on the table.


This dish can easily be halved to make a smaller amount, though leftovers keep well and make great lunches and quick dinners. To make eating leftovers easier, cook extra egg noodles when you make the dish and then store them (unrinsed) in the fridge.

There should be lots of little browned chicken bits left in the pan when the chicken is finished browning. If you use a stick pan, these bits may be stuck to the bottom; this is fine, as once you add the onions, their liquid will deglaze the pan and all the chicken bits should come right off. If your pan is thin-bottomed (or the heat is too high) these chicken bits might burn, so watch for burning as you cook. If all you have are thin-bottomed pans (or pans in which you've historically burned food), use a non-stick pot to cook the dish.

There is no need to use boneless, skinless chicken when cooking this dish, though it does make eating the dish simpler. Additionally, if you're serving this dish to company, it would probably be best to chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces after it has simmered.

We only recently found smoked Spanish paprika at Penzeys Spices; while it adds a nice smoky undertone to the dish, it's completely optional (and we've cooked the dish for years without it). Using sweet instead of spicy (hot) paprika is essential, as the dish is traditionally not at all spicy.

This recipe is modified from Rombauer et al. (1997), who suggest boiling the sauce down to make a thick paste before adding the sour cream; we prefer to make it soupy, as my SO's grandmother did.

Rombauer, I. S., M. R. Becker, and E. Becker. 1997. Joy of Cooking. Scribner, NY.

1 comment:

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

Deb G.
Thank you very much for this recipe. We've also modified the Joy of Cooking recipe to use boneless, skinless chicken, and we've loved the results. We appreciated not having to figure out what we did all over again!

We contribute home cooking to a soup kitchen every month or so, and we like to cook good things that we'd also serve to our friends. This afternoon, your recipe will make a lot of folks in Waltham, Massachusetts happy!
October 24, 2009, 8:58:03 AM PDT – Like – Reply

It must be the time of year -- I just made the JOC version last night. The flavor was great, but I agree that boiling down the sauce was perhaps Not Optimal.
November 6, 2006, 8:12:11 AM PST – Like – Reply

I have my own version of this dish, partly inspired by my father-in-law's, who is first generation Hungarian. He serves it with Hungarian gnocci. I can't seem to get the gnocci quite right, which is weird seeing as it's just flour, eggs and milk.

I also like this version, mainly because it calls for a Fudgesicle, and halfway through the instructions says "While it's all cooking, eat the Fudgesicle."
October 4, 2006, 5:47:22 AM PDT