[edited to correct typos]
OK, I couldn’t avoid the pun. Seriously, I made a small chicken paprikash tonight for supper served with a side of spatzle. If you’ve made chicken paprikash you caught the ‘huh’, but you all know me by now, I’m long-winded.
Chicken Paprikash is one of those simple dishes that gets re-discovered every once in a while because it’s amazingly good. At its heart it’s braised chicken. Its soul comes from paprika and sour cream – LOTS of paprika and sour cream, when you get right down to it.
You cut up a chicken, optionally dredge it in flour, brown the pieces in oil or butter, and set them aside. Now you take a couple of onions that you’ve cut up (prettily into thin rings, or quickly into medium chop, your
choise choice), put them in the pan you pulled the chicken from and cook them till they brown. You add a small amount of water, broth, or wine, and deglaze (yes, with the water onions in), at which point you add a tablespoon of paprika and a teaspoon of salt and stir it in. (Yes, you read the measurements correctly). Put in the chicken pieces and toss and turn them till they’re covered with this flavorful mix. Now add enough liquid to come to between 1/4 and 1/3 up the chicken, bring it to a boil, bring it back down to a very low heat, cover it, and let it go for half an hour to 45 minutes.
Check every ten to fifteen minutes to ensure it hasn’t boiled dry. It’s done when the chicken moves through tough into almost falling apart.
At that part you again pull the chicken and add about a pint of sour cream to the mix. (It ain’t healthy, it’s just delicious.) Stir, and either stir the chicken back in or serve it to pour over the chicken.
It’s traditionally served with a spatzle, though I’ve seen rice and noodles as options.
For all the effort you seem to see above, it’s a very easy dish. But now you see the interesting part – I made a SMALL dish.
As I’ve noted, I’m trying to relearn cooking for one or two. That’s been entertaining. Now I have a bunch of frozen chicken breasts – the thighs are all gone. So I pulled out a plump one and thawed it. I only used half an onion. I only used a teaspoon of paprika and a half-teaspoon of salt. I used about half a cup of sour cream. I used water. Other than the proportions, I followed the recipe. Oh, instead of baking I used low heat on the stovetop.
A couple of tips. First, the hungarian version prefers to use sweet, not smoked, paprika. Not least is because the long cooking time will darken the paprika anyway, and if you start with smoked you have a chance of reaching burned. Second, if you use breasts (as I did) the meat has almost no connective tissue to provide lubrication. Boost things a bit by adding some fat in the earlier stages. I used two tablespoons of butter AFTER the onions browned. If I’d had it I’d have used schmaltz or caul fat instead. Best, of course, would have been to include a wing tip or a foot.
Now I also made spatzle. That’s another of those dishes that seems tricky, but is easy. It is, however, a touch labor intensive. The nicest thing about it is that I, for one, have no guilt over throwing out excess. (Not completely true, of course. Anything like that, which doesn’t keep well for leftovers, goes to the dogs. And cats, sometimes.) Anyway, spatzle is a sort of cross between a dumpling and a noodle. Here, let me help you make a batch without all the fancy tools.
You’re going to need one egg, about a quarter cup of milk, a couple dashes of salt, and some flour. Mix the first three ingredients and then start stirring in flour. You want it about the consistency of cake or muffin batter. Put it in the refrigerator, and start a pot of water boiling. (If you’re trying to do timing, you can hold it in the refrigerator for an hour with no problems provided you covered it.)
Now we get to the fun part. See, most people think you need to press the spatzle through a colander. And that works, sorta, but it’s clumsy and messy. Instead, get your favorite pancake turner that doesn’t have slots. If need be get a frosting knife. A somewhat wide flat spatula. If need be use the back of a cutting board. What you’re going to do is scoop a largish amount of the batter with or onto your flat object. You’re then going to take a simple bread knife and start scraping off ‘worms’. Just cut into the batter about 1/4 inch from the edge and scrape it into the boiling water, and repeat till you’ve scraped off all the batter. Set your flat surface down and pick up a spider. You want the spatzle to cook long enough it increases slightly in volume – between half again and double. Scoop it out and into a waiting bowl. Repeat till your batter is gone. It takes between five and ten minutes to finish this for me, depending on interruptions. (Like discovering the paprikash is dry. sigh)
Next time I’ll do pictures. Adjusting recipes for size is tricky, and I didn’t quite like the looks of it this time (I’ve a few things I want to adjust). But I will do it again, and I’ll share when I do.
But I wanted to remind folk this dish exists. It’s rich, delicious, and amazingly easy. And it appears it can be whittled down to serve just one or two. Enjoy.