Wow it’s been a while. With the sudden onset of inferno level temperatures, work, trying to get pregnant (yeah not sure why either), and having a 2-year-old toddler running rampant in the apartment, I’ve not really found myself spending much time in the kitchen. At least not for long periods of time. Part of the downside of living in a 100-year-old building all brick means that some rooms, despite the fact you have central air never seem to get cool enough during the dog days of summer in St. Louis, MO. I’m only now able to catch a few moments of peace because the toddler tyrant is currently down for a nap (thank you long walk to a store around the corner but took 3 blocks to walk there to tucker her out!). So instead of doing something parent-ish like shower, laundry folding, going to the bathroom, I currently sequestered myself to the living room with a bowl of chicken paprikash hastily reheated in the microwave in hopes of obtaining at least 45 minutes of quiet that isn’t speckled with high-pitched squealing, the word cat or my most favorite word…Gimmie!!!! There’s something about the lovely aromatic broth coated noodles with bits of lovely braised chicken thigh that washes off exhaustion of being a parental tyrant and allows one to simply just be for a bit.
Growing up in an ethnically diverse family I was constantly surrounded by non-American type cuisine. Chicken cacciatori made by my mom, pierogis & golumpki made by my grandmother, beef stroganoff by my father, it wasn’t unusual for us to have on the dinner table something that was harder to pronounce then our last name. What was unusual was traditional American type food. Pizza was a rare treat, burgers and fries a once in a blue moon meal. I figure, I probably ate more Americanized food at school then I did at home growing up and it’s something that I experience today as I slowly creep towards middle age. While I’m not opposed to the idea of having an all American burger with fries ever once in a while, I’d rather my time and calories be spent enjoying recipes that harken back to times before the colonists invaded the Americas. And when I’m really hangry only ethnic food will do.
This weekend in an attempt to make sure that chicken thighs purchased earlier week did not go to waste I set my culinary tastebuds on an adventure. I asked Kyle to pick a country on a map in Eastern Europe and told him not to pick countries like Germany or Poland but something obscure that he normally wouldn’t pick and he said Hungary. I remember my parents making us goulash as a kid so Hungarian style cuisine wasn’t foreign for me. Kyle however? He probably didn’t have much exposure to it growing up. One dish I have always been extremely fond of is chicken paprikash. The reason I probably enjoy making it so much is the fact that the most important ingredient in the dish is paprika and it gives me an excuse to go to Penzys spice and indulge in the perverted joy of purchasing high quality herbs and spices. And also because paprika is known to be an aphrodisiac which means hubba hubba time…What? I’m trying to get pregnant and every little bit helps! So might as well try to kill two birds with one stone right?
Chicken paprikash is quite possibly one of the most common dishes in Hungary. So much so that it’s listed as the country’s national dish. Its something that can be used with the paprika you have in the pantry but keep in mind that the “cheaper” the paprika the less intense the flavor is, so if you are going to go all out I strongly recommend you get fresh made paprika from Spices at Penzeys. If you happen to live in St. Louis, they have a location in Maplewood on Manchester in the little shopping strip across the street from the Shop N Save. If you can’t then don’t fret, just taste what you have in your pantry and if its weak or bland toss it out and buy a fresh container at the store. Jays International Market on Grand has bulk containers of pretty descent paprika for not a whole lot of money so check them out. This recipe is so simple in technique that you can easily have this on your dinner table during the week after a long day of work and a busy afternoon of shuttling around the mewling quim called children to Gymboree, BMX practice or who knows what. It takes a max hour to make from start to finish and is a 2 pot meal so cleanup is rather simple. It’s also an easy meal to introduce your newb husband to without fear of him jacking it up to the point where all you’re left with as dinner options are Taco Bell or White Castle…It’s happened….many many many times.
All you will need is: Chicken (thighs and legs bone in-skin on), paprika (duh), onions, bell peppers, sour cream, chicken stock and probably not the most common item, knox gelatin. If you want to add a little bit of oomph you can also add fish sauce and lemon juice but they are optional and not a requirement. You can serve it over rice, spaetzli, boiled potatoes, egg noodles, with a nice crusty bread to sop up all the amazing broth. It’s actually a fun dish to do with your significant other because the first 10-15 minutes require you to be by the stove to make sure you don’t burn anything. Grab a glass of wine or a beer, turn on some Zappa or Patty Smith (common kitchen soundtrack of my youth!) and get ready to make something that will either get you give you the It is or make you hankering for some lovin before the last bit of broth is licked from the bowl.
If using thigh quarters make sure you separate the legs and thighs in the joint (4 total pieces). You can opt to use all legs; however using more than 6 thighs unless you have a HUGE dutch oven will mean that not all your pieces of chicken will be simmering in the sauce due to lack of space. Before you start heating up your oil, pour 1 cup of chicken stock and pour a packet of Knox gelatin in and let it sit to soften. Adding the gelatin stock will cause your liquid to thicken and allow it to coat the chicken and the noodles/rice/potatoes when you eat it. Heat up a tablespoon of oil until lightly smoking (trust me this will be more than enough) and place skin side down your chicken pieces that have been salted & peppered generously on both sides. This isn’t a required step but I find that the dish is somewhat lacking if we skip over browning the chicken off first and rendering out some of the fat. Plus this will create all sorts of awesome brown bits at the bottom called fond which will be scraped off into the broth when we deglaze the pan later on so since its only going to add 10 minutes to your total cooking time anyways there really isn’t a good excuse as to why you don’t do it. Place your pieces skin side down until golden brown (roughly 8 or so minutes), flip over (if using thighs) and cook the other side for two minutes. If using all chicken legs, keep rotating until your legs are evenly browned on all sides. Remove and let rest on a plate. The chicken at this point is by no means cooked so don’t be all adventurous and try eating any because you’re gonna get sick if you do. But hey, its your butt and gut so you do what you wanna do.
Take one large onion and slice thinly (or diced) and while not traditional in paprikash if you want to use bell peppers by all means use those too. I find the bag of baby bell peppers is perfect because I can mix up the red and yellow. I don’t recommend using green bell peppers in this dish at all. Remove all the rendered fat from the chicken, reserving one tablespoon and then saute your onions and peppers until tender and slightly browned, stirring and scraping up any bits which may get stuck in the browning stage of the chicken. Some recipes call for adding the paprika after the onions are tender but I like to add it midway through the cooking process to allow it to toast first in the oil and then caramelize a bit on the onions and peppers (if you opted to use them.. I opt to use them, all the time). This process can take about 5-6 minutes and while it doesn’t need to be babysat like a tiny toddler terrorist who has stolen my heart, it does need to have a watchful eye on it to ensure it doesn’t go from oil toasted paprika goodness to black mess of wtf I’m going to have to throw this pan away.
Once you’re satisfied with the level of toastiness, whisk in your gelatin broth until incorporated completely and add your bay leaf. Try to scrape down any bits of dried on paprika which may have collected on the sides to ensure that you infuse every last drop with that smokey, toasty, roasty pepper goodness. Take your chicken and nestle it skin side up in the broth until half submerged and allow the chicken to braise for 45 minutes to an hour, lowering the heat to a low temp and covering with a tight fitting lid. While it may not seem like a lot of liquid, a the chicken cooks it will release its own moisture and impregnate the paprika broth with its essence. Its…….essence. Essen..okay I’ll stop…Sorry >.>….<.<… The reason we are cooking it skin up is because we don’t want to end up with soggy flabby chicken skin because it doesn’t really taste all that great personally. When you have about 20 minutes left of cooking time, prepare any sides you may want to enjoy with this. I enjoy spaetzle noodles while Kyle likes rice or potatoes. It’s really up to personal preference what you want with it, although truth be told I’m quite content to have a nice chunk of rustic crusty bread to just sop up the liquid with an ice cold german beer.
Once your chicken has hit an internal temp of 160 degrees, remove all the pieces and place on a plate. Remove your bay leaf and discard (this is not good eats and you don’t want to end up on twitter with someone going “This spinach leaf is off. whats up?!”). Stir in your fish sauce (if using), and lemon juice and wisk in your sour cream until combined. At this point you’re going to want to serve it up because if we allow the broth to keep cooking after the sour cream has been added, we run the risk of it beginning to separate and curdle. The culprit behind this culinary wtf are the milk solids found in sour cream. As the solids start to heat up they start to split apart. You can bypass this by ensuring that in whatever dish you have that calls for sour cream it is incorporated at a lower temperature and served relatively quick. If we allow it to cool we also face the possibility of the broth gelatinizing because we added gelatin to the chicken stock in the beginning. Either way you shouldn’t have to twist the arm of your dinner guests too hard because it smells amazing. Prior to plating, take your chicken and dip it into the sauce. Yes, yes I know. You are going to ask “if we were just going to dip it in the broth then why cook it skin side up?!?” Because we want tender skin. Not soggy flaccid blech skin. Listen to me, I know what I’m talking about!
This has become a common meal at my house with me and mine and I hope that you guys enjoy it too. It’s a great recipe to make on the weekend and toss into a lunch bag for a quick meal at work or even to reheat in the evening for a lazy dinner night. If you tweak the recipe let me know how it turns out! And like they say on the interwebz. Bone Appletini Ya’ll!
Recipe taken from: The Best Chicken Paprikash Recipe
- cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 (.25 ounce) packet powdered gelatin (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)
- 4 whole chicken legs, split into thighs and drumsticks (about 2 pounds)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced (optional, see note above)
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce) high quality Hungarian sweet paprika (see note above)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup sour cream, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon
- Minced fresh parsley leaves or dill (optional)
- Egg noodles, boiled potatoes, or spaetzlefor serving
Pour chicken stock into a 1-cup liquid measuring cup and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside.
Season chicken pieces generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large straight-sided sauté pan or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add chicken pieces skin-side-down in a single layer and cook without moving until deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. As the chicken pieces finish browning, flip them over and cook until the second side is light golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a large plate and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from pan.
Add onions and bell peppers (if using) to the pan and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom, until the onions are tender and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant and nutty, about 1 minute.
Add stock/gelatin mixture and scrape up anything stuck to the bottom of the pan, stirring constantly. Add bay leaf. Nestle seared chicken pieces back into the sauce, leaving them skin-side up. Reduce heat to lowest setting, cover pan, and cook until chicken is completely tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove chicken pieces and set aside on a large plate. Whisk sour cream, fish sauce, lemon juice, and half of minced parsley or dill into sauce. Season to taste with salt and more paprika if desired. Return chicken to pan and turn to coat in sauce.
Serve immediately over noodles, boiled potatoes, or spaetzle, tossing the noodles or potatoes with the sauce and placing the chicken on top. Garnish with more sour cream, paprika, and minced fresh parsley or dill (if using)