Chicken Paprikash

After taking a nice (apparently) month long vacation from doing anything mildly productive, it’s time to get this food blogging back on track! It’s been a little hectic with the whole moving across the country thing, but I’ve got to deliver on my promise to myself to keep up with this. Reaching a 6 month anniversary of writing this blog I suppose is a big feat (even with all its inconsistencies).

Now, I’m not what you would call an expert on Hungarian food (or many other kinds of European foods), but I have had a few Chicken Paprikashs in my day. All made from scratch. According to Wikipedia, which is where I usually go for food-related insights I haven’t learned from the Food Network, Chicken Paprikash is a popular Hungarian dish named for it’s heavy use of paprika. It’s defined most simply as simmering meat in a sauce composed of a paprika-based roux. Now what’s a roux? We’ll get into that later.

Chicken Paprikash, which I have never had in any authentic Hungarian fashion, was introduced to me thanks to a cookbook my roommate had. I miss that cookbook and its oddly niche market as a gluten-free slow cooker cookbook. But this was one of the recipes we tried (obviously a gluten-free slow cooker version of the dish) and it turned out well from what I remember. I don’t think we had to throw out those leftovers.

Well, I revisited it recently without the help of that gluten-free slow cooker cookbook and have cooked up something that is very similar to what I remember. Now, I don’t actually know what traditionally goes into chicken paprikash, but from researching a handful of paprikash recipes, I settled on using just onions and pepper. It’s kind of hard to imagine what other vegetables would benefit a paprika-based broth. I suppose for a greater health factor some cauliflower could be introduced, but I think that deviates a little from the original. Potatoes could also be an addition, but since I serve this with rice or pasta, the added starch isn’t really needed.

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This fantastic one pot meal starts by sauteing down our onions and red bell pepper in some butter and sugar. Because what’s better than caramelizing things in butter and sugar? This takes a good bit of time to get them to cook down this much. The onions need to be nearly translucent. But all it really requires is that you put the lid on the pot and walk away. Obviously check on it every once in a while otherwise you might burn the vegetables to the bottom of your pot.

Now this isn’t the norm for me. Typically, I like to brown my meat in the pot before the vegetables so I can get some of the flavor of the meat into the vegetables and the broth. But in this case, I’m cutting the chicken breasts into “1 inch cubes.” I put quotations around it mainly because I don’t think I could ever accurately cut something into consistent 1 inch cubes. I’m an engineer. It’s much more efficient to eyeball it and move on. It’ll all cook through anyway.

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So cut up your chicken while you wait for your onions to cook down. It’s the power of multitasking. And once your onions are nice and translucent, you can make your paprika-based roux.

So a roux, in case you care to know and didn’t know before, is quite simply cooking flour and some sort of fat together to thicken sauces. It has to be done before the liquid is put into the pot, but it essentially performs the same function as cornstarch to thicken liquids. Rouxs can be made using any sort of fat but my favorite is obviously butter. Although one of these days I should really try a bacon fat-based roux. I’ll bet that would be delicious.

There is some science behind why you need to saute flour in fat before it can be effectively used as a thickener, but we won’t get into that. But creating the roux is very simple. We already have butter in the pot since that’s what we’ve been cooking the onions and peppers in. To that we add some flour and paprika and stir. You have to let this cook for a good two to three minutes to eliminate the flour taste. But don’t cook this specific roux too long because you don’t want to burn the paprika.

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Now here comes the disclaimer. For a more traditional chicken paprikash I believe you’re supposed to use Hungarian sweet paprika. But I can’t keep every type of paprika in my kitchen, so I went with my store-bought, regular paprika. I don’t know what kind it is, but it’ll do. Many recipes I looked through also stressed the importance of having fresh paprika, but I can’t do that either. Most spices begin to lose their flavor after about 6 months. So naturally, fresher paprika will produce better results. But my 2-3 year old paprika did well on its own, so it’s not a huge requirement.

Once the roux is made we add in the chicken and saute a little more. Not long since you’ll be simmering the chicken in liquid anyway. Add in some garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper and we’re ready for the liquid: chicken broth. Once you’ve added in the chicken broth it’s downhill from here. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer (same old same old).

After about 40 minutes or so, check on your chicken paprikash. It’s ready for its final, totally healthy finishing ingredient. Add in a nice helping of sour cream and stir it in. Then it just needs to cook for a few minutes more. Make sure not to let it boil once you put in the sour cream, otherwise bad things may happen.

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And that’s all there is to this one pot meal. I finished the chicken paprikash with a little bit of dried parsley and served it over orzo. The traditional thing is to serve it over egg noodles, but I’m not really a fan. Other suggestions I saw were rice, pasta, and spaetzle. The choice is yours.

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Chicken Paprikash

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts, 1” cubes
  • 1 bell pepper, jullianned
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbs flour*
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 2 tbs dried parsley

Preparation

  1. Melt butter in a large pot or dutch oven
  2. Add bell peppers, onion, salt, pepper, and sugar and stir to coat
  3. Saute for 15 minutes or until onions are completely translucent
  4. Add flour and paprika to pot and stir, cook for 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn paprika
  5. Add garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes
  7. Add sour cream and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Do not let pot heat to a boil
  8. Stir in dried parsley and serve

*This can be made gluten-free by simply replacing the flour with cornstarch

Gluten-free


 

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