Foodie Friday: Chicken Paprikash

I discovered Chicken Paprikash in my Better Homes & Garden cookbook from about the year 1998 or so.  I made it a few times and enjoyed it, but when I got a new BHG cookbook a few years later, the recipe wasn’t included, and I kinda forgot about it.

But when one of my food bloggers, No Recipes guy Marc, posted a recipe for the stuff (right here), I was sold.  I have probably made it approximately one billion times since then.  It’s inexpensive, made with basic, readily available ingredients, relatively easy, and delicious.  Like, really delicious.

So you start with some chicken.  You can use any chicken you want, but legs/thighs are the best, and cheaper to boot.

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Then you chop up some onion, or slice it into wedges – whatever floats your boat:

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Heat up some high-heat-compatible fat in a skillet (I’m using bacon grease here):

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Season your chicken with salt and pepper, and toss it in, skin-side down.  Let it sizzle for a while, 3-4 minutes if you can.  You want the skin to get nice and brown.

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I am not quite so patient, but we’ve got a bit of browning going on.  Let the bottom side cook for a while, too.

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Then take the chicken out and set it aside. Throw your onions into the hot skillet and keep them moving until they’re starting to get translucent.  (The recipe I generally use now also includes a green or Anaheim pepper at this point, but I hardly ever have peppers lying around my house, and so I usually omit them.  It’s still delicious.)

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Then throw in your paprika.  Like, a lot of it.  A quarter-cup is not crazy, even though it seems crazy.  Give it a minute to get hot and sizzly and smell awesome.

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Then add in a bit of chicken stock – less than you might think – and stir that up.  Make sure you get all the tasty browned bits up from the bottom of the skillet, and get all your paprika dissolved/distributed.  Then add your browned chicken back in.

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Let that come up to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer.  It’ll be perfectly edible in 30-40 minutes; it’ll be divine after an hour or more.  Check it periodically to make sure the liquid hasn’t all wandered off – you want a bit left (but not much).  You might turn over the chicken once, too.

In the meantime, think about what you’d like to serve this luscious silky sauce and tender chicken over.  Rice is fine; egg noodles are fine.  Marc included in his post a recipe for dumplings, and I have fallen head over heels for it – I make these *all the time* these days.  It’s completely manageable for one person to do both the paprikash and the dumplings, but it’s also handy to divide up the work if you have a second person around.

You need one cup of flour, two eggs, and a few tablespoons of yogurt, buttermilk, milk, or even water if you’re in a pinch:

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Mix the eggs into the flour, and then add your third ingredient (milk, yogurt, creme fraiche, buttermilk, whatever) until it comes together into a dough.  This one came out a bit stickier than I preferred, but it doesn’t really matter.

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Boil some nicely-salted water (it should take like seawater).  I just use two forks to scrape blobs of the dumpling dough into my boiling water.  They’re done when they float, and you can just scoop them out with a slotted spoon.

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You might scowl at the imperfect shapes of these dumplings, but they’re actually the best thing ever.  All the folds and bumps and lumps are absolutely perfect for catching the sauce from the paprikash.  So while Marc suggests using some piece of kitchen equipment that I don’t own, I don’t think I would even if I owned it – these just come out so much better this way.

So, after an hour or so, your paprikash will look more or less like this:

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Your onions most likely will not magically convert from chopped squares to sliced wedges; I’m using photos from two different makings of this dish (within the last two weeks), which should tell you everything you need to know about how awesome it is.

Now you get to make the sauce wonderful.  Mix a few tablespoons of flour into a half-cup (or more) of sour cream or yogurt.  Then, you do what’s called “tempering” the dairy mix.  Dip into the beautiful red liquid in your skillet and dump a few tablespoons into the dairy bowl.  Stir that in.  Repeat this until your dairy is warm to the touch – mine ended up using almost a half-cup of the cooking liquid, although I may have used an inordinate amount of sour cream…

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Dump that into your skillet and stir it in.  It’ll be beautiful.

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And it’ll eventually end up looking about like this:

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Which you can then serve over your dumplings, where their imperfect shape will be absolutely perfect for the sauce.

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And if the lighting in your dining room sucks, like mine, the lovely red color will totally not show up in the photograph, but trust me, it’s still lovely. And even if it weren’t, who cares because it’s delicious.

This chicken was so tender that the bones just slid out of it, and the meat all but melted in your mouth.  The onions are like silk in the rich, creamy sauce over hearty, satisfying dumplings.

Did I mention that this is great winter food?  Yeah.  Totally.

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Foodie…Sunday? Thoughts on Getting By

I owe you all an apology.  The past two weeks have been bonkers for me, and that resulted in my not having a post for you on Friday.  It’s not that I’m not eating (believe me, I am!), or even that I’m not cooking (gotta kill that stress somehow).  No, it’s a much sillier problem than that: evidently when I get busy, I forget to take pictures of what I’m making.

I tried!  I have first-stage photos of…

Oven-roasted chicken breast:

Proto-Roast Chicken Breast

Intended as part of the “what you do with a chicken” post, but I forgot to take pictures of the previous parts AND the parts that come later.

From-scratch caesar salad:

Proto-Caesar Salad

Totally worth the extra time and effort. I’ve been using the recipe at http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/classic-caesar-salad, with the shortcut of that tube of anchovy paste because what on earth are you going to

And yesterday I made some ice cream using the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home cookbook.  I have pictures of starting to make sugar-plumped apricots:

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Blackstrap praline pecans:

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And the ice cream itself:

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But I completely forgot to take pictures after this point, for each and every one of them, except the roast chicken, which wasn’t quite ready for prime time:

This chicken is not done.

This chicken is not done.

But I want to talk about that for a minute, in the interests of making small improvements in life.

Sometimes your chicken doesn’t get done, and you’ve carved it up and you now have two servings of not-quite-done chicken.  It’s not the end of the world!  I just plopped it back in that pan, now in two pieces, and stuck it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.   Dinner.  Sure, it wasn’t quite as glorious as my roast chickens usually are (I really do need to share that with you) but it was a perfectly tasty, wholesome meal regardless.

Likewise, one of the most interesting dishes I made this week was the least photogenic.  I didn’t even bother taking pictures of it because it was ugly from step one.  See, I had some leftover spanish rice and some leftover seasoned beans.  I thought, “hm, rice and bean skillet.”  So I chopped up an onion and sautéed that, then threw in the rice and beans (the rice immediately sticking to the bottom of the skillet and making a mess).  Then I thought, “hey, this would be pretty good with some corn!”  I quick-thawed a package of frozen corn under hot water and stirred it in.  “How about some shredded cheddar?”  In it went.  Topped it off with a sprinkle of a spanish-style spice blend from my market bag (although simple salt and pepper plus maybe a little chili powder, or a sprinkle of taco seasoning, or anything else would have been perfectly fine), and called it good.  Served with sour cream, lime wedges, and tortillas: warm, filling, wonderful food.  (And vegetarian, to boot!)  But let me tell you, it sure didn’t look like much.

So what’s the point?  Something I tell myself often: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

Maybe you forget to take pictures while you’re cooking.  Maybe you don’t have the time and energy to cook from scratch, but instead of dropping by the fast food joint, you drop by the market and pick up a rotisserie chicken.  Maybe you throw your hands up altogether, but you go to the little Korean food truck instead of the Bland-O National Chain Restaurant.  Much as Anthea was saying earlier this week, don’t criticize yourself for good decisions just because they aren’t perfect!

Oh, and maybe your Friday blog post went up on Sunday.  Better late than never!

Foodie Friday: Comfort Pot Pie

Yesterday, I did not want to get out of bed.  I spent most of the day wishing I could go back to bed.  The high was 10° F (with a windchill high of 0° F).  When I left the office, this is what it looked like outside:

Yeah, that sky only looks blue in this photo. It's about the same color as the road, snow, house, and trees.  And cars, since they're all covered in salt.

Yeah, that sky only looks blue in this photo. It’s about the same color as the road, snow, house, and trees. And cars, since they’re all covered in salt.

And I was starving.  All together, an urgent call for comfort food.  Chicken pot pie, here I come!

Incidentally, many of the ingredients in this recipe come from a chicken.  I’ll have to show you what to do with a chicken someday.

Here’s the cast of characters:

An onion, celery, a red carrot (I grew it!), and some sad little hakurei turnips from my CSA last fall.  Those things last forever.

An onion, celery, a red carrot (I grew it!), and some sad little hakurei turnips from my CSA last fall. Those things last forever.

Some chicken leftover from Sunday's roast.

Some chicken leftover from Sunday’s roast.

Chop up the veggies:

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By the way, this is a great time to introduce the stock bag!  Any veggie trimmings, peels, etc. (usually onions, celery, and carrots) go into this gallon ziploc bag that hangs out in my freezer until I make a pot of stock.  (Stock recipes coming soon.)  No brassicas, though – broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc. – they’ll make your stock smell like farts.

This is my stock bag.  Any ends of veggies (usually onions, celery, and carrots) go into this gallon ziploc in my freezer.  No brassicas, though - broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc. - they'll make your stock smell like farts.

This is my stock bag!

And sauté them in some butter until they’re tender, the onion is just barely browning on the edges, and the carrots are not rock-hard.  Chop up your chicken, if you need to – big chunks are nice, or you can chop it a bit finer if you have less chicken and want to stretch it.

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I had plenty of chicken, so nice big chunks here.

You can throw your chicken in now, or you can wait until after you make your gravy.  In general, if your chicken is frozen, wait until you make the gravy.  In general, actually, you’re supposed to put the chicken in after you make the gravy, but I got all excited and threw it in early, and it didn’t hurt anything.

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Then throw in a small handful (1/8 cup?) of flour:

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And stir that in until it’s mixed.  Then you add some chicken stock (do you sense a theme here?), somewhere around a cup or so, stirring as you go.  You want to end up with a nice thick bubbly gravy, but not glue.

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Homemade is best, but use whatever you’ve got – a carton, can, “Better than Bullion,” or even just a bullion cube dissolved in water.

And, because I forgot to throw this in before I made the gravy, add a handful of herbs, plus some salt and pepper:

I grew these!  And it's totally not weed - that's sage.

I grew these! And it’s totally not weed – that’s sage and thyme.

If you’re a little confused about the order here, the point is that it doesn’t actually matter all that much, as long as you have sautéed veggies, gravy, chicken and herbs together in a pan/pot/skillet at this stage in the game.

Put that in a baking dish that’s big enough to hold it.

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And then top it with your favorite biscuit, pie crust, or puff pastry.  I whipped up the biscuit topping from this (awesome on its own merits) recipe using whole wheat flour instead of cornmeal and mixing the cheese right into the dough:

Hell yeah, food processor.

Hell yeah, food processor.

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Biscuits on top.

And then you bake it.  I’ve found that when in doubt, bake on 350° F until it’s lightly browned and/or bubbly.  In this case, I left it in for about 30 minutes.

Golden brown on top, bubbly around the edges.

Golden brown on top, bubbly around the edges.

It’ll be kind of like napalm when you take it out of the oven, so let it sit for a few minutes.

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And let me tell you, it was terrible.

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And then I climbed into bed and went to sleep.