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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