Chicken Paprikash

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I learned about chicken paprikash when we lived in Cincinnati.  One of my personal chef clients wanted to have a dinner at their home with 5 of their friends.  They asked me to create a dinner that reflected their Hungarian roots.  Until then I had eaten goulash and paprikash once or twice and I wasn’t quite sure of the taste of the dish until I started doing research.  I learned about Nokedli, the homemade noodle, Hungarians eat with goulash or paprikash.  I also served stuffed cabbage for first course; the leaves for the cabbage were small enough to make baby rolls and were filled with ground beef and topped with tomato sauce.  The stuffed cabbage was one of my most favorite creations for that dinner because the rolls had a unique taste from the fresh herbs and paprika.  Speaking of paprika and this recipe, Hungarians love this spice because it’s the predominant flavor in many of their dishes.  They use both smoked and sweet Paprika.  Sometimes the smoked is spicy, which I like because it imparts a smokier undertone while also spicing up (in heat) a dish.

Chicken paprikash also incorporates fresh peppers and black pepper for additional flavor.

I developed this recipe to please many palettes. Most often, when you read a recipe for chicken paprikash, the paprika and sliced peppers are added to the sauce before slow cooking with the chicken.  I am not a fan of that version because when using chicken thighs, the meat has to cook in the sauce for 20- 25 minutes. This forces the sliced bell peppers to cook in the sauce for far too long yielding a limp, overdone peppers. For those guests that prefer overcooked peppers, by all means, add them with the chicken.  I have learned in testing this recipe that the peppers hold a much better texture and flavor when they are cooked separately.

In the original version, fresh or canned tomatoes are added to the onions.  I bypass this because a large amount of tomatoes overpowers the paprika flavor.  Tomato paste is a concentrated version of tomatoes and better suited to complement the paprika.  The egg noodles, served on the side, are topped with the homemade tomato sauce and therefore offer a much better suited flavor pairing.

Egg noodles are great with this dish but if you’re feeling ambitious I would recommend making Nokedli from scratch.  The recipe is simple using all purpose flour, eggs, salt and water.

Chicken Paprikash
Serves 2

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 chicken thighs, boneless
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon smoked Paprika, spicy kind (you can use non spicy as well)
2 teaspoons Tomato paste
1 cup low sodium Chicken broth*
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
¼ cup yogurt, at room temperature
Egg noodles topped with tomato sauce *(recipe at the bottom)

*low sodium broth is best but if you have regularly broth, adjust your salt in the recipe accordingly

Season chicken thighs on both sides with salt and black pepper.  In a large, 10- 12”, skillet add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil on medium heat.  Add the seasoned chicken to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side.  This is where I get antsy like most of you and try to move the chicken or force it to turn. And this is when our patience is required.  When the chicken is ready to turn, it’ll come off the pan easily but if it isn’t ready, it’ll stick to the pan.  If the chicken is sticking to the pan, don’t try to turn it.

Turn the chicken and cook on the other side for 3 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan onto a plate.

In the same skillet with oil and chicken fat, add diced onions and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent onions from burning.  Stir in minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add a pinch of salt to the onions and garlic.

Then add paprika, tomato paste and all purpose flour.  Cook everything for 45 seconds because you don’t want to burn the garlic and paprika.  Whisk in the chicken broth and whisk vigorously to avoid lumps from forming.  The flour cooked in the oil & fat will want to clump up but whisking the broth constantly will prevent that.  Season with salt and pepper.  Turn heat down to low and add chicken thighs and their juices back to the pan.

Cook the chicken in the sauce on low for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, add the other 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to a nonstick skillet on medium heat.  Add the sliced peppers to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If the peppers are browning too quickly, turn down the heat slightly.  Once cooked, keep the peppers in the pan until ready to serve.

After 20 minutes, temper yogurt with the hot sauce to prevent curdling.  Tempering means to bring the yogurt temperature up to hot by slowly whisking in the sauce.  Curdling means yogurt breaks down when it is added to a hot sauce with hot pan.  In a bowl combine the yogurt and 1 tablespoon of the sauce from the hot pan and whisk.  After that’s mixed, add another tablespoon of sauce to the yogurt.  Do this 3- 4 times to raise the yogurt’s temperature.  After doing this few times, stir the yogurt mixture into the hot pan with chicken and whisk to combine everything.  You’ll see the color of the sauce change to a paler red.

Taste the sauce with chicken for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Quick tomato sauce recipe: Sauté 1 small onion in olive oil for 2 minutes in an 8 inch skillet on medium heat.  Add 1 clove garlic to the onions and cook for 30 seconds.  Add 16 ounce canned tomatoes to the pan with 1 teaspoon of oregano, salt and pepper.  Cook the sauce for 25 minutes on low heat, uncovered.  This is my favorite tomato sauce recipe because it’s quick and in less than 30 minutes has the flavor of slow cooked tomato sauce, nonna style.

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