Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chicken Paprikash

I don't know about you but when I hear the word "paprikash" I immediately think of the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally. You know the scene — no, not the famous deli scene — I'm referring to the one just before Billy Crystal asks Meg Ryan out for the first time. Crystal is talking with a silly accent, encouraging Ryan to repeat everything he says in a similar voice.

Crystal: Repeat after me. Pepper.
Ryan: Pepper.
Crystal: Pepper.
Ryan: Pepper.
Crystal: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Ryan: Waiter, there is too much pepper...
Crystal: On my paprikash.
Ryan: On my paprikash.
Crystal: But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.

Can you picture it? Regardless, what (you might ask) has When Harry Met Sally got to do with this recipe? Well, believe it or not this was the first time that I had ever heard the word "paprikash". Prior to that I didn't even know it existed. Then, a couple of months later, I was at an eastern European restaurant and there, on the menu, was Chicken Paprikash. So, of course, I had to try it. And it was wonderful.

Since then I have tried a few variations at home and this recipe is the end result.

• ½ cup flour
• 2 tbsp sweet paprika (Hungarian)
• salt to taste
• black pepper to taste
• 3-4 chicken breasts cut into bit-size pieces
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, sliced or diced
• 1 tbsp smoked paprika
• 2 tbsp sweet paprika (Hungarian)
• ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
• 2 large tomatos, diced + ¼ cup tomato juice (or 540 ml can diced tomato)
• 2 cups (or more) chicken broth
• 1 cup sour cream

• large, deep sided frying pan or dutch oven
• Wooden spoon (or a heat proof spoon/spatula)
• Large bowl, ceramic or glass preferred
• Colander or spätzle maker (optional)

Combine the the first four ingredients (flour, paprika, salt and black pepper). Cut up the chicken and dredge in the flour mixture. Reserve the remaining flour mixture.

Using a large fry pan or dutch oven set to medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Once browned remove chicken and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil to the pot. Cook the onion until tender (partially transparent). Then add the cayenne, smoked paprika, sweet paprika and a little salt. Mix thoroughly.

Return the chicken to the pot and add the diced tomato/tomato juice (or canned tomatoes). Add enough chicken broth to cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer for approximately 40 minutes.

At this point you should put on a pot of boiling water to prepare whatever noodle you plan to serve with the chicken. I like orzo or spätzle but any small pasta will do. Put the pasta in just before the 40 minutes is up.

If you are making spätzle you should mix the following in a glass bowl - 2/3 cup flour or semolina and 1 egg - mix thoroughly until the flour is moistened through, then add 1/4 cup warm water, and stir briskly. Let the mixture sit for 25 mintues.

About 5 minutes before serving use a spätzle maker or a metal colander and force the mixture through the holes and into the boiling water (don't get to close to the boiling water or the steam might cause the mixture to start cooking before it drops through the holes, clogging up the colander). Once the "noodles" float to the top remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl with a little unsalted butter.

Combine ½ cup of the sour cream with two tbsp of the reserved flour/paprika coating. Put a couple of tbsp of the liquid from the pot and whisk until smooth. Add to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes (if you are making spätzle, start dropping it into the boiling water now).

If the paprikash is too thick add a little chicken broth and stir. The paprikash should be thick enough that it will cling to the noodles but not so thick that you cannot pour it... like a good gravy.

Serve the paprikash over the noodles/spätzle and add a tablespoon of sour cream to the top, if you're feeling decorative.

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