Hungary Week: Chicken Paprika at home
Part of our motivation to feature the food of a new country each week is to start getting our kids used to the idea that we will be eating a lot of different types of food on the road. Sure, we will bask in the comfort of a Happy Meal from time to time, but we are hell-bent on introducing Paige and Parker to palate-expanding cuisine. We are not going to go all Anthony Zimmerman on them, but we’d like to think kid tastebud limits will be pushed.
We’re having a little fun with it and have created ” food passports” for each of them. When they try a cuisine from a country we are planning to visit, they get a “stamp.” Sorry kids, pizza does not get you an Italian stamp and fries don’t get you a France stamp. Nice try.
For Norway week we went to Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food in Oregon City. For Hungary week, we had a bigger challenge. The closest Hungarian restaurant is 70 miles away. Really?!?! This is Portland. We have to drive for an hour and half for Hungarian food in a city where you can find a restaurant that makes Southern BBQ Korean food? Well then, I guess we’ll have to cook it ourselves.
All of the knowledge I have acquired about Hungarian food and cooking it, has come in the last week from two sources: Wikipedia, of course, and Rick Steves…of course. Well, that’s not entirely true. I vaguely remember our Hungarian exchange student, Agnes, that we hosted for a couple of weeks in high school teaching me the ways of paprika.
Prior to dedicating 12 minutes to the opening section of the Rick Steves podcast, my mental model of Hungarian food was some hodgepodge of Eastern European food, plus bratwurst and schnitzel, and of course paprika. Like a whole bunch of other mental models I have (ask Alyssa), it was 75% wrong . Most of the 25% of “rightness” can be credited to that Hungarian exchange student and paprika.
Hungarians are descendants of the Maygar tribe, a nomadic people who migrated from Russia a long, long time ago. Their nomadic lifestyle and importance on livestock made for meat heavy fare (according to Wikipedia). Another key differentiating characteristic from Eastern European cuisines is that Hungary was a culinary crossroads of sorts and became heavily influenced by Austria, the Balkans, and…wait for it…Turkey (country, not bird). Finally, the topography in Hungary (apparently relatively flat) is perfect for growing peppers and Hungarians got good at growing, drying and crushing it into, you guessed it, paprika.
The quintessential dish of Hungary is goulash, a meat stew spiced with paprika, of course. The runner up dish is chicken paprika which is chicken simmered in a sauce that is heavily spiked with paprika. Noticing a trend? So, when I decided to cook “a quintessential dish from Hungary” for my family I had endless options as long as it was meat and stewed in paprika.
I decide to go with the chicken paprikash on top of egg noodles. Good thing there’s Google because it served up a million recipes and the first one I clicked from NYT Cooking happened to be pretty easy and sounded delicious. I modified it a bit and added a little color (literally). My version is below.
Paige ended up devouring it. Honestly, one of the first times I have ever seen her clear a plate that wasn’t mac n’ cheese, a burger, or some sort of bacon product.
Chicken Paprika Recipe
- 2 pounds drumsticks and boneless chicken thighs (chicken breasts are not ideal)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 – 3/4 large yellow or Spanish onion, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika, sweet or hot, or a combination (the fresher the better)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 package of egg noodles
- 1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/8th cup of cilantro (definitely not traditional, but it added nice color and flavor)
- ¾ cup sour cream (can’t go without)
- Set oven to 400 degrees
- Generously salt and pepper chicken and set aside
- Heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a dutch oven (I used my Finex cast iron because it is awesome) and wait until it is bubbly. Make sure not to burn the butter. If you are worried about burning it you can substitute oil (you’ll lose some of that buttery flavor), or if you are really cool use ghee. Start on skin side down and cook until it is nice and crispy and brown. Flip over and do the same for the other side. Do in batches if necessary and set aside on paper towels when done.
- Keeping the fat in the pan (if it is overwhelming you can remove some), cook the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the paprika and flour mixture and stir well for about a minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and once it comes to a low-level boil, gently place your chicken in the sauciness
- Throw that puppy in the oven for 30 minutes and about half way, add the cup of tomatoes trying not to burn yourself like I did.
- Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil and cook the egg noodles to desired doneness
- Remove chicken from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro, and top egg noodles with plenty of sauce and chicken.
- Scoop a big dollop of sour cream on top and enjoy!
Adapted from NYT Cooking, Chicken Paprikash.
Salt and Pepper the Chicken
A couple of pounds of drumsticks and boneless chicken thighs was a good amount for the four of us. Don’t use breasts, unless you like your chicken dry.
Prep Onion, Garlic and PAPRIKA
Dice your onions, finely chop your garlic and combine flour and paprika
Cook Chicken in Butter or Oil
Cook Onion and Garlic
Cook onions in rendered fat until translucent. Add garlic and paprika/flour mixture. Add crushed tomatoes before adding the chicken back and putting in the oven.