Monday, January 4, 2010

First day back to work comfort food

I hate going back to work after a long weekend. It makes me behave like a whiny kid being dragged out of bed to get to school. I had wanted to plan a lunch trip to the Farmer's Market for something to look forward to, but I couldn't bare to go outside in the freezing twenty degree temperature we're having. So when I got home Monday night sans fresh produce and craving a home-cooked meal, no one had to convince me that what I needed was some good old-fashioned comfort food for dinner, something like my grandma would make. For me, comfort food is often simple Eastern-European influenced American food, which is what my grandma mostly cooks. Two of the quintessential staples in my grandma's kitchen are paprika (the only spice she uses besides salt, despite my pleading for change) and egg noodles. I quickly realized I needed a recipe for paprika chicken.

I phoned Grandma. "Hello, Ma? You've made paprika chicken, right?" Being that I remember the red stuff sprinkled on everything, it's hard to be sure what I was eating at times. She confirmed she had, but not in a long-time. When I asked if she recalled how, she replied, "Well, you take a lot of onions and put them on the bottom of the pan, and place the chicken on that, and then cover it with water and cook it for an hour." "Ah, yes", I thought, the fundamental cooking technique of my grandma's food, was take some type of meat (roast beef, brisket, turkey, anything really), water and onions and let simmer for an hour. You can vary this with ketchup or paprika for flavor, but it doesn't matter the results always taste the same. This isn't to say she isn't filled with all sorts of amazing wisdom and strength, much of which I have yet to master, but recipes are maybe best left to the internet.

The internet didn't fail me and I found a wonderful looking recipe, from one of my favorite food bloggers, Joy the Baker, that was exactly what I had in mind. It used sweet Hungarian paprika, chicken thighs, large amounts of onions, and sour cream. It was served over egg noodles. I was starving the second I saw it. And, thankfully it delivered. It was old-fashioned, and filling in that eating at grandma's kind of way (when grandma does some of her better dishes, like chicken soup). It is great winter food, every bit as warming as a bowl of soup. The only thing I would try to do differently next time is add a bit of smoked paprika along with the sweet for a sauce that wasn't so mild. Not that mild is a bad thing in this type of dish, perfect for a rough Monday when you're faced with returning to the grind.

Paprika Chicken
Recipe adapted (very little) from

2 - 2 1/4 lbs. chicken thighs, with skins and bones
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cups of onions, finely chopped (about 2 small ones)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sweet Hungarian paprika (or a mixture of sweet and smoky or sweet and hot)
1 14oz. can of whole tomatoes, drained¤
1/2 cup of chicken broth or water
1 1/2 teaspoons of all-purpose flour, mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
2 tablespoons of sour cream, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons of parsley, chopped

Pat chicken dry. Remove skin and reserve. Heat oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot, then cook skin until it renders about 1/4 cup fat. Remove chicken and set aside.

Cook onion with salt in fat in pot over moderately high heat, covered, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if necessary, until onion is very tender but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and broth, stirring vigorously to break up tomatoes. Add chicken and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Simmer, uncovered, until chicken is just cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Check by cutting a small incision and making sure it's not pink. (Note: My chicken took longer than 10 minutes).

Stir flour mixture and stir into sauce. Simmer, stirring, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. If sauce is still not thick enough, you can always, add a touch more flour/water mixture.

Remove from heat, then season with salt and stir in 2 tablespoons sour cream. Serve, sprinkled with parsley, over egg noodles.


Morta Di Fame said...

Love this! My German friend made it for me. Called it Chicken Goulash and put in 4 onions. So good!

Jen said...

Thanks! I think there are a lot of similar dishes from this region of the world. I think the original version of this is called Chicken Paprikash, but that would be served with Spaetzle or dumplings.

joy the baker said...

lovely!! this is my go to chicken recipe! i'm glad you liked it!