Growing up, my mom had the same small, square, Schilling can of paprika in her spice drawer for years. She sprinkled it on potato salad and deviled eggs. That was about it. Well, in Hungary ground paprika is rarely pinched or sprinkled; it’s spooned in heaps and scooped. Most Hungarian cooks wouldn’t last a week with my mom’s little spice can. Hungarian kitchens often house jars of it, ranging from sweet to sprout-hair-on-your-chest hot. It’s reported that each Hungarian eats over a pound of the “red gold” a year!
One of my all time favorite Hungarian dishes is chicken paprikash, called paprikás csirke here. Like gulyás and pörkölt, it’s one of the country’s staples. At the end of the 19th century, this colorful, creamy dish became famous outside of Hungary when French chef Georges Escoffier put Poulet au Paprika on the menu at the famed Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo.
Tonight, I’m going to make chicken paprikas for supper. It’s not difficult. Since I can’t send you the leftovers (there never are any when I make it), I’m sending along the recipe instead. If you’ve never tasted paprikás csirke before, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. If you’re Hungarian, who in your life makes the best?
Recipe for Paprikás Csirke from Culinaria Hungary
Ingredients: 1 chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds/1.2 kg); 1 large onion, 2 1/2 tbsp oil; 1 heaping tbsp ground paprika (mild or semisweet); 2 bell peppers (optional); 1 large tomato; 1 2/3 cups/400 ml sour cream; 1-2 tbsp flour: salt
Directions: Divide the chicken into pieces (do not skin). Finely chop the onion. Heat the oil, and gently cook the onion, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, and sprinkle with the ground paprika. Add the chicken pieces and fry over high heat for several minutes. Then reduce the heat, season the chicken with salt, and cover the lid. Remove the seeds from the bell pepers (optional) and slice into rings. Peel, seed, and chop the tomato. Add the pepper rings and chopped tomato to the chicken and cover with the lid. Continue cooking until done, stirring from time to time. In the pan, combine the cream with a little flour, and stir until smooth. Add the sour cream to the reduced juices at the end of the cooking time, and simmer gently for another 4-5 minutes. Serve with plain or quark dumplings. Yum!