April 8, 2021
Over the years, certain spices have become such well-loved staples in my kitchen that I have learned to make great use of buying in bulk. Housed in neatly labeled mason jars, and taking up several shelves, my collection reflects several millennia of global spice trade. Among my favorites is paprika, whose bright red color and sweet warm spice, adds a distinctive flavor to popular dishes from many cultures. Originating in central Mexico, the peppers used to make paprika made their way to Spain in the 16th century, where they were developed into smokey ground pimentón. From there they traveled south into north Africa and east into central Europe by way of the Ottoman Empire. Today, paprika is available in a colorful range from mild to spicy, smokey to sweet. This cherished Hungarian dish is made with a heap of sweet paprika balanced with tangy sour cream.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large, sweet onion, thin sliced
1 cup sweet red or yellow peppers, thin sliced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons paprika, Hungarian sweet preferred
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups chicken stock
¾ cup sour cream
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Generously season the chicken thighs with salt and black pepper on all sides. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven, or heavy-bottomed pan, over medium heat. Working in batches sear the chicken in the pan, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer browned chicken to plate and set aside.
Add oil to the pan with the onions and peppers. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes till onions are soft and translucent. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon as the onions release moisture, scraping up any browned bits in the pan.
Add the garlic and stir in for 30 seconds until fragrant. Next add the flour, paprika, and salt, stirring to incorporate with the onions and cook the flour for another minute or two. Then pour in the stock and stir well, scraping up any bits at the bottom of the pan and fully dissolving flour. Bring to a simmer. Return chicken, and any accumulated juices, back to the pan, nestling the chicken in between the onions and covering with sauce. Lower heat to medium-low, cover pan, and cook, at a gentle simmer, for 10 to 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
Remove pan from the heat and stir in the sour cream, a spoonful at a time, until fully mixed in. Let chicken rest in the sauce for 15 minutes. Then return to low heat and gently reheat, without letting sauce boil. Check to season, add more salt to taste. Stir in chopped parsley and serve with buttered thick egg noodles, dumplings, or rice. For color, I like to garnish the top with a sprinkle of paprika and more chopped parsley.
Traditionally, this dish is made with sweet Hungarian paprika, but a Spanish pimentón dulce or the generically labeled paprika available in grocery stores also works great. Always up for experimenting, I would like to try this dish next with smoked Spanish paprika for an added twist to the classic.
For a traditional garnish try topping with fresh chopped dill. For brightness, you could add a tablespoon of tomato paste or chopped ripe tomato, at the same time as the onions and peppers.
As they say at the start of a meal in Hungary, jo étvágyat! Enjoy.