by Kate Heyhoe
Paprika, lard and onions—these are known as the holy trinity of Hungarian cooking. Indeed, Hungary is believed to be the first place where paprika was used in quantity as the singular spice of a dish, cooked in its dried, powdered form and not as the fresh pepper from which it is made. Other countries, including Spain, Italy, and Turkey, began using the spice sometime after Columbus' adventures in the New World, but always as a mere addition to other spices.
It was not until the mid-19th century that a mechanical technique was developed for removing the veins and seeds of the dried peppers, thus eliminating the source of the fiery flavors and producing "sweet" paprika. This revolutionized Hungarian cooking, for it allowed more of the paprika flavor to be tasted but with less of the spicy heat.
This dish, Chicken Paprikás, has been eaten in Hungary and throughout the finer tables of the world since at least the early 19th century, making it a true culinary classic. It is hard to improve upon such a timeless recipe, and the only other way this dish is commonly served is with the omission of the sour cream. At that point, it is still a classic, for it becomes Chicken Pörkolt, an equally famous paprika-based dish and one of the most traditional of Hungarian stews.
Regardless of whether you serve the chicken as a "paprikás" or a "pörkolt," either dish will seem naked without the addition of egg dumplings or egg noodles on the side. As a further homage to tradition, serve the meal with a pickled or fresh cabbage salad.
*NOTE: You may substitute chicken breasts, thighs or other cuts of your choice. White meat requires less cooking time than dark meat. Also, the chicken may be cooked with or without the skin, according to your taste.
Heat the oil or butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper strips, paprika, marjoram, cayenne and salt. Cook until the vegetables are slightly limp, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the chicken pieces, spooning some of the vegetables and sauce over each piece. Cover and simmer over low heat until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Degrease the stew. Stir the flour into the sour cream and add to the chicken. Simmer 5 minutes, uncovered. Serve the chicken pieces topped with the vegetables and gravy and sprinkled with minced parsley.
Serve this chicken and sauce over egg noodles with a side of green cabbage salad or crisply steamed green beans.
This page originally published in 1994 as part of The Global Gourmet Cookbook.
Copyright © 1994-2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified January 2007
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