Monday, January 6, 2014

Chicken Paprikash

Chicken Paprikash

Maybe 12 years ago, I asked my grandmother for a recipe because I wanted to start cooking. She provided me with the following 3x5  card along with a litany of advice I didn't understand.

I had enjoyed her Chicken Paprikash in the past, but my attempt to recreate it consistently fell short of expectations. This was not a huge surprise as my grandmother has always been a fantastic cook and my skills had previously topped out with a mediocre preparation of Kraft Deluxe Mac and Cheese.

Well, as time has passed and I have spent more time educating myself, my thoughts have often returned to that dish. With a foot of snow on the ground, temps below zero, and a roaster in the fridge, it seemed like high time to give Chicken Paprikash another go.

So, I did.

I started with Grandma Dorothy's recipe, again. I suspect this recipe comes from a 1950's women's magazine for a few reasons- not the least of which it calls for me to brown yellow onions in shortening. I am not a terribly religious person, but this particular instruction presented me with a moral line I just could not cross. And I know from some experience with some of my grandmother's other recipes, my Grandma Dorothy used these recipes as rough parameters rather strict instruction. So I decided to research a bit on the interwebs. I read some Martha Stewart and some Saveur, found some amateur blogs and then rounded that out with some ideas from Chris Kimball and the girls. Then ultimately, I made some changes of my own volition- maybe because I am presently obsessed with shallots.


1 fat roaster chicken (broken into 8 pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast cutlets)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped fine
2 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup sweet paprika (A LOT more than Grandma Dorothy ever tolerated)
2 tablespoons AP flour
cups chicken broth (or see Steps 1 and 2 for some stock)
¾ cup sour cream (or see Step #, if it is 10 below zero and you realize you have to make your own)

The first couple of steps are not entirely necessary under normal conditions. But with Ann Arbor a deadly snowy hellscape, there was no way I was going out to get chicken stock. With the opportunity available, I decided to try a dark chicken stock, which I hoped would ultimately give the sauce a little more body.

Step 1:

Separate bones from the carcass and place in a single layer in a roasting container. Brush bones with tomato paste and place in the oven preheated to 350 for 1.5-2 hours (being careful to deeply brown the bones and remaining meat but not to burn so as to avoid the stock becoming bitter and acrid).

Step 2:

Removed the roasted bones and add to an empty stock pan. Add cold water to cover. Place on medium low heat. Add bones to simmering water with peppercorns, celery, carrots, 1/2 onion, and bay leaf for 4-6 hours skimming fat as necessary. Strain and reserve stock.

Step 3:

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. In a bowl, whisk 2 cups of flour and 1 tsp. salt. Form a well in the center. Add egg and ½ cup water to the well. Stir to form a dough. Knead in bowl until smooth (10ish minutes). Pinch walnut-size portions from the dough ball and delicately play into the pot. Boil dumplings until tender, 6–8 minutes (let them float for a bit). Drain dumplings and rinse in cold water; cover with a tea towel and set aside.

Step 4:

Dredge chicken lightly in flour. In a dutch oven on medium high heat, brown the chicken in oil. When browned, remove chicken from dutch oven and set aside.

Step 5:

Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the rendered schmaltz. Add minced shallots to the dutch oven and lightly brown. When shallots are lightly browned, stir in garlic, tomato paste, paprika,(optional chili flakes to taste), and flour to make a roux. Cook until fragrant and until the flour is slightly darker than blonde (about 1 minute). Slowly stir in stock (being careful to also de-glaze the fond from the bottom of the pot) and bring to a low simmer.

Step 6: Reduce heat to a very low simmer and add chicken, nestling the chicken in the sauce so as to allow for maximum coverage. Slowly braise chicken to internal temp of 160.

Step 7: This is totally optional, but I was pretty happy with the results. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice to a cup of heavy cream. Whisk vigorously until cream thickens and then fold in a good pinch of kosher salt. This is probably not worth the effort normally, but as noted above Ann Arbor was about 2 degrees Kelvin and my fridge was devoid of sour cream. This quick fix gave the sauce what it needed, but also provided a nice, light way to enrich the sauce.

Step 8: Brown butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add dumplings and chopped, flat leaf parsley. Toss until browned, fragrant, and awesome.

Step 9: Remove dutch oven from heat and add in dumplings. Stir in sour cream until incorporated and season with salt and some freshly cracked black pepper.

Plate with the dumplings and garnish with flat leaf parsley.

Diagnosis? Delicious!

This has a dominant, but nice sweet paprika taste with its slight bitterness offset by the tomato paste. The rendered schmaltz gave the sauce a nice velvety sheen without making it too heavy. Next time, I may do a lighter dumpling (as my grandmother always did). I am very pleased with the overall results, except that it is missing that illusive grandma characteristic. But I suppose that is to be expected.

I'd love to hear any comments and/or suggestions.