Island Bites: Hello, paprika!

CLARK MITCHELL PHOTO | Chicken paprikash.

CLARK MITCHELL PHOTO | Chicken paprikash.

With the reality of winter firmly setting in, my focus in the kitchen turns squarely to stewing and braising. Without the right seasoning, I find that many of these slow-cooked preparations can end up a bit on the bland side. Even a perfectly made beef stew can often leave the taste buds wanting just a bit more action.

I found my answer to this conundrum some years ago when I was invited to my friends’ parents house for dinner. His father was Hungarian, and that night we had paprikás csirke, or chicken paprikash. All I could say was wow. It’s since become my absolute favorite thing to cook in the winter.

Paprika, a ground spice made from dried peppers, is practically the national ingredient of Hungary and is used quite liberally in numerous preparations. It is often smoked, which packs on even more flavor and aroma than the sweet or hot variations. In cooking with paprika, I like using combinations of both the sweet and smoked kinds. I think it adds a nice complexity and depth to whatever I’m cooking. Try to get the best paprika you can find. And if you have an old container of it from the 1990s still kicking around, throw it out and splurge on some fresh stuff.

The end result of cooking chicken paprikash is a luscious, rich sauce that’s crimson in color and bursting with flavor. Start with a good chicken, and let the paprika do the rest of the talking.

STEVE BAGINSKI PHOTO | Chef David Lapham

STEVE BAGINSKI PHOTO | Chef David Lapham

Egg noodles or rice make great sides to chicken paprikash.

Bon appetit!

Chicken Paprikash

Serves 4 to 6

1 3-pound chicken, cut into parts

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 medium onions, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons flour

½ cup white wine

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

¼ cup sour cream

Fresh chopped dill for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it smokes slightly. Add chicken, skin side down, and sauté until brown before turning, about 10 minutes total. Brown chicken in batches if pot isn’t large enough to hold parts without touching. Lower heat if necessary during cooking so as to not burn the chicken Remove chicken and set aside on a plate.

Add onions and garlic to the pot and cook in the residual oil and chicken fat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add paprika, tomato paste and flour and cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Add the wine and chicken stock, stirring to collect any brown bits.

Bring to a simmer.

Add chicken pieces back to the pot along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Place pot into the preheated oven for one hour. Remove pot from oven and stir in the sour cream.  Taste sauce and add salt if needed. Garnish with fresh dill and serve over egg noodles or rice.

Chef’s note: In my photo, I went one step further by removing the chicken at the very end and blending the sauce with an immersion blender. I then poured the sauce over the chicken. This isn’t necessary but results in a smooth sauce and a slightly elevated presentation. 

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