Ever since I first though about starting a blog I knew that the first post would be my favorite dish - Chicken Paprikash, or as I know it, paprikás csirke. It's the dish that most vividly reminds me of my childhood- those cold days when my family would sit around the table and eat a big bowl (or two) of this hearty dish. Once the meat and spaetzle was gone, my mom would take out a loaf of freshly baked bread and a huge fight would ensue between my sister and I over who gets the crusty end of the loaf. We would then clean out our bowls better than any dishwasher ever could.
The first time I had a big group of friends over for dinner here in the U.S., I cooked them our family's paprikash recipe. Some of them heard of it before, some of them didn't, but everyone loved it. They loved it so much that I didn't even get leftovers which never happened to me before. And given that Eastern Europeans cook huge portions and a minimum of 3 dishes that’s saying something. The first cooking lesson my grandma ever taught me was that everything tastes better if cooked in big batches.
Many variation of this dish have evolved as it wandered its way out of Hungary, but a traditional paprikash is made with whole pieces of chicken (bones in), Hungarian waxed peppers, onions, sour cream, and of course a lot of Hungarian paprika.
I can't emphasize enough on how important the Hungarian paprika is to this dish. Its name translates to chicken with paprika. So before you ask me if you can substitute the Hungarian paprika with a different type, the answer is absolutely not. Do you think the Hungarians would name paprika their national spice if there wasn't something special and unique about it? It's not that hard to find and if you get to choose, go with the one from the town of Szeged.
Traditionally the paprikash is served with nokedli, the Hungarian variation of spaetzle, but it also can be served with mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes or fresh bread. Hungarians are very proud of their cuisine, so don’t go trying to ask for spaetzle if you find yourself in Hungary.
The secret of a good nokedli is the eggs. My mom taught me to add 1 egg for each cup of flour. That will make the nokedli rich and tasty and it will give it a beautiful yellow color. The parsley is a little twist that I added to the traditional recipe. If you don't like parsley you can omit it, or replace it with finely chopped spinach or kale.
The dish itself is very simple and comforting and it will fill your home with its rich, fragrant aroma on a cold day. So what are you waiting for? Go make it yourself before the warm summer days get here.
Jó étvágyat (bon appétit)!
Hungarian Chicken Paprikash with parsley nokedli
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 75 minutes
- 4 TBS canola oil (for best flavor, use duck fat or lard)
- 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 TBS Hungarian paprika
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
- 2 TBS chicken stock
- 3 pounds chicken (thighs, drums, wings, breast)
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp caraway seeds, ground (or cumin)
- 1 TBS Hungarian pepper paste (Erős Pista or Red Gold), optional
- 3 Hungarian waxed peppers, chopped
- 2 tomatoes (or 2 TBS tomato paste), chopped
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- salt, to taste
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tsp peanut oil
- 4 eggs (pasture-raised is best)
- 1.5 cups water
- 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 1 TBS butter
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 black pepper, freshly ground
- Heat up a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, duck fat or lard and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is shimmering add the chopped onions and saute for 5 minutes until the onions become translucent. Ensure that the onions don't get burned by mixing them often.
- Take the pot off the heat and add the paprika, salt and pepper. Stir well.
- Add garlic to the mix and return the pot to the stove. Reduce the heat to medium and add a 2 tablespoons of stock. Cook for about 5 minutes until the broth evaporates.
- Add the chicken to the pot. Mix well and make sure the fragrant mix coats well each piece of chicken. Brown the chicken for about 5 minutes.
- Add thyme, bay leaves, cumin, Hungarian pepper paste (if using), waxed peppers and tomato. Stir and add the remaining stock. It should almost cover the chicken. If it doesn't or if you'd like more sauce, feel free to add more broth.
- Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and then reduce the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes stirring it gently every now and then.
- This is the time when you can move on to prepare the nokedli.
- When the chicken is done you'll see the meat falling off the bone. That's when you temper the sour cream by transferring one spoon at a time of hot gravy from the chicken to the bowl of cream. You want to slowly raise the temperature of the sour cream. This way you prevent the sour cream from curdling when added to the hot chicken. Once tempered, you pour the sour cream mixture into the pot and stir to combine.
- Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
- Bring everything to a quick boil and then remove from the stove. It's ready!
- In a bowl combine flour, salt, pepper, oil and the eggs.
- Slowly add water to the flour mix until you reach a smooth and thick consistency for the dough. The dough should flow easily, but shouldn't be runny. I usually use a whisk to avoid lumps in the dough.
- Mix in the finely chopped parsley. If parsley isn't your thing you can replace it with spinach or greens/herbs of your preference.
- In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a good amount of salt and 1 tsp oil. Don't sweat too much over the amount of salt you add. The primary reason for adding salt to the water is to reduce the gelation of the starch in the nokedli. Adding flavor to it is just a side effect.
- Use your choice of spaetzle making tool to drop the dumplings into the boiling water. My mother used to make them with a teaspoon, but I'm lazy and prefer to use a spaetzle maker. A grater or potato ricer will work as well though.
- The nokedli is cooked when they float to the surface, so use a fine sieve to scoop the cooked ones from the pot. Make sure not to overcook them, because their taste and texture change when overcooked . Normally it shouldn't take more than 2-3 minutes to float to the surface, but then it all depends on their size.
- Drain well and move to a bowl.
- Add butter while they are still warm and sprinkle fresh ground pepper and salt all over them.
It is important that you add the paprika when the pot is off the heat because it burns very easy and that's when it becomes bitter.