Thursday, February 27, 2003

Chicken Paprikash

Let's start things off right: chicken paprikash. If you can't cook chicken paprikash, you can't cook Hungarian. Everyone makes this dish a bit different. After sampling many different people's versions, I've come to the conclusion ...mine is the best. By the way, if you have a recipe with garlic in it, it isn't Hungarian. Follow these simple steps, and you too can wow your taste buds. I figured I'd start off with the greatest/simplest one first. If you can't follow this recipe don't even attempt to try any future recipes. Ready? Go!

Step 1: In your favorite cast iron dish, saute 1 diced medium onion and 1 Hungarian pepper in a thin coat of olive oil. (Note: I've noticed that Hungarian peppers are not available throughout this great country of ours. In California, use an Anaheim. In Florida, use a banana pepper. In Denver they call them waxed yellows. But if available choose the Hungarian above all other choices) (More about peppers: you can change the heat content of the dish by removing the seeds/veings inside the pepper. I like a kick: I take the seeds out and keep the veins, chopped up.)

Step 2: As my mother said, you can never add too much paprika. I've taken this message to the extreme. Once the onions are golden brown, add up to a fourth of a cup of Hungarian paprika and stir. I like to add a couple cups of water.

Step 3: This is where I differ from most traditional recipes. I hate bones. I hate looking at them, I hate seeing them, and more than anything else, I hate crunching down on a piece of bone while I'm enjoying my meal. So, I add 4 cubed boneless skinless chicken breasts. Next add some salt and pepper. Add 2 cubed ripe tomatoes and let the whole thing cook on medium high for 30-50 minutes. (Side note: I like to add extra water and extend the cooking time, allowing the moisture to bring in the flavors inside the chicken. REDUCE, REDUCE, REDUCE.) During this reduction, make dumplings. More on this later.

Step 4: Once the liquid reaches a stew-like consistency, you're ready to eat. Just before serving, add 3 heaping, heaping, heaping spoonfuls of sour cream and get ready for the simplest & most heavenly delight on this planet. Serve with the dumplings.

How to make the dumplings
Making dumplings is an art form. Whatever you do, don't just follow this recipe to the letter. If you do, you will surely fail. The proportion of water to flour depends on external condition that is beyond my control and will change every time. But here's my best shot.

In a large mixing bowl add 2 eggs. This never changes.
Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well.
Add ABOUT a cup and a half of hot water.
Mix together.
Now the tricky part. Add enough flour so it's gooey and sticks to your wooden spoon, but nowhere close to being pasta-ish. So, start by adding about 2 cups of flour and mix; incorporate well - work those forearms! Keep on adding flour until your spoon can retain the dough but isn't stringy. But don't worry - if you go too far, add more hot water.
Let dough sit while chicken paprikash is cooking. If this is your first time making dumplings, err more towards more flour than not. Granted your dumplings will be heavier but that's better than them falling apart. I know I'm making this sound like rocket science but it really isn't that hard.
Get a big pot of boiling water. Spoon in small spoonfuls of dough. After adding the last spoonful, cook for about 3 minutes more.
Strain. Add some oil and butter, and serve. :)

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