If you didn’t get that pun, then you need to go see Captain America: Civil War (like seriously, close this tab and hie thee down to your megaplex). In the movie, Vision attempts to cheer up Wanda by preparing her Chicken Paprikash (which they presumably have in her eastern European country of PlotPointovia). Having never eaten food before, he’s not a very good cook and adds a pinch of some red substance which Wanda describes as: “I don’t know what that is, but it is not paprika”. (Then things and shenanigans and plot happen, but spoilers . . . . .)
There’s two problems with Vision’s version of the dish: One, whatever it was that wasn’t paprika in the paprikash. Two, maybe a properly hulked out Banner could add an appropriate amount of paprika with a pinch, but not those of us with the fingers of mere mortals.
Even though we are beginning the throes of summer proper here in Austin, I’ve been craving this stick-to-your ribs Hungarian meal ever since seeing Civil War. And I’m not the only one, even Saveur was geeking out about it.
The key to this recipe, as Wanda Maximoff would be fast to point out, is paprika. It is the main flavoring of this dish. If you know paprika as the flavorless red dust you use to decorate deviled eggs, then it’s time to go buy some new paprika. It is probably worth it to visit your local spice store like Penzey’s or maybe the bulk section of your megamart to get some fresh paprika. You need to get it someplace that has a lot of turnover of their stock. Paprika is only available pre-ground so it loses its flavor quickly; buy it from someplace you can smell it first. A bottle from the baking section is going to be the flavorless red powder, and that would be sad.
Paprika comes in Spanish and Hungarian varieties. The Hungarians like to sun-dry their capsicums and this produces sweet paprika. The Spanish prefer to roast it over a fire to make smoked paprika. Paprika can also be very mild or very spicy. You can mix and match types of paprika to get the final taste you like. (Generally though, when a recipe does not specify what kind of paprika to use, opt for sweet Hungarian paprika.)
To really bring out the best of the paprika’s flavor profile, you need to toast it. We’ll get to that in the recipe below.
Enough words! Let’s cook!
This recipe is based on J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s that you can find at his website Serious Eats.
Procs: Theoretically enough for 4 Rangers if served over noodles or dumplings
Time: About two hours, mostly unattended
Difficulty: Some attention required
- Yet another Dutch oven recipe -OR-
- You could possibly get away with a large, deep, lidded skillet with straight sides
- 2 lbs of chicken legs – skin on and bone-in (You could use split breasts but . . . . why?)
- 1-2 tbsp butter (or oil)
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 3 Tbsp of paprika (I use 2 of sweet Hungarian and 1 of smoked Spanish)
- 1 Tsp of cayenne or hot paprika
- 1 Cup of chicken stock
- 1 packet of unflavored gelatin (the SECRET WEAPON)
- Dash of fish sauce
- Lemon juice
- 1 Cup of Sour Cream (more for garnish – I like lots of sour cream)
- Kosher salt
- Pat the chicken dry and salt it. Heat the butter or oil in your cooking vessel on medium heat. (Oil will give you more tasty sear on the chicken, but butter goes better with onions, in my not so humble opinion). Once the butter is bubbling, place the chicken skin side down to sear, about three minutes. When the skin is Golden, Brown, and Delicious (GBD), flip it and cook the meat side until it is GBD, another three minutes.
- DEPLOY THE SECRET WEAPON: While the chicken is cooking, pour the envelope of gelatin in the chicken stock. Give it a quick stir to combine and set aside. (This is “blooming” the gelatin, it will need at least 5-10 minutes to sit and bloom.)
- Extract the chickens and set them aside. Put the onions in in the pot, add a pinch of salt, and cook them until they are translucent and a bit brown. This will probably take about seven minutes.
- Pour the paprika and cayenne into the pot with the onions. Stir until the onions are coated with paprika and it starts to smell nutty and tasty, about one minute.
- Pour in the chicken stock mixture and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom with a wooden spoon. Once you’re done deglazing, nestle the chicken into the onions. Pour in any accumulated chicken juices.
- Bring up to a simmer and put the lid on it. Let simmer for at least an hour, turning the chicken once. The chicken should be fork-tender. You can simmer it longer if you want to shred the chicken.
- When the chicken is done, take the pot off the heat and set it aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken. Put the sour cream in a separate bowl. Add a few dashes of the fish sauce and lemon juice. Temper the sour cream (to keep it from separating) by taking a scoop of the paprikash sauce and putting it in the sour cream sauce, mix well. Pour the sour cream mixture into the pot and stir to combine into sauce.
- You may wish to remove the skins of the chickens; they’re tasty, but they can be a bit gummy due to the braise. Dish up the onions and set the chicken on top. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream.
Serving Suggestion: The traditional way of serving this dish is over spaetzle or egg noodles. Toss the cooked starchy element with the oniony sauce and then top with the chicken. Colin and I usually eat grain free at home so we’ll just dish it up as a stew (which is why it only serves two when I make it at home).
ProTip: Homemade beef and chicken stocks are obviously better than store bought. They are deeper in flavor and higher in gelatin. Gelatin from the bones is what gives these homemade stocks a rich sensation and velvety mouthfeel. That being said, sometimes you don’t have it on hand or have eight hours to make it. But say, you’ve got a pretty good box of stock from the megamart and you’ve got a packet of unflavored . . . . gelatin. Combine the two and you get like 90% of the way to imitating a really good scratch made stock.