Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cooking: Paprika Chicken

I've been thinking about some variation on Chicken Paprikash for awhile now (heaven knows why) and then an adaptation of a James Beard recipe showed up in the morning newspaper. I trust James Beard. I like the simplicity of his recipes and the emphasis on clean flavors, so I decided to give it a try.

First, the recipe (with additional modifications by me):

Paprika Chicken
serves 4

1 cut-up frying chicken (I used a free-range one; total weight 2.75 pounds)
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt (if using table or sea salt, use 1 1/4 teaspoons)
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons canola or other mild vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons sweet paprika (I used half regular sweet and half smoked sweet)
2 medium onions, chopped (I used sweet onions; use whatever kind you like)
scant 1/2 Cup tomato juice, or 2 Tablespoons tomato paste mixed with 1/4 Cup water
2/3 Cup sour cream (I used crème fraîche)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pat the chicken dry, then season with the salt. It might seem like a lot, but you don't add any other salt to the dish, so it's important.

In a large sauté pan with a lid, combine butter and oil over medium heat. While it's heating up, measure out the paprika into a small bowl so you can dump it all in at once. When the butter/oil is hot, pour in the paprika and stir constantly for 1 minute.

Place the chicken pieces in a single layer, skin side down, in the pan and brown for 4 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side for 4 minutes. It should be a beautiful golden mahogany brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the chopped onions and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice, then lay the chicken pieces on top, skin side up. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream and flour, then add the mixture to the liquid in the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

I served the chicken with egg noodles tossed with a little butter, caraway seeds, and black pepper. Put a little pile of peas on the plate as well.

Verdict: quite good and satisfying. There is a definite richness even before the sour cream, perhaps from the paprika itself, without any one flavor being too dominant. The preparation also did not overwhelm the flavor of the chicken itself, which was nice. I will definitely make this again. There was enough sauce that it could have been served on the noodles as well, and some of it did manage to get mixed up with them on my plate. How did that happen?

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