Hickety pickety, my paprikash hen…Chicken and Mushroom Paprikash

We’re back from our trip to Florida and it is suddenly cold here. I know you probably aren’t feeling too sympathetic to my complaint especially since we were warm and basking in the Florida sunshine merely days ago. But now we are cold, have finally seen some snow (which turned to freezing rain and then melted again) and are being treated to a not-so-nice few days forecasted ahead. Emma’s take on things here: “Mummy, our garden looks terrible. It really needs some work!” She’s right – we don’t have the varied red and golden leaves of fall blowing about nor do we have the fresh green growth of spring back there right now.

Paprikas Csirke Gombaval - Chicken Paprikash w Mushrooms

Seems like a good time to dig out some cozy sweaters and cook up a few comforting dishes for the last hurrahs of winter. Well, that and close our eyes to the dreadful looking garden!

When I was young, my mother would make a few dishes in particular during this type of weather. Like chicken paprikash with fresh dumplings (aka nokedli). Seasoned with paprika we would bring back from our visits to Hungary. I used to love it then and I still do. As a result, I thought it would be a perfect dish to introduce to Emma. As did my mother – who made it for her when she was about a year old. And to my mother’s delight, Emma enthusiastically gobbled it up.

My mother’s modern day paprikás csirke (aka chicken paprikash) has a bit of a spin on the traditional by adding mushrooms to it. In fact, when we need a vegan version of the dish, it can be made with mushrooms and vegetable broth rather than with chicken. She also uses lots of paprika (which we have no trouble sourcing here now available in most European delicatessens and grocers) and when it’s only for the adults, we add a healthy spoonful of Eros Pista, a hot paprika paste. In our household, we’ve opted to use olive oil (rather than animal fat) for sauteing the onions and garlic. Also, G and Emma are not fans of sour cream so rather than mix it into the dish, I add a dollop on top of mine and leave theirs dairy-free.

After eating (and subsequently cooking with) paprika for my entire life, I recently learned a few interesting tidbits about this well-known Hungarian spice. The flavour and colour are released only once it has been added to hot fat. You can sprinkle it over dishes as garnish, but this will provide it only with the colour rather than change the flavour much.  And an important note, don’t burn the paprika when adding it to your cooking. Yes, it can burn easily – permeating your kitchen with a not-so-appetizing smell and releasing a very bitter flavour into your dish.

All that being said, this dish is delicious, very easy to make and ends up with a deep and rich reddish-orange colour. It can be served over homemade dumplings, or rice, potatoes or noodles – your choice based on your taste and time constraints.  Either way, it will bring a little sunshine to your wintry/wet/whatever weather-we-are-seeing-these-days table.

Chicken and Mushroom Paprikash (Paprikás Csirke Gombával)

(serves 8)

Chicken and Mushrooms:

  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika
  • 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3 or 4 pieces each
  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 5-10 cremini or button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 3-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup red wine (like this Hungarian pinot noir)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sour cream (optional)
  • hot paprika paste (like Eros Pista) (optional)

Dumplings (nokedli):

  • 12 cups of cold water, well salted
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2-2 cups cold water

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot. Dredge chicken in flour mixture and brown on all sides. Remove chicken to a bowl and set aside.

In the same pot, heat remaining oil and soften onions and garlic, about 7-10 minutes. Add paprika and stir, coating the onions well. If the mixture seems very dry, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of broth to keep it from sticking. Next, add the mushrooms and chicken to the pot. Pour wine and enough broth to just cover the chicken in the pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer on medium heat, covered but with the lid open slightly, for 45 minutes to an hour or so remembering to stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the chicken is tender, in a separate pot, bring the salted water to a boil. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and flour and slowly add enough water to make a wet, thick lumpy dough. When the water is boiling, divide the batter in half and add it by the teaspoonful to the pot (or instead, use a spatzle maker). Let the dumplings cook until they float to the top of the pot and then wait one more minute. (This is a good time for a taste test, to ensure that they are done). Using a slotted spoon, remove this batch of dumplings from the water and set aside. Repeat with the second batch.

When all the dumplings are cooked and drained, serve the chicken over top of the dumplings with a dollop of sour cream, if desired. Enjoy!

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