Okay guys, I’ll say it: So far Hungarian food’s a little weird!
I mean that in the most open-minded, loving way possible. But since Hungarians generally don’t have the most variety in produce or ingredients I’ve found a lot of recipes use the same things over and over, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gets super chilly in Hungary so they grow a lot of cold weather produce like cabbage and potatoes. They also use a lot of stuff that can be stored up for winter, hence the smoked sausage and smoked paprika and…shudder…sauerkraut.
The dishes that I usually find tastiest, though, include more fresh ingredients than Hungarian food made in America can include, so I’ve had a little trouble finding recipes that pique my interest. This one, for example, was on the list…but after dilly dallying around making it for a week I realized I don’t really love smoked sausage so I decided to skip it. Is that bad?
Instead I made another Hungarian classic, Chicken Paprikash. And hey! It was really good! Like, eat-it-when-I’m-not-on-a-Hungarian-kick good! We love soups and stewy stuff at my house and this was a nice cold weather rib-sticker. I also made some potato dumplings because I had already bought a whole bag of potatoes for that smoked sausage thing up there. Reduce, reuse, recycle, guys.
1 lb. dark meat chicken (*I used pre-cut, skin-off thigh meat chopped into bite-sized pieces – don’t use white meat…it won’t get tender!)
2 tbsp. butter
1 onion, sliced thin
1 bell pepper, sliced, any color
4-6 tbsp. smoked Hungarian paprika (*do NOT use regular “paprika!”)
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. flour
frozen green peas (*optional)
1.Heat 2 tbsp. butter in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and bell pepper and allow to cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until beginning to brown.
2. Remove the pan from the heat for a few seconds then stir in the paprika. This is important! You don’t want your paprika to burn and taste bitter. Once that’s combined, add in the chicken and put the pan back on the heat. Pour in about 3 cups of chicken stock – enough to cover the ingredients – then cover. Simmer over medium-low heat for about an hour, or until the chicken is very tender.
3. Uncover and allow the paprikash to keep cooking, and if necessary, add more chicken stock to keep it as soupy as you like it. If you’re adding frozen green peas, now’s the time. Meanwhile, stir the sour cream and the flour together in a small bowl. One spoonful at a time, add some paprikash to the sour cream mixture and stir to temper it. Once your paprikash has stopped bubbling (i.e. isn’t boiling lava hot), add in the sour cream mixture. Keeping the heat low will help you avoid “breaking” the sauce!
4. Allow the paprikash to meld together for another few minutes over very low heat while you cook your potato dumplings. The longer you let it cook, the thicker it will get. You can also turn the heat off and cover – it will keep warm for a long time.
Hungarian Potato Dumplings
8 small red potatoes (*Russets work, too)
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour (*you may need more or less depending on moisture content)
3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
Olive oil or butter
1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick each washed potato with a fork a few times and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Allow to cool then peel the skin off with your hands.
2. Using a box grater (or a ricer, if you’ve got one), grate the potatoes. Add the egg yolk and salt to the pile of potatoes then use your hands to combine. It’s gonna be messy! Add the cheese and little by little, sprinkle in the flour and knead until you get a dough that holds together. You may use way more or way less flour depending on the moisture in the potatoes you used. Don’t worry about over-kneading – you want these dumplings to be chewy. And season well – don’t be afraid to salt these guys!
3. With your hands, form small balls of dough – about 1.5″ in diameter is traditional. When you’re ready to cook them (i.e. once your Paprikash is done cooking and ready to be served), get a saucepan of salted water boiling. Drop in your dough balls and flip them frequently; you may need to do this in two batches. They take about 8 minutes or so to cook through and when they’re done they’ll be sticky.
4. Remove the dumplings to a plate and heat 2-3 tbsp. butter or olive oil in the drained saucepan over high heat. Add the dumplings (again, you may need two batches) and allow to brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Serve warm dumplings with Paprikash to ladle over top.