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ChickenPaprikas, a set on Flickr.

My former mother-in-law, who celebrated her 90th birthday on September 26, taught me this recipe for chicken paprikas back in the early days of my first marriage. I thought of Vera as I cooked this for John and our friends Amy and Gerry. Vera had acquired the recipe from a Hungarian friend, so its provenance is pretty authentic. Chicken paprikas (POP-rik-OSH) has been a standard in my cooking repertoire for more than 30 years. It took me about that long to figure out that I don’t have to make the flour and egg dumplings (Spätzle), over which this is served, at the same time I’m making the paprikas; I used to resemble a whirling dervish at the stove, juggling all of the different pans required to bring this meal to completion. Now I make the Spätzle the morning of the day I’m serving it, keeping it refrigerated until it’s time for the last step in the assembly process. I’ll post the recipe for Spätzle next Wednesday.

We raised a glass to Vera as we sat down to this marvelous dish. She tells me that she still makes chicken paprikas, even at the age of 90.

Special thanks to The Midlife Second Husband, John Rich, for serving as assistant camera man for this photo shoot!

3 and one-half to 4 pounds chicken parts (legs, thighs, wings, and breasts)*
4 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
Paprika to taste (I use Penzeys’ Hungarian paprika, but if you live near an ethnic grocery store look for authentic Hungarian paprika there.)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
Approximately 1 cup cold water PLUS 1 cup paprikas juice
Approximately 2 cups flour, but add judiciously
Approximately 1 to 1 and one-half cups sour cream

  1. In a large sauté pan, brown chicken parts in canola oil at medium-high heat.
  2. Coat all sides of chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika. (Be generous with the paprika. You want to impart a rich orange color to the sauce.)
  3. After chicken has browned, add the onion and continue to cook for about 15 minutes.
  4. Add cold water to the pan, just enough so it comes up to the sides of the chicken but does not cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered until chicken is cooked. (Test that it’s done by removing the largest piece of chicken and cutting it near the bone. If it’s pink, it goes back on the flame.) It won’t hurt the smaller pieces to continue simmering.
  5. When you’ve determined that the chicken is done, add equal parts flour, water, and paprikas juice to make a thickening paste, whisking constantly to blend. Add the flour paste to the pan and stir it in with a wooden spoon to distribute it evenly throughout the sauce. I use the two-handed approach, wooden spoon in one hand and whisk in the other, to smoothly incorporate the flour into the sauce and get rid of any lumps.
  6. After you’ve added the flour and blended it into a nice thick sauce, add enough sour cream until you’ve achieved your desired consistency. You are going for a creamy sauce, rich in color and flavor.
  7. This can continue to cook, covered or uncovered, until the rest of your meal is ready. Serve over homemade Spätzle or store-bought noodles. You don’t need to ask which starch the Midlife Second Wife prefers. Spätzle will be the topic of next Wednesday’s recipe.

* I’ve combined two schools of thought—whether to have the chicken go au naturel or leave the skin on—to make a third school of thought: remove the skin from about half of the chicken to save on calories (Ha! Like there are none in the sour cream and oil!) and leave the skin on for the other half to boost the flavor.