Vera’s Spatzle, a set on Flickr.
This recipe is so simple, and the results so incredibly delicious, that you’ll want to serve it with more than Chicken Paprikas—I imagine it would be a fine accompaniment to Hungarian Goulash, for example, or beef short ribs—anything that seems to call out for a comforting side dish such as this.
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
Boiling, salted water
One large yellow onion, chopped
4-6 tablespoons salted butter
Kosher salt and pepper
Beat the eggs and the salt until frothy. (I find that my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer is ideal for this task—it’s less ergonomically stressful than using a hand-mixer. I use the flat beater, not the whisk.) Add the flour in increments, beating well after each addition. You will reach a point when you’ll need to stir in the last additions of flour until the mixture hangs to the spoon. (If you take a look at the photo gallery, you’ll see two pictures with a utensil that resembles a carpet beater. I bought this at Laurel Run, a wonderful cooking school in Vermilion, Ohio, not far from Oberlin, where I used to live. I find it’s a great tool to use when working with heavy doughs. A wooden or metal spoon will work just fine, though.)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt.
After years of experimenting, this is the best technique I’ve stumbled upon: using a small silicone spatula, scoop up some of the dough and, with a spoon or a knife, cut the dough into the pot of boiling water. The silicone helps the dough slide off and into the water more easily than using a metal spoon for the job. Note: If the spätzle break apart when they splash into the water, you’ll need to take a moment and add a bit more flour to the mixture. Be careful not to let them sink to the bottom of the pot.
Your objective is to achieve dumplings that are fairly uniform in size, like those in the pictures. They look like small loofah sponges, don’t they?
Continue this dough-cutting process until all of the Spätzle have been formed and are merrily boiling away in the water. Continue boiling for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the largest Spätzle are done inside (I scoop the largest out with a spoon and cut it in half with a paring knife. If it still looks doughy inside, it’s not done yet.)
Drain the Spätzle in a colander and rinse them quickly with lukewarm water. At this stage, if you are not planning to complete the recipe, you may store them in the refrigerator, up to one day, in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
When ready to serve the Spätzle, sauté the chopped onion in butter until translucent; add salt, pepper, and the drained Spätzle, and cook until they are warmed through and coated in the butter and onions.
And no, this is not a dish for people on a diet.
Serve with Chicken Paprikas, or experiment with other pairings.
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
- In a large sauté pan, brown chicken parts in canola oil at medium-high heat.
- 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.)
- After chicken has browned, add the onion and continue to cook for about 15 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.