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Monday, November 3, 2008

Anniversary Dinner #1, Chicken Paprikash

I know when you think "Cucina" you don't think Chicken Paprikash. But it's one of my favorite dishes of the non-Italian variety. I learned it from my mother and when I was a kid it was Chicken Paprikash that I chose as my birthday dinner. Granted, if my birthday were more in the middle of the year (it's mid January), I might have chosen differently. We just had the huge Italian feast less than a month ago on Christmas. So this was my choice. And it is a crowd pleaser!

I usually make this dish with bone in, skin on chicken thighs and if I am having guests, I will add in some bone in, skin on breasts. But on this day (October 30, my 15th wedding anniversary), I didn't have any thighs. I thought I did, but I didn't. I only had a package of breasts. So breasts it is! Start out by melting some butter in a large skillet. Oh I hear you all already, "can I use oil instead of butter?" Use what you want, but know that it won't come out the same. So, melt some butter in a large skillet (about 2 Tablespoons) and then brown the chicken on both sides.

When browned, remove to a deep baking dish. Back in the skillet, drippings and all, add half of a large onion chopped (I always use whatever sweet onions are available, but use what you like) and four medium sized carrots roughly chopped. If you have large carrots, two should be enough. A couple weeks ago, mom and I went to Beilers Market and she bought these ginormous carrots! I used two of them in this dish. Saute the carrots and onions in the pan drippings. There shouldn't be a lot of drippings, but just enough to get some good color on the carrots and onions.

Then dump them over the chicken in the baking dish (and set that pan aside, you still need it!). Add about 2 cups of broth or stock. Homemade, store bought... either way. Cover with foil and bake for about an hour for just the thighs, an hour and a half if you have breasts too.

Traditionally, Chicken Paprikash is served with spaetzle. And well I am a traditionalist so spaetzle it is. The dough is simple enough:

1 egg, beaten
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cups flour

Beat the egg in a large bowl with the water. Add salt and flour, and mix together. Batter may look a little lumpy but it should not be runny.

You will need a large pan of boiling salted water. Mom used to put the dough on a plate and cut off about three quarter inch chunks with a butter knife and drop them into the boiling water. I use a spaetzle maker. You put the dough in the top of the spaetzle maker, lay it on top of your pan of boiling water and then run the top back and forth until there is no dough left. You will most likely have to do this several times because all the dough won't fit for just one go round. It's kind of like grating the dough into the water.

When the spaetzle start to float, they are done. This takes but a minute. It's very fast. Take them out of the water with your handy dandy spider and into the pan that you didn't dare clean after you browned your carrots and onions! Keep them warm but be careful not to dry them out. Keep it on low heat and add broth if the pan gets too dry.

When the chicken is done, drain the yummy goodness of broth and drippings into a saucepan (there should be a good amount, two cups about. If you don't have that much, add more broth to it). Put through a gravy seperator first if you wish. Without putting the heat on yet, add about two Tablespoons of paprika to the sauce and then whisk in about one cup of sour cream. If you need to cut back and use a low fat sour cream, don't make this dish. It will really not be the same. I generally use Yoder's, which I believe is a regional product, but is by far the best tasting sour cream I have ever had. It's available at Marc's as well as Acme stores. But certainly use what you like.

Turn your heat on medium and when it comes to a boil, thicken with a slurry of two Tablespoons of corn starch and two Tablespoons of water (make sure you mix them together before adding to the sauce). Stir it in slowly and then turn off the heat. Your sauce should be thickened beautifully.

Serve and enjoy :)

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