April 2, 2018

Chicken Paprika

Sure, why wouldn't you walk
that distance for chicken?
This is a valued and cherished family recipe that the Polish contingent of my mom's ancestry almost certainly stole from a famous Hungarian dish called Chicken Paprikash. Why would these old-timey Polish beet farmers (I assume) steal (I assume) a recipe from a country that's like 150 miles away (I google)? Well, apparently the two countries have pretty good relations, and a polish general even became a Hungarian hero after he defended Transylvania in a war. I'm not kidding. To paraphrase, Hungarians and Polish people like each other and probably shared bits of culture and cuisine because a long time ago a Polish man helped defend Hungary's treasured natural supply of vampires. Apparently the Hungarians were so incredibly thankful that they entrusted to Poland the recipe for Chicken Paprikash, a dish which contains no garlic whatsoever. They probably also gave the Polish their advanced neck washing technology, and their relaxing method of self massage via meat tenderizer. My family's Chicken Paprika recipe is a little different than a traditional Chicken Paprikash, but it is similar in a number a key ways, such as its inability to protect you against the undead.

2 lb. Chicken Breast (You're looking for boneless, skinless chicken cutlets here. You can butcher them yourselves, or buy them pre-butchered from a butcher, or the butcher shop of a supermarket. Butcher butcher butcher.)
2 cups Flour
3 standard-issue Onions
1 lb. Carrots
2 cups Vegetable Stock
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
Paprika (Traditional chicken paprikash tends to use sweet paprika. My mom's recipe calls for whatever paprika you get at the store. I use smoked paprika because I like that flavor. And so the evolution of cuisine continues.)

So I'm going to get the religious jargon out of the way right off the bat. It's currently the Jewish holiday of Passover, where religious Jews eschew such fancy modern things as...the vast majority of all foodstuffs, and instead eat flavorless crackers called matzoh, because nothing says "festivity" like "flavorless crackers." This is a dish that my family traditionally has on Passover, but regular old flour isn't so much allowed. So if you're in the same religious boat as me, replace the flour with finely ground flavorless crackers, and be on your merry way. Regardless of what floury substance you're using, combine it with a gentleman's pinch of both salt and pepper, along with a teaspoon of paprika. Toss your chicken in the seasoned flour mixture to give it a loose coating and a false sense of security before you unceremoniously toss it in to a pot with your hot oil in it over medium heat. Cook it for a couple minutes on each side, without fussing too much with it, so that it develops some nice browning. Work in batches if you have to, because it's better to wait an extra 10 minutes for delicious food than to have your food come out like hot garbage. That's an ancient Polish-Hungarian saying. Well, the original saying was more about leaving your windows unlocked at night, and not keeping wooden stakes around the house, but I'm sure this is what they meant.

Ok, we may have different definitions on what constitutes a
"bite-sized" chunk of carrot
While this is all going down, thinly slice your onions, peel your carrots, and chop them (The carrots) in to bite-sized chunks. Once your chicken is properly browned, take it out of the pot and toss your onions in to replace it along with another average-sized human's pinch of salt. Let that cook down for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While they're cooking, combine your vegetable stock with...just a bunch of paprika. I think the actual recipe may call for something like 1.5 tablespoons, but when I've watched my mom make it she usually opens up the jar of paprika and just glops out about half the container. What's the worst that will happen? People will complain that your chicken paprika has too much paprika? Then knew what they were getting in to. Once your onions are soft and weak, like unsuspecting villagers, throw everybody in the pot. Your paprika stock, your chicken, your carrots. Everybody. Bring that whole mess up to a boil then cover it, reduce the heat to low, and simmer that sucker for 45 minutes. Once you're done, dump that pot of deliciousness into a pan and bake it, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. And that's it! Enjoy it on a picnic, at a passover seder, or while mourning the loss of another beloved neighbor or friend who mysteriously disappeared from the village last night. The choice is yours!

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