There are not a lot of Hungarian restaurants in the US—New York City’s old Yorkville neighborhood, now completely transformed, was once the largest pocket—but the flagship dish of this wonderful cuisine has been assimilated into our mainstream. Many home cooks in America who know little about Hungarian cuisine have had a go at blending chicken, sour cream and paprika into something delicious. One of the keys is good paprika—and good technique in bringing out its flavor. Try to find a fresh example of a good Hungarian brand (store-bought paprika can be flavorless and bitter). I love a final addition of paprika to the dish, as the cooking is complete. The recipe below calls for 2 tablespoons, but I just keep adding my good stuff until the paprikash seems on the verge of turning gritty.
makes 4 main-course servings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 large red bell peppers, peeled (with a vegetable peeler), seeded and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup chopped canned tomatoes, undrained
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup sour cream
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Add oil to a large skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. Season flour with salt and pepper. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken all over in flour, tapping off excess. Reserve unused flour. Add chicken to pan, browning all over (do this in two batches if necessary). As pieces brown, remove them from pan and set aside.
2. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of fat from pan. Add onion and peppers and cook, stirring, over medium heat until onions are golden brown and softened, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons reserved flour, 2 tablespoons paprika, the garlic and thyme, and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer to get rid of the raw flour smell.
3. Add stock, tomatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Once sauce is simmering, return chicken to pan, spoon sauce over the chicken, cover pan and place in oven; bake until thighs are very tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. About halfway through the cooking time, uncover, turn over chicken pieces, replace the cover and continue baking.
4. Right before serving, place 1 cup of the hot sauce in a small bowl and mix with the sour cream. Pour the mixture back in the pan and stir until smooth. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons paprika, blending well. Serve immediately.