Sunday lunches at my grandmother’s were a wonderful constant in my childhood. The menu rarely veered from Wiener Schnitzel or Chicken Paprikash. Born in 1902, into what was then the Austro Hungarian Empire, those dishes were the classics from the region and still two of my favorites. To this day, the aroma of sour cream and dill takes me back to her flat in London. Unfailingly cheerful, she cooked for us well into her 90’s and I regret never asking her to teach me to make those dishes, wrongly assuming she’d always be around to make them for us. I’ve loved trying recipes for Chicken Paprikash from old Hungarian cookbooks that I’ve found including one written by Maria Flores, my father’s guardian during the war, sentimentally entitled “Cooking for Love”.
As the weather turns and we begin to crave hearty comfort food, it’s one of the first dishes I make each September, trying a slightly different version each time. This latest version not only made use of the incredibly juicy airline chicken breasts from Porter & York but it even got the ultimate stamp of approval from my brother, not known for effusive compliments on my cooking. He thoroughly endorsed it after taking a forkful of leftovers straight from the fridge. I hope my grandmother would have approved too.
4 Airline Chicken Breasts (you can also substitute 8 bone-in chicken thighs with skin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 teaspoons of flour, divided
1 heaped tablespoon of Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 (14 oz) can of tomatoes
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 green pepper, cut into strips with seeds removed
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon of Hungarian Paprika Salt
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and fry until golden brown, starting with skin side down (about 5 minutes each side). Fry in batches if they don’t all fit – it’s important not to overcrowd the pan.
3. When all the chicken is browned, transfer to a plate.
4. Add the onion to the remaining fat and fry until soft for approximately 10 minutes.
5. Stir in half the flour, the paprika and the cayenne and continue stirring for about 2 minutes until all the juices have been absorbed.
6. Return the chicken to the pan along with any juices from the plate. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to a simmer.
7. If using thighs, cover and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Add the green pepper and return to the oven (covered) for another 30 minutes. If using airline breasts, add the green pepper and cook (covered) for just 30 minutes.
8. Remove from oven. In a small bowl, mix the remaining flour with the sour cream. Then add the flour mixture to the sauce.
9. Simmer while stirring for about 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
10. Plate and finish by sprinkling with fresh dill and paprika salt. I like to serve it, as my grandmother did, with spaetzle topped with a little butter.