You more observant folks will have noticed I did not make the French Fridays with Dorie recipe of the week. It was cinnamon crunch chicken and it was an intriguing combination of chicken, creme fraiche, and cinnamon spice cookies crumbled into the sauce. Aside from the fact that is was sprinkled with cookies and what with the flour and sugar, aren’t really our thing, it contained cinnamon. Does anyone remember the Little House on the Prairie episode (no, not the one where she cooks for Nellie) the one where Laura gets fancy and makes a chicken dish for her husband, but he says he likes her regular cinnamon chicken better? My inner childhood foodie watching that episode always thought that the new version sounded good and liked Laura’s willingness to experiment, though like most, I do love to make the classics at home. My favorite conversation about cinnamon goes something like this:
Many years ago D and I are eating breakfast in “our” local diner that had recently changed ownership. D orders the usual, which includes french toast. It arrives dusted with cinnamon. D really, really dislikes cinnamon.
Me: Uh oh, cinnamon. Ask them to make it over.
D: Naw, that’s ok.
Me: But, you can’t stand it.
D: It’s fine.
Sometime later: French toast eaten. Coffee drunk. Bill in hand.
D: You know what I don’t like about cinnamon? It tastes like bark.
Me: Um. That’s because it is bark.
D: Well, that explains it.
Instead of the cinnamon chicken, I made chicken paprikas stew which used up the leftover creme fraiche and sour cream that has been sitting in the fridge. And can I just mention that with this French cooking, we have more cream and cheese sitting around the house to use up, just in case you were wondering if everything I cook contains those items.
We are very lucky to have friends who travel, including some who brought back Hungarian paprika straight from Hungary. In the Paprikas I like to use the hot (spicy) Hungarian paprika, but any good quality fragrant paprika will do. You might try substituting a teaspoon or two of Spanish smoked paprika for part of the total amount. The red bell peppers are not a traditional ingredient, but since we don’t eat our stews over rice or noodles, I often add extra vegetables like peppers or zucchini.
Hungarian Chicken Paprikas for a Weeknight
Makes 6-8 servings
2 Tablespoons oil (I use half butter and half olive oil)
3.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken (I used thighs only this time), cut into 1-1.5 inch chunks
1/2 a medium onion, chopped in about 1/2 inch pieces
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped ending up with about 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup chicken stock
2.5 tablespoons of Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 cups of chopped red bell peppers
1.5 cups of sour cream (in this case I used part sour cream and part creme fraiche)
a sprinkle or two of xanthan to thicken (If you don’t use xanthan, try some cornstarch or flour to thicken the stew. If using flour, you may want to make a slurry with some cold stock or water and add it when you add the chicken stock. Flour should have ample time to cook out its grainy texture and taste when using to thicken. You can add cornstarch into the sour cream before adding it at the end.)
Heat the 2 Tablespoons of oil in a heavy pan or skillet that has a lid and will hold all of the stew. If you want your chicken browned a bit, cook the chicken in batches so the pieces are not crowded in the pan, and remove the cooked pieces before adding more raw ones to the hot oil, then cook your onions in the browned pan scraping up the bits at the bottom. While this will add more flavor, for a quick weeknight dinner I cook the onion and garlic in the oil until slightly browned, then dump in all the chicken in at once, stir and allow to cook. When the chicken has halfway cooked, add the chicken stock, paprika, salt, pepper, and bell peppers. Stir to distribute the spices. Cover and cook on a medium low heat for 20-30 minutes until the chicken and peppers are tender. Turn the heat to very low. Add the sour cream and stir until completely mixed in. Sprinkle with pinches (or through a salt shaker) the xanthan while stirring to make sure the thickener distributes evenly and does not clump.
Can be served over noodles. Or for lower carbers, a cauliflower or celery root mash.