09 March 2011

hungarian paprika chicken with spaetzli

Did you enjoy the few snapshots I took in Budapest and the interview with Gabby? I really did enjoy Budapest, and I sincerely wish I could have spent more time there, more time to sit back, relax, eat, watch the people, and get a real sense of the culture and the place. That is how I like to travel best. The tourist attractions are great, but not what I usually take away from the places I visit. I like to soak in the feel of a place and the food too, of course.

That being said, I really only remember one dinner I had in Budapest. I searched and searched, looking for the restaurant we went to, but I just couldn't figure it out. I remember it being a little away from any busy areas. I remember it being really dark when we went in, and I think it was sort of half-pub, half homey restaurant? Though I wish I could remember, the point is that I ordered a very traditional dish, paprika chicken with spaetzli. I remember the chicken being tender and so flavorful, but most of all I remember the spaetzli. It was the first time I'd ever had spaetzli, and in fact the first time I'd ever heard of them. Have you had them? If not, they are small egg dumplings or noodles (egg, flour, a little oil and that's it). I simply died when I had my first bite; I thought they were just the most perfect things, especially to accompany the paprika chicken. 

For all these years, I've been wanting to make them and just hadn't gone through with it, even though I bought a spaetzle maker... yes you do need one, but they're only $8 on amazon and are totally worth it (this coming from a girl who doesn't like to fill her kitchen with tools that are just good for one thing).  I think I was afraid I couldn't make them quite right, that I wouldn't be able to get that eggyness that I remembered or the soft texture of them. A few weeks ago, I finally gave it a try, and thanks to Saveur Magazine, the spaetzli (and the chicken) turned out perfect! The dish brought me right back to the small restaurant in Budapest... 

... then Kevin asked, "can we have these everynight?" I think that's a sign of a job well done!

hungarian paprika chicken with spaetzli
adapted from Saveur Magazine, recipe here 
*I used Szeged paprika ($4 at the grocery store here). Totally worth it, good quality can make all the difference in this dish, plus you can use it any time you need paprika (it's really not a specialty item just for this dish)

for the chicken:
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
2 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika*
1⁄2 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika*
2 fresh plum tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 tsp. salt
4 boneless chicken breasts
1⁄2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. milk

for the spaetzli:
1 cup flour
1 egg
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. melted butter

for the chicken: 
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add garlic, sweet and hot paprikas, tomatoes, red pepper, salt, and 1 cup water and stir well. Add chicken, cover, and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes, turning chicken once about halfway through. Remove chicken from pot and set aside.

Strain sauce in a fine strainer, pressing down on vegetables to release all liquid. Discard solids. Return sauce to pot, increase heat to medium and simmer until sauce has thickened, 20–30 minutes. (If you've used skin-on, chicken with bones, once the chicken is cool enough to handle remove the bones and skin at this point). Return chicken to pot, reduce heat to low, and keep warm. Mix sour cream and milk in a small bowl and set aside.

for the spaetzli: 
Combine flour and 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Beat together egg, oil, and 1/2 cup water in a separate bowl, then whisk egg mixture into flour mixture. Set aside and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes. Place spätzle maker over a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat. Fill hopper with batter, then move hopper back and forth over grate, allowing dumplings to fall into the boiling water. Cook until dumplings float, 1–2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon, refresh under cold water, and transfer to a cookie sheet to cool. Repeat process, forming, cooking, and cooling dumplings until all the batter has been used. Preheat oven to 350°. Gently toss dumplings with melted butter in a baking dish. Season to taste with salt and keep warm in oven.

To serve, arrange chicken on a large platter and spoon sauce over and around it. Serve with spaetzli and sour cream on the side.

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