It's been about 100 degrees here the past few days, and it doesn't cool down enough to cook until late at night. Even then, we're talking about the high 80s inside the house (my a/c is on the fritz, just in time for the heatwave). So, I haven't really been in the mood to get all hot and sweaty and blast the house with even more hot air just as it's cooling down. Still, my friend Martha of Gram's Recipe Box posted this old recipe for Chicken Paprika, and it just sounded so good I had to have it!
It SOUNDS like a wartime variation of a peacetime recipe, because of the call for "fat" instead of something more specific like lard, butter or oil, and because of the scant amount of sour cream used. Sour cream was fairly easy to get, just leave your cream out by mistake, it'll happen. Waste not, want not. In other recipes I've seen for sour cream based sauces, you use a cup or more. So, even though Martha says the recipe is from around 1950, I suspect it's actually a bit older and it just took a while for anyone to write it down.
It also sounds Hungarian. I can just see Cuddles Sakall cooking it up for a dinner party and shaking his jowls in glee.
I don't have a whole chicken, and there's only one of me tonight (no family), so I halved the recipe and made one huge chicken breast as an audition for my recipe book.
I started out by frying the onions in a small amount of bacon fat, maybe a 1/2 teaspoon, then browning the chicken as directed. I must say here, you can't get a better smell in your kitchen that onions and bacon, it's just heavenly. I thought about adding more oil to the pan for the chicken, but apparently it didn't need any more. The chicken browned up quickly and didn't stick to the pan at all.
When I flipped over the chicken, I noticed some of the onions were starting to burn. I checked the recipe and it says that after you brown the chicken, you cover it, put the flame on low and let it cook for 40 minutes. I was afraid my onions wouldn't be able to survive that long, so I took them out of the pan. I added them again toward the end of the cooking.
The original notations claim that this would be good served over noodles or rice, but I don't know if it makes that much "gravy". The gravy was very thick and there was just enough to spoon onto the chicken, but certainly not enough to get noodles or rice wet. Maybe if you stretch it with a bit of broth, it will make a nice, soupy gravy, but not this time.
The chicken was moist and savory and, oddly enough, sweet. I can't imagine why it should taste sweet, I didn't put any sugar in it. Maybe it was the paprika? Does paprika turn sweet when you warm it up? Maybe the onions caramelized just so? I don't know, but the taste was delicious. The paprika and the bacon fat were so aromatic together that the onions seemed almost like an afterthought. After the first swallow, though, it's the sweet/onion flavor that lingers in the mouth.
I also had my first ripe tomato of the year for a garnish. It ripened up just in time, so I plucked it from the vine and sacrificed it to my dinner plate, and it made a lovely accompaniment, echoing the slight sweetness in the sauce. Ahhhh!
Thank you, Martha, for the recipe!