Paprika Chicken, the Hungarian national dish. 1983: I came out of ten days in pre-break-up Czechoslovakia, days of boiled meat, potatoes, and “How would you like your cucumber and tomato salad, with or without onions?” into Budapest, food heaven. Traveling alone, wild on the road, savoring fresh corn on the cob rubbed in butter, farmer’s markets bursting with yellow peppers, green peppers, orange pepper, bins of powdered paprika in every color of red.
And this dish, served each time with spaetzle dumplings and sour cream.... Never found again until twelve years later in a little restaurant in Bernal Heights. The waitress, catching my delight, dictated the recipe to me in broken English and I wrote it on the back of a bank deposit ticket, to be transcribed, here:
INGREDIENTS — Chicken Paprika
1 or 2 Onions, sliced
Sweet Paprika — good quality. Do not be cheap.
1 large Chicken cut in pieces and skinned
4 or 5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 to 3 Green Peppers, cut in eighths
4 to 5 tomatoes, chopped large
Ground Black Pepper
Sauté onions in oil until “1/2 fried.”
Add paprika — Several Tablespoons. Don’t be shy, and don’t be stingy. I usually start with about three tablespoons and then add some more. Continue to sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until the paprika turns into a thick, reddish brown paste around the onions.
Add the chicken, ground pepper, and garlic. Cover and cook at medium temperature until chicken is white. If it sticks, add a little water.
Add green pepper and tomatoes, recover, and simmer until tender.
Remove chicken and reduce sauce slightly.
Serve with sour cream and spaetzle.
INGREDIENTS — Spaetzle
2 1/4 cup Flour
3/4 cup Water
3/4 teaspoon Salt
3/8 teaspoon Baking Powder
Beat eggs. Combine with other ingredients. Beat all well. Let sit if possible in refrigerator. Cut into large pot of boiling water through a spaetzle maker, and cook until done. Drain.