Comforted (featuring Chicken Paprikash)
I knew what to expect when moving to Portland a year ago. I knew months and months of rain would occur. I knew a damp chill would seep into my bones and not leave until June. I was warned about S.A.D. and even about the occasional snowfalls. I love the rain, and I’m always depressed about something so I thought Portland’s weather might actually even me out.
A week before Christmas, I was catering a cocktail party for 65 people. The menu was this: grilled shrimp rouille, curried chicken sates with mirin mint dip, beef tenderloin crostini with horseradish cream and microgreens on homemade baguette croutons, caprese skewers with balsamic glaze, asparagus and basiled goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto, mini crabcakes with honey mustard aioli, fennel and potato samosas with mango chutney,
roasted garlic and rosemary stuffed mushrooms with gruyere, mini key lime tarts, and chocolate cupcakes with a classic vanilla buttercream. And, sure, I had my average fears and insecurities about the party. But I’ve been doing this a long time and I know the drill. There was one thing that night I knew nothing about; black ice. It had snowed and then thawed and then frozen solid and I was absolutely terrified I would skid off the road while driving. My staff was worried too and we talked about carpooling and backup plans, but by mid-afternoon, it looked less intimidating and we made it out to the party location with only a modicum of drama (mine, not theirs).
Driving home was another story. I was flying high from a successful party for really lovely people, but I had also been working for 16 hours straight. It was a classic exhaustion/ adrenalin battle with a heavy dose of terror. Leaving the party, my car’s back wheels swerved over the black ice and I slowed down to a snail’s pace, making sure no one was driving behind me furious with my speed, or lack thereof. My phone’s GPS guided me over the icier local streets toward the freeway. I looked down at the speedometer. It said 7 mph. I was driving like my 4’6” grandmother used to, so close to the steering wheel that I could have touched it with my nose, my hands firmly gripping the wheel at the 10 and 2 positions. I wish I could say I gathered confidence as I drove further, but I think I peaked at 15 mph that night, even on the freeway. When I got home, I practically kissed the ground, icy though it may be. I sat on our living room floor telling Francis about the gig and the drive while eating catering leftovers. Amelia loves it when I get home from work so I always plop down to her level and hug her as she tries to steal bits of whatever I’m snacking on. I was still shaking from my first black ice drive, but I did it. I had accomplished another first for this year of firsts and, though I’m not eager to do it again, I know I could. Amelia kissed my cheek in one last attempt to wrangle the beef tenderloin from my fingers. She’d miss me if I skidded off the road. At least, she’d miss my food.
Yesterday, the forecast was for less than an inch of snow in the evening with the possibility of a bit more today. Catering in January tends to be almost non-existent, with people disinterested in socializing after the holidays, and I have tons of time to fill. I was wandering through the store, trying to think of the perfect dinner for a light snow and then it hit me: chicken paprikash. Oh my god, how I love this dish. It’s the epitome of comfort food. It’s tangy and sweet and soothing. And egg noodles, I mean, come on. I don’t know why I don’t put egg noodles into all the food I cook. They make everything better.
So, I sliced and seared and gleefully deglazed. I had the chicken braising in the oven when Francis came home from work. I hadn’t looked outside in a while and I was stunned to see quite a bit of snow already on the ground. This was better than I could have expected… a historic snowstorm with a heaping plate of chicken paprikash on egg noodles. It was perfect.
This morning we woke up to almost 7 inches of snow and more falling heavily. We aren’t going anywhere today. I’m going to be eating leftover paprikash, baking bread and watching Amelia do the thing she loves the best: run around in the snow. (Meals in Snow ). This isn’t at all how I thought Portland was going to be. It’s a million times better.
This recipe is based on the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, with a few changes made by me. Paprikash is normally made with sour cream but I prefer greek yogurt (I like the taste and almost always have some in the fridge.) Also, I take the skin off the chicken before searing it. That cuts down on the amount of fat in the dish and, as long as you have a well-seasoned pan, you can easily season and sear the meat without it sticking. Last, but not least, do yourself a favor and buy some new paprika. Paprika is one of those spices that people have stashed in the back of their spice cabinet for years and years. It becomes less sweet/ spicy/ pungent the longer it sits. Spend the extra $6 and get a nice tin of Hungarian sweet (dulce) paprika. It will make (or break) this dish. Plus, if you read this blog, you know I paprika is one of my favorite spices so you can explore my recipes and find other ways to use it. It won’t sit untouched for another 5 years, I promise!
- 8 bone-in chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, halved and sliced thin
- 2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, halved widthwise, and cut into ¼-inch strips
- 3 ½ tablespoons sweet paprika
- ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 tablespoon flour
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 package extra-wide egg noodles
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Using kitchen sheers cut the skin completely off the chicken meat. Season both sides of chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes. Add 4 chicken thighs and cook without moving until the meat is lightly-browned, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown on second side, about 4 minutes longer; transfer to large plate. Repeat with remaining chicken thighs and transfer to plate; set aside.
- Add onion to fat in Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add red peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned and peppers are softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons paprika, marjoram, and flour; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine, scraping pot bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; stir in tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Add chicken pieces and accumulated juices, submerging them in vegetables; bring to a simmer, then cover and place pot in oven. Cook until chicken is no longer pink when cut into with paring knife, about 30 minutes. Remove pot from oven.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook package of egg noodles until done, approximately 10 minutes (but look at directions on packaging). Drain noodles and put them into serving dish.
- Place the cooked chicken onto a plate (this is just so you can stir the noodles with the sauce properly).
- Stir the yogurt and remaining paprika into the sauce in the Dutch oven. Pour this sauce over the noodles in the serving dish, stir them gently and then nestle the chicken in the sauce and noodles. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.