I never got to try Chicken Paprikash while in Budapest and found myself pining over plates of it that were served to Tina and her students. Wheat flour, the everlasting travel downer was always used as a thickener in the fiery sauce. When Tina said she wanted to host a reunion dinner for her students I knew right away that Chicken Paprikash would be on the menu and that it would be gluten-free. Finally I would get to sample this quintessential Hungarian favorite. I also knew that I would have a very palate savvy audience, well acquainted with good traditional Hungarian dishes. Wanting to impress, I held a dry run with Tina and her brother. I read and read, contemplating the recipes at hand, tweaking as I went along, making notes of my changes. I held my breath as Tina took her first bite. "You got it babe, you got it exactly!" I was thrilled and grateful for the kilo bag of sweet paprika I bought home with me. The reunion dinner will consume several cups of my authentic Hungarian paprika.
So this Friday 20 students who spent a month studying math with Tina in Budapest will come together for a reunion, showing pictures, telling stories and remembering the month they had in January. I am cooking all week, it is a big undertaking. The menu includes Chicken Paprikash, Hungarian Beef Stew, Hungarian Style Green Beans with dill, and potatoes (I don't have time to make enough spaetzle). For desert we will have Hungarian Shortbread Tart, raspberry and apricot.
Here is the recipe for the Chicken Paprikash I finally settled on.
2 tablespoons bacon grease (I used three pieces of bacon to get two tablespoons)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
2-3 pounds of whole chicken cut unto pieces (I used a combination of boneless breast and thighs, both pounded *
14.5 ounces caned diced tomatoes (I used about 2 quart size cans of my own canned tomatoes drained, reserving half a cup of the liquid)
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons rice flour
8 ounces sour cream
2 bay leaves
* Most recipes call for bone in chicken. Tina said most of the Chicken Paprikash they had in Budapest was made with pounded chicken breast. Use whatever you want.
Heat bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and paprika. Stir together cook until onion is translucent. Add chicken pieces, bay leaves and pour in the chicken broth. Cook over medium heat for 40 minutes, longer if using bone-in chicken, adding more broth if necessary. Remove and discard bay leaves. Remove chicken, add tomatoes to the pot. Puree the sauce in a blender, food processor or using an immersion blender. Return sauce to pan. In a medium bowl blend rice flour, sour cream and reserved tomato juice together. When well blended add mixture to the tomato sauce and return chicken to the pot. Stir until thick and headed through.