Last weekend was one of those total washout weekends where everyone was seeking comfort food.
I had mounds of tomatoes and peppers, so I, of course, made chili. It was not a good chili, mind you, because I always like to try new things. That is part of the thrill of cooking but experimentation has its price.
Apparently, I got a little carried away with the cayenne and, thus, had to find ways to lessen the heat so my family would actually eat the chili. While I have made great, award-winning chili many times in the past, this time was not one.
If I only used a tried-and-true recipe like my wife’s chili, we would have eaten better that night. This chili was so disappointing that I was in a quandary about what to write this week.
September is, apparently, National Bourbon Heritage Month and also National Honey Month. Those would make a great column. So I sipped on some Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey for some inspiration. Or is it time to start talking about the office clambake or perhaps the thrills of Oktoberfest and the search for the best potato pancakes? But my mind kept drifting back to comfort foods.
I was saved by my neighbor, Maureen, who popped by to bring me a cookbook she had found while cleaning. Maureen and my wife were discussing comfort foods when chicken paprikash came up.
I always seem to rave about my wife’s chicken paprikash recipe. This typically happens after I try someone else’s paprikash. Yvette has been making this recipe for over 20 years and it always rocks.
So I ask her, “Honey, can you please find your chicken paprikash recipe for me?”
She walks over to the fridge, grabs the old, trusty “Joy of Cooking” cookbook, and plops it down on the table for me. She has her handwritten notes added to the recipe. Sometimes, a tried-and-true recipe should just be made the same way – every time. Why mess with perfection, right?
So, here it is, Yvette’s version of the “Joy of Cooking’s” perfect chicken paprikash:
You will need 2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 1 ½ tbsp. Butter, 1 ½ tbsp. Vegetable oil, 1 cup finely chopped onions, 2 tbsp. Sweet Hungarian Paprika (or more, she says), ½ tsp. Salt, 2 tsp. Flour, and 1 cup cultured sour cream. Using the right Paprika (big red can) and fresh paprika, is critical.
Heat butter and vegetable oil in a heavy pot, add onions and simmer until glossy. Add paprika and stir until everything is red. Add the salt and chicken stock (2 cups or more if you think you need it). As soon as these ingredients reach the boiling point, add the chicken and simmer covered, until tender, about one hour. Shred chicken at this point with forks. Stir the flour into the sour cream, and stir it slowly into the pot and simmer until thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes. Now add in the very important dumplings! The dumplings can make or break this dish. Prepare the dumpling batter while the Paprikash is cooking.
The dumplings are made by mixing together 1 cup cake flour and 2 tsp. double acting baking powder and ½ tsp. Salt. Break into a measuring cup 1 egg and a half cup milk. Beat well and add the mixture slowly into the flour mixture to make a stiff batter. You can add in ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley or other herbs here if you wish. Add dumpling batter into the Paprikash a tablespoon at a time. Lightly push each dumpling under the liquid, then cover and let simmer an additional 10-15 minutes or until dumplings are done. Comfort food at its finest.
Tailgating Throwdown in North Royalton Today
I will be one of the three guest judges today, Sept. 15, from noon to 4 p.m., at DeckCreator’s “Grill Off” event, located at 12235 York Road in North Royalton. It is a fundraiser for W.A.G.S. 4 KIDS, a local nonprofit organization that provides mobility service dogs and autism spectrum service dogs to families, meeting the specific needs of children with disabilities in Northeast Ohio. It will be local police versus firefighters in a “Chopped” style cook-off. Teams will be given a basket of ingredients and a set time to produce their best results. There will be lots of grilled samples for those who attend and activities, including a bounce house for the kids, along with some great raffle items. Call 216-798-7114 for details.