April 07, 2010

Cross-Generational Cooking

Hungarian Chicken Paprikas...

My husband's great-grandmother, Grandma Rosie, passed away last year at 96. I remember sitting in her living room eating the pirouette cookies she always served us, and sipping tall glasses of Sprite! She would tell us of her ballroom dancing days, and her career as the executive secretary at Studebaker. We watched Notre Dame football games together, and she'd keep stats in a little notebook. I miss her.

Nowadays, the rest of the family keep her stories alive. Last month my hubby's grandparents came to visit us. Mo and Papa are a lively pair with wonderful memories of family and travel. Mo has truly been my surrogate grandmother--as my last living grandma passed away when I was sixteen. It was wonderful to marry into a family with a certain fire (and the genes) required for longevity!

Time spent with Mo and Papa is filled with colorful tales...laced with laughter and head-shaking. After 59 years of marriage, they seem to truly hold many of life's secrets. We are always thrilled to shower in their overflowing wisdom.

Their strong Hungarian heritage provides cultural traditions and meals that I was previously unfamiliar with. One particular dish seems to be the family favorite, Chicken Paprikas (pup-ri-kash). Melt-in-your-mouth chicken and Hungarian rice smothered in a rich, creamy paprika-spiced sauce. Traditionally it was made with rabbit meat, when families actually caught their dinner instead of picking it up at the market! Mo describes Hungarian cooking as "working man's food".  Simple, inexpensive, utilitarian meals meant to fill empty bellies. Hungarian dishes are not glamorous...but I always find them comforting and flavor-packed!

Mo taught me to make Chicken Paprikas this trip. It's always fun writing a recipe from a "grandma inspired" dish, because grandmas cook by feel. You know, "Add enough flour until it looks right." or "Stir it until it's done." I definitely had to remake this one on my own, to record measurements and times. I've made two small adjustments to Mo's recipe to suit my family. First, Mo cooks as if she's feeding the whole neighborhood. (She probably did!) So I've scaled the recipe back to feed 4. Also Mo used sweet paprika, but we like all things SPICY around here, so I added hot smoked paprika! Mo agreed, it really wasn't overpowering, mixed in with the sour cream. Just a little kick!

One more thing, Mo uses boneless, skinless chicken breasts AND some drum sticks or thighs. The breasts end up so tender, you can cut them with your fork, while the bones and skin from the drumsticks create depth of flavor. When I made Paprikas on my own, I had a "griller's pack" of all bone-in chicken--so that's what I used. The flavor was great, but I think I will do just as Mo directs next time!


Chicken Paprikas (Pup-ri-kash)

3 lbs. chicken, a combination of boneless breasts and drumsticks/thighs
2 large chopped onions, separated
4 Tb. oil, separated
1 Tb. Hungarian Hot Smoked Paprika
1 lb. sour cream
¼ cup flour
2 cup long-grain rice
4 cups chicken stock
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and Pepper

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 3 Tb. of oil to the Dutch oven, then add the chicken, 1 chopped onion, paprika, 1 tsp. of salt, and half a tsp. of pepper.

Brown the chicken on all sides, stirring the onions as you turn it—approximately 10 minutes.

Then add enough water to the pot to almost cover the chicken. Cover the pot, turn the heat down, and allow the chicken to slowly simmer for about 45 minutes. The chicken should be falling off the bone.

Meanwhile, add 1 Tb. of oil to a medium-sized pot over high heat. Add the second onion to the pot and sauté for 2 minutes. Then add 2 cups of rice, and stir unto the onions. Allow the rice to sauté another 1-2 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then cover. Allow the rice to cook according to package directions—usually 20 minutes. Once it has absorbed all the stock, stir in the parsley, cover and set aside.

Once the chicken is tender, remove it from the Dutch oven and cover it with foil to keep it warm. Dump the sour cream into a medium-sized glass bowl. Whisk ¼ cup of flour into the sour cream until well combined.

You should have approximately 3 cups of juices left in the Dutch oven—if it looks like much more than that—dump some out until is measures 3 cups. Now take 1 ½ cups of the reserved pan juices and slowly whisk it into the sour cream mixtures. This insures that the sour cream will not curdle when you heat it, so your sauce will be smooth!

Now pour the sour cream mixture back into the pot and whisk well. Keep the sauce over medium heat until it bubbles and thickens to a gravy consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chicken back to the pot to coat. Serve the chicken and extra paprikas sauce over the rice. YUM!
Serves 4.


  1. Wonderful chicken dish packed with flavor. Great vibrant photography as well.

  2. kawanna rice ridoutApril 8, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    hi, i'm a lot older than you are, but i have been searching for an "authentic" recipe for this for years. My polish aunt married my hungarian uncle, and back in the 60's i used to
    stay overnite with my cousin. 7am sunday mass at st.anthony's no matter what, the hungarian radio show on wsbt, and chicken paprikash for sunday dinner. thanks for the memory and the recipe.

  3. Kawanna Rice Ridout-

    I'm glad to spark your memory--thanks for sharing your story. I KNOW you'll love this Paprikas; it's as authentic as they come!


  4. I'm an eighth Hungarian (the story is that my mom's g-pa made it to America by hiding out on a boat coming into Ellis Island) and I did not know of this dish! I'm excited to give it a try - this looks like just the kind of dish my in-laws would love and would be perfect for serving multiple people. I especially love the cooking shot of "Mo!"

  5. Lovely post! It's sooo good to keep culinary traditions as much as you can...


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