Depending on your mother’s kitchen prowess, you may or may not have treasured recipes of hers that withstand the test of time. I have many such recipes—see also: Linda’s cheap-wine sangria—but the one I most associate with my mom is her super-comforting, stick-to-your-ribs chicken paprikash. (Except, as suburban white people are wont to do, we scrubbed it of even the faintest bit of Hungarian roots and called it “chicken paprika.”)
I loved this recipe as a kid, as did my notoriously picky younger brother. He was one of those weirdo eaters who go through prolonged food phrases, eating only cheese ravioli for six months, then only consuming Eggo waffles the next season, etc. But he was always game for chicken paprika, which my mom whipped up less often than we demanded it. Why? Because she starts with a whole raw chicken, which took a significant amount of simmering and pulling apart and kitchen mess. But the payoff is great: If you cook the whole chicken in a pot, you get some great leftover chicken stock.
As an adult, I’ve sped up this recipe many ways: starting with a whole rotisserie chicken, or even with some sautéed chicken breast. I think the whole, rotisserie chicken is where it’s at: The chicken paprika comes together relatively quickly, and you can still save the chicken carcass for making stock another day. I first requested this recipe from my mom in college, and was surprised to find it was pretty economical: a rotisserie chicken costs what... $6?... and the only other ingredient you likely need to buy fresh is the cream. Throw it over rice or noodles with a side of whatever veggie you want, and you’re good. (We always ate it over rice with peas, though it seems my family was in the non-noodle minority on that.)
Through moves to two more cities since college, the chicken paprika recipe stays in my back pocket. It involves only seven ingredients and is easy enough for a newbie cook to make, but that doesn’t minimize its deliciousness. My boyfriend loves it; college roommates loved it; and I can’t get enough of the leftovers. Perhaps May isn’t exactly the season when most people think to cook hearty Hungarian fare, but it’s the month of Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday. So thanks, Mom, for the chicken paprika recipe—and for the other life stuff, too.
Serves four hungry people, or two hungry people with generous leftovers
- 1 rotisserie chicken
- 6 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. paprika*
- 6 Tbsp. flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups light cream
*A note on paprika: The 2 Tbsp. listed above are for fairly mild, grocery-brand paprika. When I’ve made this recipe with more intense, spicy-smoky Hungarian paprika, I think a tablespoon and a half is plenty.
Skin and bone the chicken, and cut the meat into inch-long strips. Then make the paprika sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot, like a dutch oven, over medium heat. Whisk in the paprika until incorporated and cook a minute or so. Then whisk in the flour. Slowly pour on the chicken stock and cream, whisking constantly. Turn the heat to high and stir until the sauce comes to a boil. Season with salt. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes to cook away the raw taste of the paprika. You’ll want to open the lid up and whisk every now and then, as the cream can form a film on the top of the liquid. Once the intense, raw spice of the paprika has mellowed, add the chicken strips and cook until piping hot, another 10 minutes. Serve over rice or noodles or spaetzle.