Mystery author Julia Buckley, who writes The Writer’s Apprentice Series, The Undercover Dish Series, and the new Hungarian Tea House Series, is the child of European parents—one Hungarian, one German. She grew up eating good food. Chicken Paprikás was one of the staples of her diet, and she joins us today to share the recipe for it. Learn more about Julia and her books at her website.
Chicken Paprikás: A Hungarian Meal You Won’t Forget
In my new mystery novel, Death in a Budapest Butterfly, Hana Keller often consumes food made by her grandmother, an innate cook who was born in Hungary and cooks, as my own grandmother did, by instinct.
Chicken Paprikás is a popular Hungarian dish; I’ve tasted a lot of versions of it in my life, and not one has yet rivaled my grandmother’s. I’ve tried for years to come close to the flavor I remember from my childhood, and now I’ve got my husband on the case, since he is the cook in the family.
The recipe is relatively simple and surprisingly delicious when you consider the paucity of ingredients. But it’s in the blending of the ingredients that the genius lies (and, I fear, in the lard that was a staple of my grandmother’s cooking and which heart specialists encourage us not to eat nowadays).
Another trick to making good paprikás is the paprika. If it’s not from Hungary, you’re not getting the flavor you could be achieving. I recently found that I could order from Bende, Inc. online and get Szeged paprika imported from Szeged, Hungary. I got a large bag and it’s delicious.
Chicken Paprikás (Csirkepaprikás)
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon shortening
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
4–5 pound chicken, disjointed
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 pint sour cream
Sauté the onion in either shortening or butter. Add paprika, pepper, and salt and stir well; lay chicken pieces in pot and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add water to the mixture, cover, and simmer until chicken is tender. Remove chicken (place temporarily on plate or platter) and add sour cream to the spices and drippings; mix well. Add dumplings and place chicken on top of dumplings. Heat and serve. If more gravy is required, add ½ pint sweet cream to the sour cream mixture.
When the dish is finished, you’ll normally want to pair it with dumplings, and there are a variety of recipes for Hungarian dumplings online. You don’t want the little German spaetzli, but the dumplings called Nokedli. However, you don’t need to push them through a pasta strainer, as the fancy recipes say. My mom just made them in a glass bowl with a spout, and she flicked the dough into boiling water in one-inch sections, one after the other. The dumplings are finished when they rise to the surface. Make sure they don’t stick to the bottom.
In my husband’s latest crack at paprikás, he substituted chicken breasts for the legs, but I think you lose some of the flavor when you don’t have the bone-in chicken. Also, he used egg noodles at the end (delicious, but not the same).
Try making this dish for your family; if you’ve never had it before, the flavor will be your reward! If you’ve eaten this dish in the past, then you know how good it is. Enjoy!
Death in a Budapest Butterfly
A Hungarian Teahouse Mystery, Book 1
Hana Keller and her family run Maggie's Tea House, an establishment heavily influenced by the family's Hungarian heritage and specializing in a European-style traditional tea service. But one of the shop's largest draws is Hana's eccentric grandmother, Juliana, renowned for her ability to read the future in the leaves at the bottom of customers' cups. Lately, however, her readings have become alarmingly ominous and seemingly related to old Hungarian legends...
When a guest is poisoned at a tea event, Juliana’s dire predictions appear to have come true. Things are brought to a boil when Hana’s beloved Anna Weatherley butterfly teacup becomes the center of the murder investigation as it carried the poisoned tea. The cup is claimed as evidence by a handsome police detective, and the pretty Tea House is suddenly endangered. Hana and her family must catch the killer to save their business and bring the beautiful Budapest Butterfly back home where it belongs.