Saturday, 11 February 2012

Poulet au Paprika with Roasted Potatoes

A couple of summers ago I had the opportunity to intern in Romania for three months. While there, I took a week off to travel around, and went to Hungary for a couple of days. The city of Budapest is by far one of the best places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The architecture, the people, the sights, the history... it was amazing, and I am adamant about going back there someday. However, the thing that I remember the most about my visit to Hungary was the food. I fell in love with Hungarian food; I had no idea how good it would be! One dish in particular sticks out in my mind. I had just gotten off of the train and found my hostel, when I decided it was time to eat. So I went in search of a place and found a little restaurant just down the street. There, I had, and I say this with utter conviction, one of the best meals I have ever eaten.

The menu said, "Gypsy Roast Pork with Homestyle Potatoes". It might not look like anything special, but it was. It was amazingly tender all throughout and the flavour was not lacking in any way. On top there was a slice of bacon that was just everything you hope for bacon to be and more; thick, as bacon in Europe is, crispy and juicy in all the right places. I was so excited when I saw it that I shoved it in my mouth before I remembered to take a picture.

Below were these amazing potatoes.

I really wish that I remembered what the name of this restaurant was. You would think that I would since I ate there 3 times! Or at least taken a picture of the sign or a napkin or something that would have its name on it. I will just have to take comfort in the hope that I will return there someday. And at least I have the pictures to remember it by ;)

Ever since I've eaten this dish, I have been looking for a way to make something like this. Especially the sauce. That sauce, which it seems is mostly olive oil and paprika, was beautiful. The meal wouldn't have to be exactly the same, but I knew it would have 3 things: meat, potatoes, and tons of paprika. After more than a year of searching, waiting, and dreaming, I finally found something that could satisfy, in a French cookbook no less! But according to Calder, this recipe is very similar to a French saute. Whatever it is, as soon as I read the recipe, I KNEW that I had to make it.

Poulet au Paprika
Recipe from Laura Calder's French Taste

Serves 4

4 chicken legs (thigh and leg attached)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon bacon drippings or oil
1 red pepper, juilienne
1 onion, sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb (optional)
1 tablespoon high-quality Hungarian paprika
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

To go with this dish, I decided to have roasted potatoes, much like with the dish I had before. I prepared the potatoes first so they could be cooking away in the oven while the chicken was cooking on top.

I got some organic (like all of the vegetables and spices I used in this recipe) small red potatoes and cut them into slices.

In a roasting pan, add salt and pepper, paprika, chopped garlic and olive oil. Cover with tin foil and pop in the oven on 350 (F).

Now for the main attraction

I made sure to get as much prep as I could out of the way first, instead of doing it as I go, because it's my first time making this recipe and I didn't know how fast I would have to go. Also, the recipe calls for red pepper, but as you see here I used green, simply a matter of preference, and I opted not to include the fennel.

Salt and pepper your chicken, and put it in the pan, medium-high heat, skin side down first, and let it brown. You'll know it's browned enough when the chicken releases from the pan. If it's stuck to the pan, don't panic, and don't try to pry it out. It needs that time to brown and caramelize, and will let go when it's ready.

Turn down the heat to medium-low, and add the pepper, onion, fennel (if using), and paprika. The recipe says once you are done the chicken to drain off all but a tablespoon of the leftover oil, that being the amount called for in the recipe. I did this, but honestly, I thought it was pointless; the vegetables could have benefitted from the extra grease, as they would have cooked better and less would have stuck to the pan.

Cook until the vegetables are soft, then add the garlic.

Deglaze the pan with wine. I used Jackson-Triggs Chardonnay. I wasn't a huge fan of it for drinking, but it went good for cooking in this dish.

Add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Stir.

Put the chicken back into the pan. Cover. Turn the meat occasionally.

While the chicken was cooking away, I took the tin foil off the potatoes so they could crisp up a bit, and added a bay leaf, to kind of mirror the bay leaf flavour in the chicken.

The chicken will take approximately 30 minutes to cook.

Take the chicken out and let rest on a platter. Stir in the sour cream or creme fraiche. In the recipe, Calder says that at this step to turn the heat up and boil it down to sauce consistency. My sauce was already a little thicker than it should have been. Not sure if it was because I didn't have enough liquid, or the heat was too high, or both. That's why I suggest leaving in the rest of the grease instead of draining it off (it's not much, it won't kill you) and adding more wine. You could try adding some fresh olive oil, too, or even some water from the kettle. Here is also where you would also check the seasoning (especially if you add water), add more paprika if you want, and add a squeeze of lemon. I added more paprika but didn't use lemon.

Pour the sauce over the chicken, and serve.

I was extremely happy with this dish. The pictures just don't do it justice (in fact, the pictures probably make it look disgusting... maybe it's my camera... or maybe that was just me). And when I say my whole family loved it, I'm not exagerating, we LOVED it! It definitely satisfied my longing for Hungarian food, and was quite comforting. Can't wait to make it again :)

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