There is often half a roasted chicken in our fridge at night, and that’s because there is often half a chicken on our plates in the evening. Given that we like our chicken with a delicious side dish or two - mashed potatoes, green beans, mushrooms - half a bird is all we can eat. The rest becomes sandwiches, salads, and a recent favorite, leftover-based chicken paprikash.

Paprikash: the classic Hungarian stew of onions, peppers, and meteorological quantities of paprika, tamed with sour cream. Let us begin:

  • 1/2 roasted chicken (preparation below)
  • 1 bell pepper, green or red (your pick - red is sweeter), chopped
  • 1/2 large, Hungarian-sized onion (they like onions a lot in Hungary), thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc makes a good cooking wine; it won’t fight the recipe)
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced, no juice necessary
  • 1-2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • Marjoram and fresh parsley to taste
  • Buttered egg noodles or spaetzle, or dumplings, or bread, or other starch

It doesn’t really matter which chicken pieces you’re left with; what does sort of matter is that you reserve all the juices, most likely gelatinized around the bottom of the pan you refrigerated the chicken in. There’s lots of flavor there, and it would be a shame to waste any of it. Save it in a bowl.

(This would be a good time to preheat your oven to 300 degrees.)

Pull as much meat off the bone as you can. Don’t be afraid to just go in with your hands - whole chickens aren’t the most fork-and-knife-friendly affair. If there’s any skin or fat, set that aside separately and mince it. Chop or tear the meat into bite-size pieces. You should have three bowls of chicken now: meat, skin & fat, and juices.

Start with vegetable oil in a heavy, oven-safe saucepan or dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add onions, chicken skin, and chicken fat (adjust amount of vegetable oil depending on how much fat you have.) Cook 3-5 minutes until the onions are soft and the chicken pieces crisp up a bit. Add the bell pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

In a small prep bowl - which is awesome cooking tool - combine the flour and about 2/3 of the paprika. Add to the pan and stir for a minute; it’ll be dry and brown and you might get scared, but don’t worry. After a minute you’ll add the wine and tomato, and you’ll scrape the bottom and sides of the pot. Everything should start getting together now, the solids dissolving in the liquid. Add the marjoram and pour in any chicken juices you might have collected earlier. Salt a little; it’s usually a good idea to salt as you go, remembering that as liquids evaporate, the saltiness of the whole dish will increase.

Cover the pot and place it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. When the stew looks thickened and almost ready, add the chopped chicken and cook on the stove over medium heat for another few minutes until the chicken is warm. Taste and add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (or other heat source) to taste. 

Stir the rest of the paprika into the sour cream, then fold this into the stew until smooth. Plate your starch (noodles, bread) and spoon the paprikash over it. Sprinkle with parsley and you’re done.

Notes: Paprika brands tends to range in quality quite a bit. The classic Hungarian tin you’ll find in the ethnic section of most stores - Pride of Szeged brand - is pretty weak. Morton & Bassett is good, but the real knockout comes from The Spice House. Share the shipping cost with a friend and the price is super-reasonable, too. Remember that website for all your spice needs!

I like two different styles of sour cream: a) smooth, sweet, and milky, b) thick and tart. My favorite in the a) category is available in your local Hispanic store under the name crema mexicana (or you can make your own). In b), I like Nancy’s sour cream. Use either one, but I find that the smoother cream curdles less and tames better.

As with most cookware, look no further for a saucepan than All-Clad.