It’s been 10 years now that I can’t just give my mom a call, to say “hi,” to get a recipe or share an experience. I always miss her the most in May. She always told me I was her best Mother’s Day gift (don’t tell my sister). She went into labor on Mother’s Day, and after a couple of miscarriages her firstborn, me, arrived on the scene. 

My mom, Margaret, but known to most as Margie, was a great cook. She emigrated from Hungary with her family as a 9-year-old and learned from her mother and grandmother and preserved their culinary traditions. Often when I called her to ask for a recipe … it was hard for her to give an exact amount of each ingredient to add … I would hear her hmmm as she pondered and would often say, when it felt right (for a pastry dough) or tasted great (for a seasoning), so I always did my best to approximate, usually with success. 

During my many years as nutritional health coach at Natural Grocers I was charged with offering cooking demonstrations, and at first struggled to strictly follow the instructions created for my use. I found myself channeling my mom’s kitchen energy, so she was with me as I shared recipes with my classes. She would have been proud!

This easy chicken paprikash is made with chicken, peppers, onions, garlic, stock, sour cream, and, of course, paprika. It is important to use fresh, high-quality paprika for this recipe. It’s traditional to use sweet Hungarian paprika. If you enjoy spicy food, you could try replacing 1 tsp of the paprika with hot Hungarian paprika. Paprika can go flat or tasteless if it is too old. So check your paprika first, before starting this dish and make sure it’s still fresh.

Hungarian Chicken Paprikash

This easy chicken paprikash is made with chicken, peppers, onions, garlic, stock, sour cream, and of course, paprika.It is important to use fresh, high-quality paprika for this recipe. It's traditional to use sweet Hungarian paprika. If you enjoy spicy food, you could try replacing 1 tsp of the paprika with hot Hungarian paprika. Paprika can go flat or tasteless if it is too old. So check your paprika first, before starting this dish and make sure it's still fresh.

Tips:

Sear the chicken– Searing the chicken (which means cooking the food at high temperature until a caramelized crust forms) adds a lot of flavor and produces a more complex sauce.

•Saute the paprika with the vegetables for a couple of minutes – toasting the paprika in high heat helps the paprika develop a full flavor, adding complexity and depth to the spice.

•Use fresh good quality paprika – my mom only used Szeged brand; I use organic.

Ingredients:

• 1.5lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 2 Tbsp Hungarian paprika, plus extra for seasoning the chicken

• 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (more is fine)

• 1 large onion, thinly sliced

• 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced

• 4 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 cup chicken stock

• ½ cup sour cream 

Instructions: 

• In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and sweet Hungarian paprika, and add to the skillet. Cook without moving the chicken pieces for about 4 minutes per side and flip them over, and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until cooked through. When chicken is done, transfer to a plate.

• In the same skillet, add more olive oil and sliced onion and red bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Season with salt, pepper and sweet Hungarian paprika to taste, and saute the vegetables for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

• Add chicken stock, sour cream (optional) and stir well.

• Add chicken to the skillet and stir everything. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until flavors blend and sauce thickens. Taste for salt and pepper and add more if needed.

• While the chicken paprikash is cooking, cook rice or egg noodles.

• Serve chicken paprikash over rice or egg noodles. 

Yaakov Levine is a functional nutritional therapy practitioner. He can be reached at nutrionallyspeaking.com