This dish is an ode to paprika, the most useful of spices. For a long time, my impression of paprika was as a silly garnish atop deviled eggs, adding a pretty color but little taste. In my kitchen, these kind of frivolities are always omitted, so for a while, paprika sat unused in my cabinet.
Then, one day, I made stroganoff without it. It was terrible. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was missing. A late addition of paprika saved the beef and sour cream lameness with sweetness and…something. I can’t put my finger on the taste of paprika, but for me, it’s the ingredient that makes everything taste better. Unlike other flavor enhancers (like salt and pepper) that can make a dish inedible in copious amounts, the more paprika you add, the better the dish will taste. I have yet to push the paprika limits, but I can safely say that up to 1 heaping tablespoon of this stuff in a sauce can only make things better.
Since the discovery of the magical properties of paprika, I have upped the amounts of it in recipes that call for it (stroganoff, fried chicken), added it to recipes you wouldn’t think needed it (tikka masala, marinades), and finally, because of such positive results, decided to make a recipe in celebration of it.
This dish a celebration for many reasons – paprika is the star, it’s a true 30 minute meal, it creates few dishes, it’s fast, cheap, and easy. So go thaw out some chicken and get ready to make this once a week, because it really is that good.
Note – this post is a love letter to sweet paprika, the most ubiquitous type in an grocery store. Please do not substitute smoked paprika for sweet, unless you want your sauce to taste like a wood burning fire. Smoked paprika and I still have some reconciling to do, and hopefully I can figure out the right uses for it in recipes soon.
1 large onion, diced
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
⅓ cup flour
¾ lb chicken (boneless skinless chicken thighs are fantastic, but chicken breast works well too)
2 ½ cups chicken stock (my favorite is the reduced sodium Better than Bouillon, dissolved as directed)
1 cup sour cream
1 lb pasta
Heat a large saute pan on medium heat, add some olive oil and the onions. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and cook until the onions turn golden, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut up the chicken to your desired size and season with salt, lots of pepper, and at least 1 tablespoon of paprika. Set aside.
Start the pasta while the onions are cooking by bringing a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to the directions, reserving ¼ cup of pasta water for the sauce (the pasta water is pretty important – it helps the sauce stick to the pasta)
When the onions are golden, add in the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and onions, stirring so the veggies are coated. Slowly pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
Add the chicken and simmer gently until the chicken is done, about 5 minutes (though this depends on the size of the chicken pieces). Add in the reserved pasta water. Then, stir in the sour cream. Adjust for salt and pepper.
Serve immediately over pasta and give in to the temptation to lick the plate.