Monday, February 9, 2015

Yogurt - Paprika Chicken

This thoroughly satisfying and beautiful chicken dish was introduced to me through sharing "What I know how to cook" with a Jordanian friend who really knew "how" herself but usually had her full time cooks make dinner.  This cultural cooking exchange, in which I eagerly participated in the various countries we lived in, transcends all political borders, and cooks with appreciative palettes grow in all climes of the world.  Once you've searched them out, sharing cooking techniques and sampling different taste combinations is satisfying to both parties.  Food afterall, is the universal obsession, the equalizer of men, the piece de resistance of humanity or should we say "Peace" to resistance!   My gracious Jordanian friend enjoyed the fun of inventing and creating and her cook, the effecting. I however, could "effect" for myself and could happily wield a knife and pot.  As the years change, so do our tastes and the recipe is easily adapted to a less fatty base, more tangy taste, as you like.  Adding 2 cups of sour cream never bothered me...taste and texture in foods have always been my number one priority!   We couldn't find sour cream in Jordan...dairy cows were few and far between...Ghada's solution was to take a cup of cream, stir in a couple of tablespoons of leban (yogurt) and let the mixture ferment a bit on the counter until cooking time - it also thickens as it sits. This result provides just a bit of tang but lends the creaminess and inherent sweetness of the cream to the chicken.  At times I simply used lebaneh instead, a thickened yogurt, very similar to what we know today as Greek yogurt, but the taste was definitely tangier and slightly bitter.  But those of you who have grown accustomed to that taste, go for the tang!  Paprika is predominant in the name of the dish so don't skimp on it.  We use about 3 tab. in the recipe but you can opt for more, depending on taste and whether you use the hot Hungarian paprika or the sweet or smoked.  (The version we find generally in our U.S. stores is a somewhat bland sweet paprika)  The toasted whole almonds and the garnish of raw pepper strips on top offer a nice balanced crunch that contrasts with the meltingly tender chicken.  I prefer rice as the chicken bed, though noodles would go nicely to create this delicious party dish!

Chicken Paprika
6 boned and skinned chicken breasts 
1 slivered onion
1 red pepper, julienned
1/2 cup diced bacon, cooked and drained
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
garlic salt or garlic powder
½ cup flour
2 cups sour cream (or ½ plain Greek yogurt and ½ sour cream)
¾ cup whole, skinned almonds, fried in butter till golden

      - Trim the chicken breasts of fat, then slice each one into 5 pieces, following the grain of the chicken, about 1 inch thick.   Place flour, paprika, pepper and garlic salt in a large plastic bag. Add chicken breast pieces and shake until well coated.

       -Fry slivered onion and red pepper in ¼ cup butter until soft and caramelized – about 30 minutes over low heat.  Remove from pan with slotted spoon, leaving butter in pan.  Add chicken pieces in single layer and brown on both sides adding a tablespoon of butter and oil between batches. 

      -Layer all chicken pieces back in pan and pour chicken stock and wine over chicken till just covered.  Cover and cook chicken until tender, about 12 minutes. Remove lid and reduce liquid until almost gone.

      -Heat 2 cups sour cream for 40 seconds in microwave and stir in 2 tab.  paprika, 1 tsp. garlic salt and pepper.  Add bacon bits.  Pour over chicken and stir, heating slowly.  Add slivered onions and red pepper.

      - Serve over rice or noodles and garnish with some reserved almonds and thinly sliced raw red pepper ribbons.   Serves 6.

Persnickety P.S.
 **To easily skin almonds, place in small pot of boiling water and let blanch for 1 minute.  Poor almonds into cold water and let sit 5 minutes.  Drain and pat almonds dry.  In a large bowl, grasp almonds by the fatter end and squeeze - the almond will slide easily out of it's skin.  Be careful, they can become missles and fly about the room - one of my childrens' favorite games! That and parsley picking!

**When adding dairy products - sour cream - to warm liquids, slightly heat the dairy so it won't curdle when added to the warm liquid.  (rule of thumb for adding cream, milk and cheeses)

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