I’ve been writing about Budapest ever since I came back from there in August. I was completely captivated by the place. Of course, staying in the #1 Hotel in the World (Trip Advisor 2017) was a great deal of the reason why. And it was no surprise to hear that the hotel has just been voted #1 in Central Europe on Conde Nast Traveler’s 2018 “Best” List.
The Aria Hotel Budapest sits in the heart of Pest, in a converted Insurance Company office. And it’s a treat from the minute you walk in. The entire hotel is musically themed. Each one of the 49 rooms is dedicated to musicians ranging from Mozart to Michael Jackson. There are four themes: Contemporary, Jazz, Opera and Classical. I drew the Mozart Room. It was one of those hotel rooms so kitted out and wonderful that you didn’t ever want to leave. But that would be a shame since you’d miss the 130,000 Euro grand piano in the Atrium. Every day from 4 to 6, a lavish wine and cheese reception is held while the piano is played. That same space is where breakfast is also served and its equally if not even more lavish than the wines and cheeses. Since this article is now in the hands of several editors and since I’ll publish it here the minute it appears, I’ll stop by telling you that atop the hotel is a year-round Rooftop Bar, The High Note Sky Bar. There the Executive Chef pairs Gourmet Bar Food with Specialty Cocktails created by the hotel’s two mixologists.
The hotel also has a fine dining restaurant. The Stradavari serves Hungarian specialties that have undergone some serious tinkering by Executive Chef Gergely Kövér. Enjoying dinner there was pure pleasure. Missing from the menu were several staples of Hungarian cooking, specifically Hungarian Goulash and Chicken Paprikash. These were undoubtedly a little too homespun for Chef Kövér. So when I was planning dinner recently, I was pleased to find this recipe for Chicken Paprikash. And I was even more pleased because it came from Claire Saffitz.
To be completely honest, I had little idea who Claire Saffitz was. As I was looking at statistics for Chewing The Fat, I discovered that we’ve had 1311 hits from her name alone. And a Claire Saffitz recipe for Steak Salad that I’d written in 2015 had 403 hits. (The link to that recipe follows this one.) And that was this month alone. So I wanted to know what exactly explained this phenomenon. Here’s what Bon Appetit had to say about Claire; “ Claire is a living, breathing human being. She is a phenomenal baker. A runner. An Olympics enthusiast. But to the fans of her Bon Appétit video series “Gourmet Makes,” where senior food editor Claire Saffitz recreates classic junk foods (Twinkies, Gushers, Oreos)—she’s worthy of deep, loyal worship.”
Well I worship Claire for bringing so many people to Chewing The Fat. And today’s Chicken Paprikash is worthy of high praise as well. Paprikash comes from the Hungarian word for Paprika. The word is used for a range of recipes made with meat, onions, lots of paprika and sour cream. In the authentic Hungarian recipe, you won’t find tomatoes but you’ll be hard-pressed to find an American recipe without them. Interestingly, the heart of the dish has it roots in the Americas. When the 16th century explorers began returning from the New World, they brought a collection of new foods that quickly took root in Europe. Tomatoes became a staple in Italy and Spain, potatoes found a home on Northern European tables and Red Peppers found a home in Hungary. They were a perfect match for their soil and climate. There are hot varieties and sweet ones. Take your pick for this recipe. The “Hot” variation will give you more heat but the sweet packs some too. If you want to read more about Paprika, there’s a link to a post I wrote all about the stuff after the recipe.
Candidly, this is no 30 minute wonder. And it’s not something you can walk away from except for a brief break while the dish goes into the oven and before the noodles have to be cooked. But you end up with crispy-skinned chicken atop a luxuriously creamy-rich sauce with the tang of sour cream, the sweetness of both tomatoes and paprika. The buttered egg noodles are a luxurious base for the dish. It is really one of the world’s great peasant dishes that deserves a place on your table. To see more on the Aria Hotel Budapest and to make reservations there go to: https://ariahotelbudapest.com/en/ Here is the recipe.
Claire Saffitz' Chicken Paprikash
One of the great peasant dishes of all time, this American version from Claire Saffitz captures it in all its glory.
- ½ cup sour cream (not low fat)
- 2½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 6 large or 8 small)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 12 ounces egg noodles
- ½ cup Chopped Parsley
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 300°. Take sour cream out of fridge—it needs to come to room temperature. Place 2½ pounds chicken thighs on a plate and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Step 2 Set chicken aside for a few minutes and bang out your other prep. Peel and chop 1 onion. Smash 4 garlic cloves with the flat side of your knife and peel. Open 15-oz. can tomatoes.
- Step 3 Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Add 1 Tbsp. butter and swirl to melt. Using tongs, add chicken skin side down and cook, lifting up thighs once or twice to let rendered hot fat run underneath, until skin is golden brown and crisp, 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken skin side up to a plate.
- Step 4 Pour off fat from skillet into a small heatproof bowl, leaving a thin layer coating the bottom (reserve fat for another use). Reduce heat to low. Add onion and garlic
- Step 5 season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often to dissolve browned bits on bottom of skillet, until onions are translucent, 6–8 minutes.
- Step 6 Add 3 Tbsp. paprika and ¼ tsp. cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly, just until onions are evenly coated and spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds (the spices burn very easily, turning them bitter and chalky, so make sure to keep them moving in skillet and have can of tomatoes close at hand).
- Step 7 Add tomatoes to skillet. Fill can two-thirds with water and swirl, then add to skillet. Stir until incorporated, season with several pinches of salt, and bring to a simmer.
- Step 8 Using tongs, arrange thighs skin side up back in skillet (along with any accumulated juices), nestling into liquid but not submerging (you want the skin to be exposed so it stays crispy).
- Step 9 Transfer skillet to oven and roast until chicken is fully cooked and tender enough to release from the bone when prodded with a fork, 35–40 minutes.
- Step 10 About halfway through chicken cook time in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 12 oz. egg noodles and cook according to package instructions, stirring occasionally with tongs. Drain noodles in a colander. Transfer to a large bowl, add remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, and toss to coat until butter is melted and noodles are coated. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 11 Finely chop ½ cup parsley and add half to noodles, toss to coat.
- Step 12 Carefully remove skillet from oven (handle will be hot!). Using tongs, transfer chicken skin side up to a clean plate. Taste sauce and season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon about ¼ cup sauce into a small bowl and stir in sour cream until smooth (this slowly brings up the temperature of the sour cream so it doesn’t split when it hits the hot skillet). Pour back into skillet and stir to combine.
- Step 13 Arrange chicken thighs and juices back in skillet and top with remaining chopped parsley. Serve over noodles.