Chicken paprikash is a dish that has many different recipes. I have seen at least a dozen variations. Paprikash is of Hungarian origin, but many Slavic and other cookbooks have recipes for the dish. Paprika is the Hungarian word for pepper. I have a Czech cookbook that has the recipe in it.
My mother made chicken paprikash when I was growing up. She gave me a copy of her recipe when I asked for it. The recipe was what I would call minimalist. It called for a chicken cut up into parts, some diced onion, a cup of tomato juice, a mere ½ teaspoon of paprika, a cup of sour cream, a tablespoon of flour, salt and ground black pepper. It was to be served with rice or noodles.
I have enhanced the recipe with additional vegetables and condiments. The reason for the enhancement was to increase the nourishment of the dish, and keep from having to cook side dishes of vegetables. If you have read any other chapters in this book, you have probably come to the conclusion that I can’t let well enough alone.
Here’s the variation on a theme. I suggested to my wife that I make some chicken paprikash for our Saturday night dinner. She told me that there were no chicken parts in the freezer. There were a couple of 1-inch thick boneless center-cut pork chops in the freezer. Their weight was about a pound. The chops had been in there for a couple of months. I decided to use the chops as a substitute for the usual chicken.
Now pork chops can be tricky. They often come out dry and tough when not prepared correctly. The reason that pork chops are more difficult to cook now than they were 50 years or more ago is that the meat is much leaner. The recipes in old cookbooks that describe how to cook pork chops are almost useless in today’s kitchen.
I have found that brining pork chops before cooking results in tender chops. The November & December 2001 issue of Cook’s Illustrated contains an article entitled The Basics of Brining (Brining 101 appears on the cover). I’ve prepared pork chops since reading the Cook’s Illustrated article with very good results.
Here’s how I prepared the pork chop paprikash. The brining solution was made first. Add ¼ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of Kosher salt to a quart of cold water (4 cups of water) in a bowl or vessel large enough to accommodate the water and 2 pork chops of the size I mentioned above. Allow the salt and sugar to go into solution. Meanwhile, prepare to process the other ingredients that are to go into the dish.
My chicken paprikash contains most of the ingredients I mentioned above plus bell pepper, carrot, ground hot chile powder and sometimes a few squirts of Worcestershire sauce and/or a few drops of liquid smoke. A chile is the capsicum pod of the chile plant, which is commonly know in the United States as a hot pepper. The rest of the world refers to capsicums as chiles. I use only one brand of Worcestershire sauce, the one that is made with tamarind, not soy sauce.