Chicken Paprikash II
Latkes (Jewish Potato Pancakes)
Applesauce and Sour Cream
My husband had invited a co-worker and her spouse to join us for dinner. The date happened to fall on a Tuesday.
“Don’t worry, “ he assured me, “I already told them to expect a Slovenian dinner.” In his mind, it wasn’t even a question. If it was Tuesday, it had to be Slovenian.
There was just one stipulation. His young colleague had a food request: Potato pancakes—or latkes, in the Ashkenazi Jewish tradition she and my husband share. He had mentioned preparing them, a few months back, and she had been impressed, or maybe just nostalgic.
So all I had to figure out was a main course that would go well with potato pancakes. It shouldn’t be too difficult. I had come to realize that Slovenian and Ashkenazi Jewish cooking styles have a lot in common.
So this would be my first official attempt at a Slovenian-Jewish fusion dinner.*
I wanted to make a reliable entree that was tasty but not too unusual. Something that would naturally pair with a starchy side dish like potato pancakes. Then it came to me.
Four months earlier, I had made a nice simple version, from the 1950s cookbook published by the Progressive Slovene Women of America. (The homemade egg noodles were the bigger challenge!)
For this week’s “company” dinner, I devised a slightly more elaborate version. I combined two recipes: Chicken paprikash from Woman’s Glory, another one of my vintage Slovenian American cookbooks, and a chicken pepper stew with potato dumplings from the 1985 Yugoslav Cookbook, the newest addition to my library.
The version below has more vegetables than the first one, and it includes bacon and tomato puree. And there is an added step at the end: the chicken is removed and the sauce is finished separately and then poured on top.
3 slices bacon
2 ½ to 3 lbs of chicken breasts, cut up
2 stalks celery
1 green pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. paprika (mix mild, sweet, and smoked)
1-2 T. red wine vinegar
chicken stock to cover
1 T. tomato puree
1 T. flour
2 T. sour cream
Cut the vegetables into small dice and brown in olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add diced bacon. Sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper and cook for a few minutes. Add cut up chicken and brown. Add parsley, vinegar, tomato puree, and enough stock to cover chicken. Cover and simmer for about an hour.
To make sauce: Remove chicken pieces and arrange on serving platter. Mix 1 T. flour in a little broth and add to the drippings and vegetables that remain in the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with additional fresh parsley.
My husband’s latkes were wonderful, as always. He doesn’t use recipes and he likes to experiment. (I think these included some zucchini.) Maybe I’ll watch him closely next time and see if I can write down an approximation.
As for the chicken paprikash: It was a success. Even better than the first time around. But I have to admit that a flour-thickened sauce, though traditional, can be a little too heavy for today’s sensibilities. Next time, I might skip it. The sour cream probably adds enough richness.
*An important note: If you were following Jewish dietary laws, you would not serve bacon. You could substitute turkey bacon or simply leave it out. And the sour cream would be omitted, since dairy cannot be combined with meat.