How to Make Chicken Paprikash, Buttered Spaetzle, and Ground Beef Stroganoff


Today on Cook’s Country, I’m making chicken paprikash. Toni digs into the rich history of Cleveland’s Hungarian community, Adam reviews a kitchen staple, wooden spoons, and Ashley’s making a super easy ground beef stroganoff. That’s all right here on Cook’s Country. Paprika is Hungary’s national spice, which is why it’s featured so heavily in a lot of their more famous dishes, like goulash or the dish I’m making today, chicken paprikash. Now this recipe was inspired by a recent trip we made to Cleveland Ohio to visit Balaton, a Hungarian restaurant that’s been run by the same family of immigrants since 1964.

Now their version, like our version today, starts off with a braising sauce. So I have here in my Dutch oven an a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil. I’m going to heat that over medium high until the oil starts to shimmer. So all I need to do is take one onion, peel it of course, and then rather than mince, we’re going to slice this onion pretty thin.

In addition to paprika, which we’re going to add in a little bit, we’re also using red bell pepper.

So I’m just going to cut off the top to stem it, and then cut one side, open it up, just get rid of this pod and I also wanna cut away the ribs of this pepper. So the best way is to flatten this and then take your knife and just get rid of any of these white parts here. They can be a little bit bitter. Not all recipes for paprikash use red bell pepper, but we really love that sweetness that they gave.

All right, so now, just like the onion, we’re gonna slice pretty thin.

(knife chops) The oil is shimmering so now it’s time to add in our vegetables. So in addition to the onion and the bell pepper, I’m going to add one 14 and a half ounce can of diced tomatoes that we’ve drained, five cloves of garlic that we’ve chopped pretty fine, we didn’t mince it, we actually like those bigger pieces of garlic, and a teaspoon of salt. That’s not only going to start seasoning, it’s also gonna help to pull out the moisture from the onions and the bell peppers. So let me give this a nice stir here.

(pan sizzles) All right, so that looks great.

Now I’m gonna let this go about 10 minutes. I’ll go in there and give it a stir every once in a while. I wanna make sure that it’s not burning, but I do want those vegetables to soften and a fond should start to form on the bottom of the pan. That’s good flavor. So we’ve got a little time to prep our chicken.

Now, some recipes for chicken paprikash will use cut up pieces of chicken, but we really like that whole piece of bone-in thighs. But we do wanna remove the skin, because we found that it made the paprikash just a little too fatty. So let me show you how to do that. Paper towel is key here ’cause these things can be a little slippery.

So you’re just going to find one of the ends, kind of tear it off, and then use the paper towel to grip that chicken skin and pull the rest, just like that.

All right, so we are left with a little bit of fat here. You can use a knife to trim it, or you can go in with scissors, especially when you have these longer pieces. Kitchen shears is just a great way to get rid of that very easily. So I just need to finish the rest of these and then wash my hands and we can move on. All right, so the vegetables are softened nicely and the chicken is all trimmed and de-skinned.

So I do need to season it with a little salt and pepper. So this is a teaspoon of salt, I’m just using table salt here, and a three quarter teaspoon of black pepper. All right, so those vegetables are beautifully softened. Oh, it smells so good in here, but there’s also some great color in the bottom of the pot. So that only took 10 minutes, and now we wanna pull up all that goodness by de-glazing our pot.

I’ve got two and a half cups of chicken broth here and now the main ingredient besides the chicken. It’s the other star, two tablespoons of sweet paprika.

Now you don’t wanna use hot paprika here. It’s just going to be too much. Same thing with smoked paprika.

You wanna stick with sweet. Now often we’ll bloom spices in oil, but paprika is a little delicate. It likes to go in right into the liquid rather than bloom in hot oil. It can get a little scorched flavored there. Now we do wanna add a little bit of heat, so this is a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

I’m just going to use my spatula here. You can use a wooden spoon if you like, and just scrape up any browned bits into the sauce. Now the chicken. And I did leave a little bit of fat on these chicken thighs, just a little bit because it’s going to melt into the sauce. All right, so now that they’re all nestled in here, we’re just gonna wait for this liquid to come up to a simmer, and that gives us a few moments to work on our side dish and we’re making spaetzle.

Now these are the little egg noodles. They’re kind of in between an egg noodle and a dumpling that you often find in Austrian, German, Hungarian, Swiss cuisine, and it starts off with two cups of all purpose flour.

We want to season our flour, so I have a three quarter teaspoon of table salt, a half a teaspoon of black pepper, and a quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg. And give us a little whisk. And I cannot emphasize this enough, grate your nutmeg right before you use it.

It’s gonna taste completely different from the stuff that comes out of the jar pre-ground. All right, now our liquid ingredients, so I have three eggs here and we’re gonna whisk in three quarter cup of whole milk. You just wanna break up those eggs. (whisk rattles) Okay, so let’s put this egg mixture into our flour mixture.

Just pour it right in and mix these together.

Work out any lumps. You don’t want it to be too thin, but you also don’t want it to be too thick. I’ll cover it with a little bit of plastic wrap and we can let this sit here for 15 or up to 30 minutes, and doing so is going to help to make this dough easier to work with later on. All right, let’s go check out our paprikash. And we want this chicken to cook until it registers at least 195 degrees.

That’s how we’re going to know the chicken is not only cooked through, but getting very, very tender. So it’s time to turn the heat down to medium low, put a lid on it. (lid rattles) That’s gonna take about 30 minutes and halfway through cooking time, I’ll go in and flip the pieces of chicken over.Surprisingly, between 1870 and 1920, 10% of Hungary’s entire population immigrated to the United States. And where did they go?

They went to Cleveland. At one time, Cleveland had the largest population of Hungarians outside of Budapest.

Many of them settled in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood. It was a vibrant community, full of traditional Hungarian butchers, bakeries, and restaurants. But by the 1970s, the community was eroding.

Many families had moved into the suburbs and new immigration had slowed, but some traditional Hungarian restaurants still remain, like Balaton near Shaker Square. The restaurant is run by sisters, Erica Johnson and Krisztina Ponti, who both immigrated to Cleveland as teenagers in the late ’80s. Their brick red chicken paprikash inspired us at Cook’s Country.

(lid clatters) Now again, I’m looking for anything above 195. Oh yeah, this is closer to 199, 200. Absolutely perfect. It wouldn’t be paprikash without finishing it with sour cream, and we’re doing that as well, but I don’t want to just add the sour cream straight to the pot because there’s a chance it could curdle and we don’t want that. So I have a third cup of sour cream in this bowl.

I’m going to add three tablespoons of all purpose flour to our sour cream, and the flour’s not only going to help prevent some curdling but it’s also going to thicken the sauce. All right, one more thing to do to ensure that the sour cream doesn’t split or curdle, we’re going to temper it. We’ve got a ladle here, and I’m just going to gather about a half a cup of our liquid and I’m going to whisk this into our sour cream mixture, and that’s why I have it set over a towel, to help it stay nice and steady.

All right, so at first this is pretty thick. So I’m just going to pour some in and give it a good whisk to start loosening the sour cream.

All right, so this hot liquid is bringing the temperature of the sour cream up, just raising that temperature so, again, it’s not gonna split. Now this mixture can go right into our pot. All right, I’ll give this a stir and we are nearly done with this. We’re gonna let this simmer until it just thickens a little bit, and that’s only gonna take about five minutes.

So let’s work on the spaetzle.

We’ve got four quarts of boiling water and we wanna season it, just as we do with pasta, with a tablespoon of salt. Give it a little quick stir. And here is our batter. It’s rested. It’s nice and sticky.

And that is one of the problems sometimes with working with this, it can be very sticky, so I’m gonna show you a couple of tips that my grandfather showed me when working with spaetzle. An insert, this is actually a spaetzle insert. Nice large holes. It’s going to allow plenty of the batter to go through. Now these are really inexpensive, and once you make spaetzle, you’re gonna wanna make it all the time so I highly recommend that you invest in one of these.

But if you don’t want to, we have instructions on our website for a makeshift spaetzle insert using a disposable pan. All right, so this goes right over the boiling water. Now, a cup of cold water is pretty key to this recipe. Cold water is what helps prevent this batter from sticking to everything.

So I just like to keep one nearby.

I actually run a little bit of cold water over the insert. It just makes the mixture a little bit easier. And now our spaetzle dough, put it right on top. Using a towel, I’m gonna grab the side here to keep it steady, and then just press it right through. And the rule of thumb is you only wanna add enough to the pot that basically makes one layer.

If you add too much of the batter to the pot all at once, it can overcrowd the pot and you end up with soggy spaetzle. Let’s lift up this insert, and right away they start to float, and as soon as they float, they are basically done. These only take about a minute to cook all the way through. All right, give it a good stir. That’s done.

So we’re gonna get these out of the pot, and you can use a skimmer, or like I’ve got here, a little fine mesh strainer to get them out of the boiling water into a colander so they can continue to drain a little bit, and I’ve set it over a bowl.

Give it a nice shake. Dump any excess water back in there, but we’ve got a hot bowl. This goes right back in, and we’re gonna toss this with two tablespoons of unsalted butter that we’ve melted, there you go. All right, so these are so easy to make.

You saw that. Great to keep on hand and these only have to wait for our paprikash. It’s all coming together and it’s time to eat. So I’m gonna go ahead and spoon some of this beautiful spaetzle onto my plate. Ah, buttered and well seasoned because we seasoned the dough.

Now let’s check out the paprikash. Oh, looking good. I’ll give it a little stir.

You can see that the sauce is nicely thickened. Not too much.

And one more thing to stir in is two tablespoons of parsley, a little color at the end. I’m gonna hold some back for my plate, too. Beautiful. Let’s stir that in. Let me get out a plump, juicy chicken thigh, sauce and those onions and peppers.

(moans) And dollop some more sour cream. I like to put it right on the side so it can start melting into that sauce, and a little bit more paprika right over everything.

And I promised you some parsley. Doesn’t that look like magic? And this is falling apart.

I’m gonna grab a little bit of that sour cream. Make sure I get plenty of sauce. Incredibly tender. The flavors are so vivid. They’re so bright.

Get some of that spaetzle. It’s just a beautiful balance, a little heat, a little sweet. I call that gorgeous, I call it finished and that is dinner.

So to make this wonderful chicken paprikash at home, remove chicken skin from thighs before cooking, add sweet paprika right to the sauce to preserve its flavor, temper the sour cream with a little bit of that sauce and then serve it with buttered spaetzle to make it a full meal. So from Cook’s Country via Cleveland and Hungary, the very best chicken paprikash and buttered spaetzle.

You would think that wooden spoons are about as straightforward as kitchen equipment gets, but take a look at this lineup of 13 different spoons and you’ll see a whole bunch of different types of wood and designs. It’s less straightforward than you would imagine. So the price ranged from about four dollars at a low to $36 at a high, and let me go through a couple of the styles. This one you’re gonna recognize right off the bat as a wooden spoon, ’cause even our grandmothers would recognize it as a wooden spoon. It’s classically shaped.

Other ones have a straight edge instead of that rounded edge, like this one. Some of them have the straight edge with an offset corner to get into the corners of the pan.

This is actually a Scottish tool called a spurtle that’s designed specifically for stirring porridge. This one is based on that, just a flat stirrer. This one with that notch in the side of the handle is called the lazy spoon because you’re meant to rest it right on the edge of your cooking vessel like that.

Now, let’s start talking about the handles. You would think that the type of wood from which a wooden spoon is made would make a real difference, and we have five different types of wood, plus bamboo. But testers found that wasn’t really the fact. What mattered more was the finish on the wood. Some of them were polished and therefore a little bit slick to hold.

Other ones were sanded a little bit rough. They were easier to hang onto, but not comfortable. What testers liked was something in between, something that was sanded smooth so it was both comfortable, but provided some grip to hang onto. The length ranged from about 10 inches at a low to 13 and a half inches at a high. That would be this one, and testers gravitated towards the longer handles.

They were just more comfortable and provided more leverage. They also liked handles that were simpler, rounded on the bottom, maybe a little flat on the top because a lot of different testers with different hand sizes and dominances could get comfortable on a handle like that, as opposed to this lazy spoon, where you have this big swoop that kind of interrupts your ability to hold it in a bunch of different positions. When you have a simple handle that allows a lot of variety of positions, that’s something that people in ergonomics call affordance. It just means it’s simple and a lot of people can get comfortable with it. The business end of these spoons is of course the head.

Testers gravitated towards the ones that had a straight edge like this. It’s pretty thin, which made it easy to slip under food and scrape along the bottom of a pan.

Not all of them were that thin. You can see that this one is a little wider. It worked, it just felt somewhat clumsier.

The other factor that made a real difference with the heads was the width of the edge. Most of them were two inches or less, like this one, and that meant that when you were stirring something in a pan, it required more passes to move everything. If you had a slightly wider head like this, which is two and a quarter inches, with a wider head, you can move the material in the pan more efficiently, fewer strokes, which testers appreciated.

In fact, this is our winner. We have co-winners, and this is the first one.

If you’re inclined towards that straight edge, this is the Jonathan’s Spoon Spootle. It’s got a nice thin leading edge, a comfortable handle. It’s a great overall spoon. It’s not cheap. It’s $28.

If you’re more inclined towards that classic design, this one is the FAAY 13 and a half inch teak cooking spoon. It’s got a different shaped head, but a lot of the same strengths as the other winner, and it’s just $11.

So with either one, you’re gonna be able to stir up something great in your kitchen.Beef stroganoff can be found in New York City’s Russian Tea Room, and it also can be found in the frozen food section at the grocery store. And today’s version I’m gonna make for you is streamlined, it’s weeknight friendly and it’s one pot.

So I’m gonna start with some mushrooms, ’cause mushrooms are always part of the stroganoff. It’s creamy, it’s comforting, it’s cozy food. So these are eight ounces. It’s a half a pound of white button mushrooms that I’ve already gone ahead and sliced. And here I’m gonna just finish slicing the rest of ’em.

And mushrooms are great. They’re gonna add a ton of that meaty, earthy flavor. I have one tablespoon of vegetable oil which is now shimmering over medium high heat, and I’m gonna add the mushrooms here (pot sizzles) and a quarter teaspoon of salt.

And the salt’s gonna help to bring out the moisture of the mushrooms, and it’s also gonna help the mushrooms brown. And I’m gonna let the mushrooms cook, stirring occasionally for five to seven minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are beginning to brown.

It’s been five minutes, so I’m gonna take the mushrooms out at this point and transfer them to a bowl.

They’re not gonna be needed until later on in the recipe. I’m still over medium high heat. I’m gonna add another tablespoon of vegetable oil, and that’s shimmering right away. The pot was nice and hot.

And now I’m gonna add one finally chopped onion, two cloves of minced garlic, half a teaspoon of pepper and a half a teaspoon of salt. And I’m just going to cook the onion and the garlic until the onion is softened, which should take about five minutes. (pan sizzles) Oh my goodness, these onions look and smell amazing. So now I’m gonna add the ground beef. We have 85% ground beef, which is going to be perfect for this because a little bit more fat means it’s gonna be a little bit more flavorful and a little bit more tender.

So I’ll add the beef to the pot, and that’s one pound. And here we have some salt and pepper, a quarter teaspoon of each. And I’m gonna cook the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon like I have here, for five to seven minutes until the ground beef is no longer pink inside. The beef looks great. It’s nice and browned, no pink left.

And I’m gonna add some flour here, and this is gonna help to thicken the stroganoff, and it’s three tablespoons.

And I’m just gonna cook this for about one minute. I’m just giving it a stir, and it’s just to get that raw flour taste out of the way. So next up, some white wine. I’m gonna de-glaze the pan with a quarter cup of white wine.

And traditionally the recipe uses brandy or sherry, but I usually have white wine on hand so this is what I like to use for the recipe. And we’ve got four cups of chicken broth, which is also gonna help to release some of that fond and flavor at the bottom of the pot. And again, scrape the bottom of the pot. I’m gonna let this cook now for about five minutes until it’s slightly thickened. The sauce is slightly thickened and it’s time to add the noodles.

So I have eight ounces of egg noodles, and I’m gonna add it directly into the pot. Again, one pan. (noodles rattle) And it may look like a lot of sauce at this point, but trust me, the best part about cooking the noodles in the sauce like this is they’re gonna absorb all of that beefy, mushroomy flavor.

We’re gonna cook the noodles uncovered, stirring occasionally 10 to 12 minutes.Now this is cozy in a pot.

We’re not done yet. I’m gonna turn off the heat and I’ve got some sour cream. I’ve got a half a cup of sour cream that I’m just gonna add here, and we’ve got our mushrooms from earlier. Add those directly into the pot and give it a nice stir. It smells heavenly.

Mushroomy. (moans) One more spoonful. Now we just need one more thing, some minced chives. I’m sorry you don’t get to try it right now, ’cause I’m pretty excited I get to try it. Mmm.

The noodles are perfectly cooked. Those mushrooms providing that umami, that extra beefy flavor. Mmm. This is so, so good. If you wanna make this comforting meal, start by browning the mushrooms, cook the noodles in the sauce, and then off heat, add the sour cream.

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