Friday, May 18, 2012

Comfort Food: Serbian Paprika Chicken

Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always. – Hippocrates

One pot comfort food.
Here’s a recipe that I found when I was looking for “comfort food.” I still have this dastardly cold and certain foods can be comforting when you’re not feeling well.

Much Balkan cuisine calls for paprika. This
recipe is no exception. Photo: stromnessdundee,
Flickr ccl
One of my prerequisites (especially when I’m feeling ill) is simplicity – no complex preparation, no complex technique. A bonus is if I only have to dirty one pot as well.

Another prerequisite is that my food should be at least passingly interesting. I’m sick, after all, not dead…This recipe hits the mark on all counts.

Sometimes I feel like I should have a world map attached to a dart board. Every country has comfort food. The trick is to  1) choose a country, and  2) find what those dishes are. A dartboard would possibly make my selections a little easier – if more random. If that’s possible…

When looking, picture what you would be served in someone’s grandmother’s kitchen. Those are the kind of recipes you want to find to truly experience the cuisine of foreign nations. The heart of a country is found in its kitchen.

This one’s from Serbia. Serbian cuisine shares a lot of characteristics with the rest of the Balkans, Mediterranean, Turkish and Hungarian food. This is most certainly due to its central position as a way-station for invading armies from both the east and west over the centures.

Under Ottoman rule influences from Oriental cuisine were absorbed. Then for the years of Austro-Hungarian rule western influences dominated. This influence permeated all areas of their food, but most notably desserts. Other “guests” in the country left their marks as well.

Much of Serbian cuisine is rich and meat-heavy with a lot of animal fats. Can you *scream* “comfort food”? Besides this gem of a recipe, some other standard dishes are cabbage rolls, roast with sauerkraut, and moussaka. You can start to see different cultural influences...

Desserts range from the Mediterranean influenced baklava to rich tortes and pastries associated with Austria. What better melting pot of cuisine to choose for a one pot meal?

I have modified the recipe from the original I found. My differences? The original called for 1/2 cup of lard. That was WAY too much, unless you like greased food, and a few of the other ingredients needed adjusting to suit my personal taste.

This really did hit the spot, and because of using just one pot clean-up was quick and easy. Gotta love that.

Just before covering the pot.
Serbian Paprika Chicken
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook: 1 hour  |  Serves 4-6
1/4 cup lard (yes it’s necessary)
6-8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1-1/2 cups of arborio rice, rinsed
1 tbsp + 1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 banana pepper, seeded and chopped
2 dried bay leaves
1-1/2 cups water
28 fl.oz. (796 ml) can of whole tomatoes

Melt the lard in a Dutch oven.

Season the chicken with a little of the salt and pepper. Fry the chicken on both sides until browned. Remove and set aside.

After 45 minutes all the liquid is absorbed. No peeking
while it's cooking, unless you smell burning. If so, your
temperature is set a little too high.
Add the onions and sauté until softened. They will almost deep-fry. 

Add the garlic and rice and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Frying the rice hardens the outer coating and allows for the slow release of starch over a longer cooking time (much like risotto).

Sprinkle the rice with the paprika and the remaining salt and pepper. Add the bay leaves, water and tomatoes. Break the whole tomatoes up slightly.

Bring to a boil and nestle the chicken down into the rice and liquid.

Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot and let the mixture cook for 45 minutes.

At the end of the time all the liquid will be absorbed and you will have a delicious, homey dinner.


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