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  • Hungarian Paprika Chicken Bowls

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    Healthy Gluten Free Hungarian Paprika Chicken
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    I feel like I should start the post with a “welcome back” to myself. You may have noticed, I haven’t blogged in a while. Summer has kind of taken over and, lately, given the choice to blog or to completely goof off in the sun, I’ve been choosing the sun. Of course, there’s also a lot going on. Paul and I are getting ready to move, I’m plotting a new blog idea as well as another business idea with a friend (stay tuned), and I’ve just returned from an amazing vacation. Life is good and I am grateful!

    So here I am, ready to get back into the groove (though not quite ready to say farewell to the sun), and totally excited to dive into this month’s Recipe Redux inspiration with a recipe inspired by travel. Seriously, the timing couldn’t be better for this one!

    Remember when you were a kid and you had to do a report about what you did over your summer vacation? Admittedly, I could have just written the same report each year. I come from a large family with very modest means, so we never had a family vacation and my parents couldn’t afford to send us to summer camps. So my summers were spent being kicked out of the house to play outside with the daily command that I needed to be back in the house when the streetlights came on. Armed with a complete lack of adult supervision from my parents, I typically spent most of my days with my best friend Karen and her family (and often tagged along on their family vacations to Maine). Our summer days were spent riding our bikes, frequenting the neighborhood community swimming pool, and playing “CHiPs“, super heroes, Land of the Lost, or various other role playing games based on our favorite TV shows. As we got older, we “hung out” talking about where we’d be when we were “old” and lamenting the shortness of summer vacation. Each year, the symbolic end of summer culminated in my sister and I going door-to-door collecting donations for the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.

    Perhaps it was those uneventful summers that fed my wanderlust that began in high school. Karen and I plotted our first trip out of the country and began the countdown to graduation–and our launch in to the world. We’d chosen Great Britain as the destination (inspired by our love for British new wave and punk music…and the fact that she had a pen pal we could stay with). We had the time of our lives and it marked the beginning of a life-long love for travel for both of us.

    Which brings me to this month’s Recipe Redux recipe, which is inspired by the trip Paul and I just returned from. Over the course of 2 weeks we visited London, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. All amazing places and each have inspired more recipe ideas than I may be able to tackle in one lifetime.

    Great Market Hall Budapest

    Great Market Hall, Budapest

    There are so many things to love about traveling abroad. The perspective and wisdom I’ve built over the many trips I’ve taken outside of the US have developed and nurtured compassion, amazement and admiration of my fellow human. It’s difficult to anticipate the sense of understanding that we really are all more similar than we are different in our wants, concerns, loves, and fears. Of course, this kind of enlightened travel only happens if you are open to being a part of the community you are visiting and do your best to let go of the assumptions and preconceived notions for the experience.

    One of the best things about traveling? The eating! There’s perhaps no better way to experience a culture than by eating the foods that define a place. When I travel, I typically have a list of the foods (and restaurants, markets, food carts, etc.) I hope to visit. Usually I have at least one dish I am obsessed with “getting to know” and have been known to spend the entire trip seeking out the best version of the dish. This can be a tall order given that I have to eat gluten free (Celiac), and that Paul and I don’t eat anything with four legs (this proved particularly challenging on this trip since all of the countries we visited boast traditional foods that are very meatastic). So, sticking to my tradition of obsessing about one dish, I focused-in on Hungarian Paprika Chicken. The challenge? Finding a gluten free version, which, unfortunately, didn’t happen.

    But something amazing happened in my process of desperately seeking a paprika chicken dish I could safely eat…nearly every chef, spice shop clerk, or local who’d I’d struck up conversations with were happy to share their personal requirements for what makes the best paprika chicken. Here’s what I learned:

    • Most people I talked to preferred sweet rather than hot paprika
    • Sour cream is a must
    • Noodles are go-to side to soak up all of the yummy sauce
    • The ingredients are simple (and don’t even think about adding garlic)
    • Everyone’s family has the best version of the dish

    So, while I had to live vicariously through Paul as he happily ate his way through several versions of paprika chicken, I plotted my own healthy take on one of the iconic Eastern European dishes. First stop (OK, two stops): Great Market Hall in Budapest.

    Great Market Hall Budapest

    Great Market Hall, Budapest

    With every manner of food, souvenir (embroidered table cloths, hand painted porcelain, hand-blown glass) and some of the best Hungarian “fast food” options in the city, one visit to this amazing place just wasn’t enough. After fighting the temptation to eat everything in sight (and buying every tablecloth (which I NEVER use at home)), I wandered the many spice purveyors looking for some local paprika.

    Great Market Hall Paprika

    While I am not sure just how “local” my paprika treasure was, I left happy to have plenty for me (and a couple of foodie friends). Once I arrived home, I had a moment of debate with myself about whether to stick with my paprika chicken idea for this post or if I should take on creating a recipe for a lighter version of the most amazing ginger pear creme brulee. Seriously, it was the best one I’ve ever had…which is why I decided against tackling such a perfect dessert. Better that it remain a fond memory. Besides, I felt pretty confident I could do a killer (lighter) version of this beloved Hungarian dish.

    Truthfully, this is one of those dishes that lends itself well to a few healthy tweaks. I simply substituted low-fat sour cream for the full-fat (I haven’t tested the recipe with Greek yogurt, but given that I’ve made this substitute about 1,000 times in my years of healthy cooking, I feel confident it would work just fine). I replaced the recommended flour with white rice flour and corn starch (making the recipe gluten free), and used chicken breast instead of thigh. And, because I am a huge fan of the bowl meal trend, I created my version of a paprika chicken bowl by substituting the noodles with roasted red potatoes and incorporating a good helping of sauteed greens. Clever, right?

    Healthy Hungarian Paprika Chicken Gluten FreeAlthough this recipe has several components, it comes together pretty easily and quickly. You could substitute any greens or other roasted veggies you’d prefer and maybe even swap the chicken out for sauteed tofu. Feel free to adjust the amount of paprika to your taste and use a mix of hot and sweet if you’d like a little added spiciness.

    Note–new camera and I have NO idea what I am doing with it—so please pardon the rather uninspiring pic. I promise, this is one time when the photo does not do justice to the tastiness that is this recipe 🙂

    Hungarian Paprika Chicken Bowls

    servings: 4 | time: about 45 minutes

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    4 cups quartered small red potatoes

    olive oil

    1/3 cup white rice flour

    1 tsp. salt

    1/2 tsp. white pepper (black pepper is fine)

    1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast (or thighs), cut into 1″cubes

    1 TBSP. butter

    1 TBSP olive oil

    1/2 cup chopped red onion

    1 TBSP. each sweet paprika and hot paprika (you can use all hot or all sweet if you prefer more or less heat)

    3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

    2/3 cup sour cream (I used low fat. You could also use Greek yogurt). Don’t use fat free!

    2 tsp. corn starch

    10 cups sauteing greens (I used a kale “power blend” pre-packaged blend)


    Preheat oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

    1. Place the quartered potatoes in a large bowl, Add 2 TBSP. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Toss well and spread on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes, just until tender. Remove from oven and wrap in the tin foil to keep them warm
    2. Meanwhile, make the chicken by placing the white rice flour in a large bowl. Add 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. white or black pepper. Whisk to combine. Add the cubed chicken pieces and toss to coat
    3. Heat 1 TBSP. each butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook over medium heat until browned, about 7-8 minutes
    4. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook just until translucent, about 5 minutes
    5. Add the chicken back to the pan and add the paprika. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat
    6. Combine the sour cream (or yogurt) and corn starch in a bowl. Whisk well to combine. Add the sour cream to the chicken and stir. Heat over low heat for about 4 minutes, just until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and cover. Next make the sauteed greens
    7. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large wok or saute pan over medium heat. Add the sauteing greens, sprinkle with a couple of pinches of salt and quickly  saute just until the greens begin to wilt–about 2 minutes

    Assemble the bowls:

    1. Place equal portions of the sauteed greens in the bottom of each bowl
    2. Place equal portions of the roasted potatoes atop the greens
    3. Top with chicken and sauce
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    2 responses to “Hungarian Paprika Chicken Bowls”

    1. Serena says:

      You went to Hungary!! Wow. LOVE this post and the pics! Oh, and the chicken looks yummy too. My grandma actually used to make a version like this…but we lost the recipe…so will try yours!

      • I am already planning my return to Hungary—what a wonderful place! Let me know what you think of the recipe (though I can’t imagine it could ever be as good as grandma’s :))

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