Wednesday, May 07, 2008

tangerine toad's 'grandma rose’s chicken paprikas'

Perhaps the only one of the Web 2.0 gurus with a traditional advertising background, Alan Wolk, aka tangerine toad, has staked out a distinctive voice for himself with his Toad Stool blog. Billed as a 'frank but fair' look at the ever-evolving social media and advertising scenes, the blog is best known for the series 'Your Brand Is Not My Friend', which deals with the pitfalls established brands make in embracing social media. The wide-ranging appeal of Wolk’s common-sensical approach made waves throughout the blogosphere and helped establish him as one of the go-to guys for social media and Web 2.0.

Prior to 'seeing the light', Wolk was a highly successful creative director who spent years at ‘90s hot shop Anderson & Lembke and went on to start up Atmosphere, BBDO’s digital agency. A New York City native and Stuyvesant High School graduate, Wolk currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and 2 kids, where he doubles as a Little League and basketball coach.

Grandma Rose’s Chicken Paprikas

'My great-grandparents were Hungarian Jewish immigrants and my great-grandmother passed that culinary tradition on to my mother and grandmother, who called everything by an Americanized name. The result was that growing up, I never realized that the “beef stew” I was eating was actually goulash or that the “chicken in a pan” was actually chicken paprikas. (Which is pronounced pup-REE-kash, for those of you into authenticity.)

Pan or paprikas though, it was my favorite meal and one of the first things I ever learned how to cook. It’s actually fairly simple once you get the hang of it and can be done with white meat only or drumsticks only. Now Grandma Rose, who taught me how to make it, was an old-school cook, whose measurement scales veered towards “2 fingers of butter” or “enough water” so I’ve tried to translate that into workable numbers when possible.

The key to successful paprikas though is real Hungarian paprika. This may require a little legwork, but many upscale supermarket chains (e.g. Whole Foods) now sell brands like Pride of Szeged that actually have flavor. This is a big change from my childhood where we’d need to make trips to the (now-defunct) Paprikas Weiss specialty store in the formerly Hungarian Yorkville section of Manhattan’s Upper East Side to get “real” paprika.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Hungarian Sweet Paprika
Hungarian Hot Paprika (optional)
Large-ish yellow onion
Medium size chicken cut up into 8 pieces or 3 breasts cut up into 6 pieces.
Cooking oil (corn, safflower or canola)
Salt & pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:
Pour enough oil into a large fry pan to coat the bottom (start with 2 tablespoons and see where that gets you). Swirl it around so that it’s even and then start heating it up on a medium flame.

1. Peel the onion and slice it against the grain, so that you get thin circular slices. (Do this near an open window or something if your eyes are particularly sensitive to onions the way mine are.)

2. Cut the circles in half

3. Lower the flame under the oil and add about 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika to the oil, stir it around twice and then add the onions, stirring constantly. Add about 3 dashes of salt too.

4. You can cover the pan at this point, but make sure to stir the onions fairly regularly (every minute or two) so they don’t burn and stick to the pan. Cook them slowly. Your goal is to have them turn a translucent orange-ish color.

5. Once the onions are that translucent orange-ish color, it’s time to add the chicken. If the pan seems pretty dry at this point, you can add another tablespoon of oil, stirring it in with the onion mix and letting it heat up first. I like to sear the chicken on each side, which means pressing it into the pan with a wooden spoon, counting out 5-Mississippi and turning it. This lets the juices from the chicken out too.

6. Once the chicken is seared, slowly add water to the pan. Start with a cup of water and pour it in a little at a time, stirring and mixing it in as you go. The goal is to just cover the chicken pieces and so the amount of water you add will vary depending on the size of your chicken pieces and the size of your pan. Make sure to mix the onions and paprika in thoroughly.

7. Bring the heat up a little to say 50% until the liquid starts to simmer and then bring it down to maybe 20%. You want the chicken to cook slowly. Cover the pot, but stir and turn the chicken every 5 minutes so that it cooks evenly.

8. After about 20 minutes, uncover the chicken and cook an additional 5 minutes so that the broth thickens.

9. Serve over rice, letting the broth flavor the rice.
Chicken paprikas keeps well in the refrigerator and is often better the next day.'

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