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Eric Akis: Paprika gives chicken rich flavour and colour

Sour cream makes for a tangy gravy for this roast chicken, which is flavoured with two types of paprika.
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Chicken, flavoured and richly hued with two types of paprika, is roasted and served with sour cream gravy. ERIC AKIS

I wanted to have chicken for dinner the other night, but had a minor dilemma. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to roast a whole bird and serve it with gravy, or make a stewed creation with pieces of chicken, such as Hungarian-style paprikash.

In the end, I got the best of both worlds by cooking up a dish that sort of combined those two options.

I say “sort of” because I did end up roasting a whole chicken, but I flavoured it as I would paprikash, with a generous amount of paprika.

That spice is made from certain varieties of dried, ground, red peppers from the species capsicum annuum.

The spice is often divided into two main varieties, strong (hot) paprika and sweet paprika. The latter is what I used, and in grocery stores the jars and bags of it you’ll see for sale are most often simply labelled paprika.

I also used smoked paprika in my recipe, which is also sold at most grocery stores.

It’s a sweet type of paprika where the peppers are smoked before being dried and ground. I like using smoked paprika with chicken because it adds a deep and appealing smoky barbecue-like flavour.

To prepare the chicken, I set it in a roasting pan and stuffed its cavity with one quartered onion.

I then combined my two types of paprika with olive oil, garlic powder and thyme, and then brushed that mixture all over the chicken.

When roasted, the paprika gave the chicken are dark, deep-red, eye-catching, almost charred-like, hue.

When the chicken was out of the roasting pan and resting before I carved it, I made gravy in the roasting pan and accented it as I would paprikash, by mixing in some sour cream.

Doing that gave the gravy a rich tanginess that tasted marvellous when spooned over the juicy chicken once carved and plated.

You could serve the chicken as you would paprikash, with such things as buttered, chopped parsley-tossed egg noodles and green beans.

If you want to serve those beans in a fanciful way, see my recipe below for green beans with honey, lemon and nuts.

Roast Chicken with Paprika and Sour Cream Gravy

Roast chicken, flavoured with two types of paprika, served with pan gravy, enriched with tangy sour cream.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 90 to 95 minutes

Makes: four servings

1 (about 3 lb./1.4 kg) whole chicken (see Note)

1 small to medium onion, quartered

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp regular (sweet) paprika

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp garlic powder

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups chicken stock, plus more, if needed

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove any string tightly binding the chicken, if sold that way. (Removing the abundance of string some chicken sellers truss their birds with will expose more skin to the heat of the oven and richly colour and flavour it in those areas. Later in the method, you’ll simply tie the legs together with kitchen string.) Set the chicken in a roasting pan. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the onion. If they aren’t already, fold and tuck the wings under the body.

Combine oil, paprika, thyme and garlic powder in a small bowl. Brush this mixture all over the outside of the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Tie the chicken’s legs together with kitchen string.

Roast chicken 50 minutes. Baste chicken with the pan juices. Tent chicken with foil, and then roast chicken 30 to 35 minutes more, or until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, registers 170 F (77 C; see Note).

When chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan, set on a plate, basted with pan juices, tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes. While the chicken rests, start making the gravy by placing 1 1/2 cups stock, flour and tomato paste in a bowl and whisking until lump free. Skim fat from the juices in the roasting pan, and then set the pan over medium heat. Add the stock mixture and bring to a simmer. Simmer two to three minutes, until thickened gravy forms. Whisk in the sour cream. Mix in a bit more chicken stock, if you find the gravy too thick. Season the gravy with salt and pepper, and then turn heat to low.

When chicken is rested, set it on a cutting board. Mix any juices on the plate the chicken sat on into the gravy. Carve chicken and set on a platter. Pour the gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

Note: The chicken I used when testing this recipe was processed by Island Farmhouse Poultry. Their Vancouver Island-raised chicken products are sold at local butcher shops and some grocery stores. The Chicken Farmers of Canada website (chicken.ca) says to cook whole roast chicken to 180 F (82 C). But I find that roast chicken will reach that temperature when it sits and rests before carving.

Green Beans with Honey, Lemon and Nuts

This side dish that goes well with chicken sees blanched green beans tossed into a sweet, tangy, honey/lemon mixture rich with butter and nuts.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: seven minutes

Makes: four servings

1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp water

1/3 cup walnuts or pecan pieces

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the beans and blanch them until bright green and just tender, about three minutes. Drain the beans well, cool with ice-cold water, and then drain well again.

Place the honey, lemon juice, butter, 1 Tbsp water and walnuts (or pecans) in a large skillet, set over medium, medium-high heat.

When butter is melted, add the beans to skillet and cook and stir two to three minutes, or until beans are piping hot, and then serve.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.