Alicia writes: For years, I thought paprika was just a bland garnish to finish off deviled eggs. Boy, was I ever wrong. When I tried Hungarian paprika, I discovered it's anything but bland.

The main difference between the domestic paprika I grew up with and the imported variety is the way the sweet red pepper pods are cured before grinding. In the United States, peppers are "artificially" speed-dried for about 30 hours. In Europe (Hungary and Spain mostly), the peppers are naturally air dried for up to 25 days. This results in a more intense, distinct flavor. Spicy, hot paprika is often made from the whole pepper, ground seeds and all, instead of just the pod.

The good news is that Hungarian paprika is easier than ever to find at the grocery store. I have even seen it at my discount grocery. Look for sweet and hot Hungarian paprika in the grocery spice section. Imported paprika is usually sold in tins, which are clearly marked "sweet" or "hot."

Today's recipe for Saucy Paprika Chicken over Rice is flexible enough to feature either sweet or hot paprika. If you tend to enjoy spicy, hot peppers, you'll love the peppery bite of hot paprika. If you want to enjoy the mellow sweetness of a medium-intensity paprika, choose the sweet. While not completely without a peppery taste, sweet paprika is mild enough for older children.

Menu: Saucy Paprika Chicken over Rice

Baby spinach salad

Sourdough rolls


SAUCY PAPRIKA CHICKEN OVER RICE

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Cook's note: Do not use reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream because the sauce will separate and possibly curdle.

1 cup long-grain rice

salt and black pepper, to taste

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each), defrosted if frozen

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 large onion (for about 1 cup sliced)

2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic

1 can (6-ounce) low-sodium tomato paste

1 cup water

2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika or 1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika, or more to taste

1 cup sour cream (see Cook's note)

Bring 2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rice, reduce the heat to low, and cook 17 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken breast halves into bite-size pieces and set aside.

Heat the oil in an extra-deep, 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Peel and thinly slice the onion into rings, adding them to the skillet as you slice. Add the cut chicken, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and most of the onions to a platter and set aside.

Add the garlic, tomato paste, water and paprika to the skillet; stir well until blended. Raise the heat to high, bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Add the sour cream; stir well. Add the chicken and onions back to the skillet; cook until heated through, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve at once over hot rice. Makes 4 servings.

Approximate Values Per Serving: 561 calories (31 percent from fat), 19 g fat (9 g saturated), 119 mg cholesterol, 42 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, 445 mg sodium.


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