Food From The 1950s: Paprika Chicken With Sour Cream Gravy

Smoky And Sweet Maybe you remember way back when, when I said something like, “My mother-in-law gave me this really cook local 1950s cookbook for X-Mas and I’m going to make one recipe from this book a week!”

Ahh, sweet ambition. Foolish naivete. You taste of buttercream and tears.

Clearly that didn’t happen. I’ve made three recipes in three months, which is a bit under what I promised.

So, fuck that. Forget the schedule.

But I will continue to work my way through this book. For the rest of my insane life.

This time? I made Paprika Chicken With Sour Cream Gravy.

Recipe, in a nutshell, is as follows:


  • 1 to 3 lb frying or stewer chicken, cut up
  • 3 TBsp fat
  • 1 med onion
  • 1 small green pepper seeded, chopped
  • 1 TBsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery


Brown chicken until golden on all sides in hot fat in heavy large saucepan. Remove. Cook chopped onion & pepper in the hot fat until yellowed, stir in paprika. Add browned chicken, salt, water, carrot and celery for flavor and summer slowly 1 to 2 hours until tender. Remove carrot and celery. Place chicken on hot platter surrounded with hot fluffy rice. Add sour cream to paprika gravy in pan, bring to boil and pour over chicken.


First, I actually bought a rotisserie chicken from Fresh Market for ease of use.

Also, instead of simply putting that into its “parts,” I actually chopped it up and then kept the bones for a creamy chicken and rice soup the next day (which, with dashes of sriracha, was pretty phenom).

I did not remove the carrots or celery, because hotdangit, I like carrots and celery.

Paprika used to be a “one spice fits all” thing in this country, but since that time we’re now able to buy lots of different types — I have a paprika that is equal sweet and smoky, and I used that (image above).

Finally, I upped the sour cream to add in, well, more sour cream flavor, for it was lacking.

The Result


Kind of the textbook definition of, “Well, okay.”

Certainly not bad.

Definitely a little boring.

Let’s be clear: this is a barebones recipe for Chicken Paprikash. Except, it’s missing some of the things that make a Paprikash recipe pop. White wine? Stock? Some use bay leaves, ginger, garlic, or spicier paprika. (Christ, you look at Puck’s recipe for that, and it’s off-the-charts with ingredients. Maybe too much so.)

Now, my changes re: the chicken may have hindered the flavor a little bit. Taking the chicken off the bone might have reduced its ability to inhabit more flavor, and further, using a rotisserie instead of roasting it myself may have been an issue. (Though their chicken was flavorful.)

I think the bigger problem comes in using straight-up hot water for the base, and hoping it’ll make a nice enough broth. Better to have made stock and used a little white wine, and maybe put in some dumplings. And more spices. Definitely more spice needed.


  • You know, this seems like it would be really good. But I see what you’re saying about it seeming a little blah. Was it too bland? Extra sour cream might have muted the flavor a little.

    • @Becky —

      Nay, the other recipes were good. One is posted here already — Ribs Burgundy.

      @Rick —

      Yeah, too bland. Sour cream muting the flavor is going the wrong way — don’t want the flavor muted, I want more flavor! More, more, more. Again, I think chicken broth, wine, and spices as a base (instead of “hot water”) would’ve been a tastier path.

      — c.

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