So, Cleveland Does Rock?

Uh huh, and in more ways than one, apparently. Not only do you have the tunes, but you also find food that feeds the beat. Nowhere is that sustenance more vibrant than in the region’s Hungarian-American communities, among the nation’s largest.

Here, in the suburb of Shaker Heights, Cook’s Country found a restaurant serving an amazing Chicken Paprikash, and it reported the find in the February/March 2020 issue. In this preparation, chicken simmers in a flavorful, spirited sauce rich in sour cream, tomatoes and earthy spices, including the quintessentially-Hungarian paprika.

Not just any paprika will do, either. Oh sure, most will work at some level, but to make the dish dance with your taste buds, use the good stuff:

Take generous amounts of comforting, slightly piquant powder and mix it with tomatoes, garlic and other vegetables, then smooth the stew with a healthy dollop or two of sour cream. Infuse it with stock and let the chicken simmer gently for a while. What emerges from the cooking pot is a deeply-flavored bird with meat so moist and tender it falls from the bone.

In fact, so succulent is the chicken and so flowing is the sauce served over it, you need a good noodle to absorb it all. Fortunately, the meal comes complete on a bed of spaetzle, a German freeform egg noodle. What gives? A German noodle served with Hungarian chicken?

Remember, though, Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for centuries. Austro- as in, Austrian…as in, German, broadly speaking. The two countries were unified for so long, their cuisines were bound to mix and match.

Anyway, spaetzle begins life as a thick egg batter, which is then forced through a sieve set over boiling water. There is such a thing as a spaetzle sieve, of course, and it’s useful to those who make the noodles regularly. For those of us not so inclined, though, a homemade version is fine:

Classy, huh?

Despite (or, perhaps, because of) the homemade equipment, the spaetzle rise from the boil porous enough to take on all the liquids nestled among them. From a light coating of butter at the beginning, to the spirited, creamy tomatoes coming later in the paprikash, the noodles definitely sing for their supper.

What a tune it is too. Paprikash makes the table and the city rock, whether it’s Budapest or, as in today’s offering, Cleveland. So, Drew Carey is right…


Chicken Paprikash

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced thin (*1)
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 2-and-1/2 cups chicken broth (*2)
  • 2 tablespoons paprika, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup sour cream, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (*3)

Set a stockpot over a medium-high flame and pour in oil. Heat until shimmering. Add the onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, garlic, one teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until vegetables soften and a fond begins to develop on the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the chicken with the pepper and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir broth, cayenne and paprika into the pot, scraping up any bits that adhere to the bottom. Submerge the chicken in the broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the chicken is very tender, about 30 minutes, stirring and flipping chicken about halfway through simmering.

Whisk sour cream and flour together in a bowl. Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid into the sour cream mixture. Stir sour cream mixture into pot until fully incorporated. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about five minutes longer. Off heat, season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve withextra paprika and extra sour cream.


1 – You know what’s coming don’t you? How clever! As a reward, feel free to use two medium specimens.

2 – Homemade, if you have any on hand, is unparalleled. One of these days I’m going to dedicate a whole entry to the stockmaker’s art.

3 – Cilantro? No, not this time. However, Italian parsley has milder taste, and its flat leaves are perfect for this application.


Buttered Spaetzle

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for cooking
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 (9-inch) aluminum pan
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Whisk, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Whisk milk and eggs together in a second bowl. Slowly whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture until smooth. Cover and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

While the batter rests, use scissors to poke about 25 1/4-inch holes into the bottom of a disposable pan. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a stockpot. (*4)

Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and set prepared pan on top of stockpot. Transfer half of batter to the sieved pan. Use a spatula to scrape the batter across the holes, letting batter fall into the water. Boil until the spaetzle float, about a minute. Using a spider skimmer or a slotted spoon, transfer spaetzle to a colander and drain. Repeat with remaining batter.

Pour spaetzle into a bowl and add melted butter. Toss to combine and serve.


4 – Make sure you use a stockpot, not a smaller vessel. If the pan is too close to the boiling water, it’ll make things too hot to work, and the batter will cook before it even falls into the water.

Experience taught me this lesson, though I pray you learn in some other school.


6 thoughts on “So, Cleveland Does Rock?

    1. Agreed, Tamara! Dark meat is much more succulent and it has a deeper, more complex flavor. Its being less healthy is a common complaint, but really, shorn of skin and trimmed of excess fat, dark meat isn’t much more laden than is white meat.

      Besides, savoring a perfect cut of chicken brings happiness. The delight it produces has supplemental health benefits too, right?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Priti!

      As you may know, peppers were found in the New World only until the 16th century. After that, they swept across the globe, supplementing nearly every cuisine. Sometimes dramatically so.


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