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Smoky Chicken Paprika + Life From Scratch book tour stop

Smoky Chicken Paprika
"There are mysteries buried in the recesses of every kitchen—every crumb kicked under the floorboard is a hidden memory. But some kitchens are made of more. Some kitchens are everything."

I've mentioned before that my books of choice are usually fiction. I love getting lost in mysteries (bonus points if they're a culinary mystery), foodie cozies (even though I cringe at the term "cozy"), and the supernatural. My reading time is me time; it's escape time. I want to be sucked into another world. While this is almost always the case, I also love a well-written memoir—again, usually a foodie memoir—but any one that pulls at my insides will suffice. I also read cookbooks like novels, but if you spend any time at all around probably already knew that.

Today I'm sharing a peek at a great foodie memoir called Life from Scratch, written by Sasha Martin. Sasha also blogs at Global Table Adventure, where she introduces food from 195 countries via "table travel". Part of my personal philosophy is that discovering and exploring the foods of different cultures, countries, and people is the best way to become familiar with them, so I immediately knew I'd enjoy my time immersed in a memoir written by somebody who feels much the same way.

This is definitely a memoir that includes food, but it's so much more than that. Tales of her that start before she was even born, lay the foundation for a book filled with emotions that range from hunger to tears to warmth. Martin weaves her story with spice, vulnerability, and strength. And she tells it through food, cooking, and recipes.

Recommended for those who recognize that strong connection between food and memory.
Smoky Chicken Paprika inspired by Life from Scratch
You know by now that if I'm part of a book tour, or even just doing a review, I like to include a recipe inspired by the book. If the book itself contains recipes, like this one does, I tend to make or adapt one of those...a further step into the pages.

Although I pretty much wanted to make everything as I read the connections to the story, I went with a recipe toward the end of the book, from the chapter titled Burnt Chicken.

     She insists I make the chicken as planned. "Don't mind me; vegan or not, that's your heritage."

     From the edge of the kitchen, she coaches me: "Make sure you burn the chicken. I'm serious, Sash; it's not done until it's burned. Don't add the cream until the skin is black."

     On tiptoe, she peers over my shoulder as I pour on the cream.

     "You didn't burn it! What's wrong with you?" she gasps.

     "I-I didn't want to wreck the chicken. I got it nice and golden brown."

     "The burn is where the flay-vah is."

Like Sasha in that moment, I didn't burn the skin. I felt her mom chiding me from the edge of the stove. I got it really, really dark—but I didn't burn it. Either way, I was going to pick it off before I ate it, because if there's one thing I can't stomach, it's soft skin (and that's inevitable if cooked in a moist environment). I did everything else pretty much as written, though, with just a few minor adaptations.

I made it smoky, because I find it physically impossible to use any kind of paprika other than smoked these days. To enhance that smokiness, I also used smoked sea salt. Feel free to make it with sweet, hot, or a mix of paprika and unsmoked salt. Martin uses all dark meat, but I had a whole chicken waiting to be used—and used that.

Smoky Chicken Paprika
Tender chicken braised in a smoky paprika broth, that's turned into a pale, speckled sauce once the sour cream is stirred in. Serve on a bed of hot, buttered egg noodles.
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Smoky Chicken Paprika
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 60 to 75 minutes
Keywords: entree soy-free sugar-free chicken Hungarian

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (3-4 lbs)
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • smoked sea salt, as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
to serve:
  • 1 pound egg noodles
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley (optional)
Set a very large, deep skillet over high heat and add a tablespoon or two of oil. Cook until skin is a very deep brown, 5 to 10 minutes per side. Be careful, the oil will snap and pop; it's a bit of messy business. Work in batches, if necessary, so as not to crowd the pan. Set the well-browned chicken on a rimmed plate and set aside.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan, then place back over heat. Add onions and cook over medium heat until soft and golden, 10-12 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Sprinkle the paprika over the onions; cook and stir for another minute. Add the chicken stock and then nestle the chicken back into the pan, skin side up. Sprinkle with a good smattering of salt. Cover the pan and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through and starting to fall off the bone, 30-45 minutes.

While the chicken is doing its thing, cook your egg noodles according to package instructions. Toss with butter and lay them out on a large platter.

When the chicken is done, remove from heat, then lift the chicken from the sauce and set it on top of the buttered noodles. Stir the sour cream into the sauce; taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and noodles, then sprinkle with parsley, if using.

Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin

Life from Scratch
a memoir of food, family, and forgiveness

author: Sasha Martin
publisher: National Geographic
source: TLC Book Tours
hard cover: 336 pages
"foodie" read: yes

random excerpt: But time waits for no one. I look at her face and see the unrecognizable future—hers and mine, too. Even as I cooked my way around this uncharted world, there were constant bridges to the past, beginning with the apricots of Afghanistan and ending with Mom's beloved cinnamon on pumpkin. Now I know my food is inextricably tied to the past. It always will be. (p. 345) 

synopsis (from tlc tour page): It was a culinary journey like no other: Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook—and eat—a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother to a string of foster homes to the house from which she launches her own cooking adventure, Martin’s heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal—and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.

about the author: SASHA MARTIN is an award-winning writer and blogger who spent almost four years cooking her way around the world. Her work has been featured on NPR (Travel with Rick Steves), Whole Living, Bon Appetit, The Smithsonian, The Huffington Post, CNNgo, and Food52. Her website, Global Table Adventure, is a go-to hub for foodies around the world.

further info: website | facebook | twitter

recipe inspired by (and adapated from) the book: Smoky Chicken Paprika 


I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.