In the comfort zone with chef Carla Hall

THE WASHINGTON POSTMay 11, 2014 

Two-time "Top Chef" contestant Carla Hall will tell you one of her goals as a recipe developer is to help cooks evoke feelings similar to the ones she experienced in her grandmother's Southern home, where as a child she gobbled down corn bread, smothered pork chops, candied sweet potatoes and mac 'n' cheese.

To Hall's way of thinking, almost any dish can provide comfort, if the cook pours herself fully into the preparation.

That philosophy takes a new turn in Hall's second cookbook, "Carla's Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes From Around the World" (Atria Books).

This dish, Chicken With Sour Cream and Paprika, is a semi-Hungarian dish designed to trace a clean line from the Deep South to Central Europe.

"Basically, I'm doing chicken and gravy," Hall says.

The secret to creating the smooth sauce is to whisk in the sour cream over very low heat. The dish can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

CHICKEN WITH SOUR CREAM AND PAPRIKA

4 servings

Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying (may substitute regular olive oil)

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 pounds total), excess fat and skin removed

Kosher salt

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 serrano chili peppers, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Pinch ground cayenne pepper

1 cup homemade or store-bought no-salt-added chicken broth

1/3 cup sour cream (regular or low-fat; do not use nonfat)

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

Pour just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet; heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering.

Meanwhile, season the chicken generously with salt - about 2 teaspoons. Carefully place the chicken in the oil, skin side down. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for 20 minutes, until dark golden brown, then turn the chicken over and cook until dark golden brown, about 15 minutes. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the onion, serranos, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes; the onion should be soft.

Stir in the paprika and cayenne pepper; cook for 1 minute, then stir in the broth to form a sauce. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, skin side up, nestling the pieces into the sauce and turning them over and back for even coating. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Place 2 chicken thighs on each plate.

Reduce the heat to low; once the sauce is no longer bubbling, whisk in the sour cream to form a velvety sauce until just heated through.

Spoon some of the sauce on top of each serving of chicken. Garnish with the parsley. Serve right away.

Nutrition per serving (using low-fat sour cream): 510 calories, 41 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 34 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 155 mg cholesterol, 1,230 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar.

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