This creamy oven-baked chicken dish, subtly flavoured with smoked paprika and thyme, is perfect for family dinners. The chicken pieces are smeared with a yoghurt marinade two or three hours before they're baked, which gives them a great succulence. If you want to cut down on calories, you can use plain yoghurt in place of the sour cream, but it will curdle slightly in the oven (see notes).
I used whole chicken legs (that is, Marylands, or pieces with drumstick and thigh still joined) but any cut of chicken will do. You could also use skinned, deboned chicken breasts, but you will need to reduce the cooking time by at least half.
If you can't find smoked paprika, use ordinary, fresh paprika (which should be a vivid brick-red colour, not brown or dusty).
This is lovely with new potatoes and sugarsnap peas, or a green salad. My kids really liked this, although the oldest was a bit huffy because he doesn't like 'gristly bits' in any sort of meat and is a boneless-breast and fillet-steak sorta guy. Hmmmph.
Baked Paprika Chicken with Sour Cream and Thyme
12 pieces of free-range chicken
salt and milled black pepper
200 ml plain white yoghurt
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1 onion, peeled and very finely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
the juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp (15 ml) paprika
1 tsp (5 ml) smoked paprika
a handful (about 3Tbsp; 45 ml) fresh thyme leaves
300 ml sour cream or crème fraîche
Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper. Place them, skin-side up and in single layer, in an ovenproof dish. In a separate bowl, combine the yoghurt, olive oil, onion, garlic, lemon juice, paprika, smoked paprika and half the thyme. Mix well, and then, using your hands, smear the paste all over the chicken pieces, top and bottom. Cover with clingfilm and set aside to marinate for two to three hours.
Heat the oven to 200°C. Bake the chicken pieces in a hot oven, for 25 minutes, or until the skin begins to brown and crisp. Now cover the dish with a lid or tin foil, turn down the heat to 160° C and bake for 1 hour. Remove the dish from the oven and scoop off any excess fat with a large spoon (or drain by tilting the dish over the sink). Pour the cream (see note below) all over the chicken pieces, sprinkle with the remaining thyme and give the dish a good shake to combine the juices. Bake, uncovered, for another 20 minutes, or until the cream is slightly thickened.
- If the sour cream or crème fraîche is too thick to pour, thin it down first with a little warm milk or water.
- If you use yoghurt instead of cream, choose a thin pouring yoghurt, and whisk in 1 tsp (5 ml) of cornflour [Maizena or cornstarch] before you pour it over the chicken. This will help to minimize (not prevent) curdling.