Sabre Chicken

In 1985, while studying Romantic music and art in college, notably the music of Franz Liszt, this dish was the first culinary inspiration that I had. Actually, it has another, distinctly Romany, inspiration. There is a passage in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula that makes reference to a "very thirsty" dish of chicken prepared with paprika. Lacking any specific recipe, I had to use my imagination...


  • Skinless Chicken Breasts, Quarters or Thighs
  • Honey
  • Hot Hungarian Paprika
  • Canola or Olive Oil
  • 1 Diced Yellow Onion
  • Rice
  • Steamed and Buttered Carrots, Peas, Salad, etc.
  • The Method:

    This is a grilled chicken dish that causes ordinarily mannered people to behave like ravening hyenas. Just don't reach near the food after the feeding frenzy begins or you might pull back a nub.

    Make the basting glaze by mixing a generous amount of the hottest Hungarian paprika that you can obtain into a quantity of honey. Mix with a spoon. Avoid the temptation to heat or shake this mixture because, oddly enough it does produce an explosive chemical reaction. I have splattered red staining goo all over myself and the cabinets on more than one occasion. Seriously. I am not joking. The other unexpected property of this basting glaze is that when it drips into the flames the smoke produced has an effect very similar to that of pepper spray, so take care when you raise the lid of the grill to let the fumes disperse for a second or two. Because of the hazards of salmonella with poultry its best not to save and reuse the basting glaze if you have dipped your basting brush into it while cooking. So make just enough or decant what you need into a basting brush dish and keep the batch sterile. It need not be refrigerated (you don't refrigerate honey or paprika, do you?).

    Anoint the chicken with oil and grill lightly to blanch the outside of the meat on both sides. After this, you can apply the basting glaze with a brush. Continually turn the pieces of chicken and reapply the glaze each time it is turned, until a golden brown crust is formed on the grilled meat. Make sure that the heat is low to medium so that you can thoroughly cook the meat to the bone before the outside is burned. If in doubt, pierce the chicken with a knife and look at the juice. When the juice is clear, not red, its done.

    Serve with rice, adding the diced onions with the rice when cooking. Green peas, salad and carrots seem to compliment this dish. I like a spicy zinfandel with this dish, but a riesling or other German white will nicely accompany this as well. Naturally, a Hugarian wine is best, if you can find one.

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