Sunday, March 21, 2010

Potato Paprikás

Paprikás krumpli
(Potato Paprikash)

This is the food I grew up on. It's technically a form of gulyás (goulash), and usually made with chicken. This potato version is the 'poor man's paprikás' and my grandmother glares and asks me if I think we're low-class every time I mention it, but I was a vegetarian for years and years and, in truth, this version is better than the slightly greasy chicken one. Paprikás has been a Hungarian staple for generations, originally cooked in big pots over fires by herdsmen on the puszta (the Hungarian version of the prairie). The nokedli (like German spätzle) is a bit fussy, but you can buy pre-made spätzle or kluski (Polish egg noodles) at the store and serve it over those if you don't have the time (or apparatus) to make nokedli. This recipe makes enough to feed a family of four for about three days, so you might want to cut it down if you're not cooking for so many. It does keep well in the fridge, though. Serve with a dollop of sour cream to mix through for the light-colored creamy version (pictured above), or leave it out for the traditional bright red one.

Paprikás krumpli

1 large red onion
96 ounces of vegetable broth*
3 tablespoons butter or lard
4 heaping tablespoons of paprika**
1 tomato (de-stemmed)
5-6 potatoes (I usually use Yukon Gold)
2-12 hot peppers, depending on your taste***
1 heaping teaspoon of salt

* My mom usually uses chicken broth, even when leaving out the actual chicken. It's really good this way too.
** It's very important to use good paprika and not just some random plastic jar that's been in the back of the pantry for years. The best ones we've found that are not brought directly from Hungary by our relatives are the Pride of Szeged (their hot paprika is particularly good, and the tin is so cute I keep it and refill it from the stuff my family brings), which is in most decent grocery stores, and Tone's Spanish Paprika, which you can usually find at Costco. I usually use three tablespoons of sweet paprika and one of hot, but I've made it with all of one or the other as well. By the way, when I say 'heaping,' I mean 'about to topple off onto the floor.' Heaping!
*** You can use any kind of hot pepper, but I tend to steer towards longish red ones. Jalapeños give this a weird flavor. You should wash the peppers, but leave the stems on. One or two will inevitably burst during cooking, the rest are for the individual bowls of heat-craving dinner guests.

- In the bottom of a big, heavy stock pot (remember, you're using three quarts of broth), roast the onions in the butter/lard over medium-high heat until they're soft, stirring constantly.
- Take the pot off the heat and add one quart of broth. Mix in the paprika, and add the rest of the broth. Peel and cut up the potatoes, add with the whole tomato* and the small peppers.
- Bring the whole thing to a boil (this can take a while, I recommend putting the lid most of the way on) and add the salt. Cook uncovered on medium-low for about 55 minutes.
- Serve hot over nokedli, spätzle, or kluski. For spicy paprikás, pull the stem out of one of the peppers and squeeze the seeds and juice into your bowl.

When the paprikás (and our first round of stuffing ourselves on it) is finished, we usually turn off the heat, put on the lid, and let it sit on the stove overnight. It's even better the next day.

* The tomato flavors the stew, but isn't really meant to be eaten. I've actually decided to start cooking it in a cheesecloth bag or something similar, because often the skin comes off during cooking and I end up with weird, chewy tomato-skin pieces in among my onions. The only person I've ever seen actually consume it is my friend Laura, who swears it's tasty. Up to you.


These dumplings are made with a hex, which is a weird, hard-to-clean kitchen implement that you probably can't use for much else. Wells suggested putting the batter in a pastry bag (or corner-cut plastic bag) and snipping off bits as they fall out.

12 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt

- Fill a big, heavy pot 3/4 of the way up with water and set on the stove to boil.
- Whisk the eggs lightly in a bit mixing bowl. Add the flour and salt and mix well. Add water, a little at a time, until the batter is about the consistency of sour cream.
- When the water is at a rolling boil, spoon a big dollop of batter into the hex and slide the cup back and forth until all the batter has fallen through the holes into the water. When the nokedli float to the surface (which takes about five seconds), move them to a strainer and rinse for a few seconds under cool water. Shake to drain and transfer to the serving bowl. Repeat until all the batter has been used up, making sure to keep the water at a boil. It's best to do this with two people, one taking care of the hex and the other doing the rinsing.
- Rinse the pot and scrape off the batter that collects on the edges, it's horrible to clean off once it hardens.

1 comment:

  1. paprikas krumpli is a royal dish if you make it in a clay pot in the oven ... if you make it with minimmum grease and if you serve it with Hungarian cucumber salad ... do not forget to cook with it a fresh pepper as well - only one .if you add too much pepper and tomato -you will get lecso -that is a different dish :)

    I like paprika !