Despite the immense amount of time I spend pretending to be Italian, the truth is that a good half of what I am is Hungarian. (Which means, according to the prevailing laws of political correctness, that I am allowed to use the word “Hunky,” but you probably aren’t). I have never really learned a great deal about this part of my DNA, but I recall that when I was in a string quartet at the conservatory we had a coach who would exhort us to pour our souls into particular passages by yelling “more Magyar, make it more Magyar!!” By this, I understood him to mean that the music called for a certain combination of melancholy, passion, resolve and (metaphorically, of course) paprika.
There is no food more emblemmatic of Hungarian cuisine than paprikas, and you can’t make paprikas without paprika. Paprika is not just that red stuff that makes devilled eggs look less bland and flabby (in fact, it has no flavor at all unless it is heated). It is ground red pepper, and can range in flavor from sweet to hot, with smoked varieties available to add a subtle warmth and je ne sais quoi. I don’t know how to say that (or anything else) in Hungarian, although I do know how to say “a horse should bite her” in Yiddish. Did I mention that my ancestral Hungarians are also Jewish?
For Christmakah, I was given bags of both hot and sweet paprika, and tonight I decided to cook like a true Magyar. I made a pork paprikas, and although it was meant to be served over buttered noodles with caraway seeds, I discovered that I had neglected the actual purchase of the noodles and so we had rice. Also, I made pan-fried apple slices with cinnamon and brown sugar. The paprikas was warm, and smoky, the meat was tender, and the long cooking resulted in pork that was tender and infused with flavor.
Here is the recipe which I recommend to you regardless of your ethnicity. Perhaps I will turn next to the making of Haggis or Colcannon as a tip of the hat to the rest of my gene pool, but for now I’m hunky dory.
(Adapted from about.com)
· 1 cup chopped onion
· 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
· 1 to 1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin, coarsely chopped
· 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, sweet Hungarian
· 1 tablespoon flour
· 1 cup chicken broth
· 3 medium tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (Canned tomatoes are actually better unless you can get really good “real” specimens)
· 1 tablespoon tomato paste
· 1 red bell pepper, chopped
· 1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine)
In a heavy skillet over medium heat, saute the onions for 5 minutes in the oil. Add the pork and saute until browned. Mix in chili powder, garlic, and paprika and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more while stirring and scraping up bits from the bottom.
Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir in; cook another 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in chicken broth a little at a time; mix well. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, and red pepper. Cover and simmer gently until the meat is cooked through, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.
Pour about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid into a bowl and blend in the sour cream or yogurt. Remove pork mixture from heat and add yogurt mixture; stir gently to combine. Season to taste with the salt and pepper and heat through. Do not boil. Serve with hot cooked rice or noodles. (I still say buttered egg noodles with caraway seeds should be your first choice unless you have braces or lots of bridge work).