Cooking with Paprika

Paprika is a spice that I love. I use it often and in countless recipes. I love its flavor and color. And I discovered it has many uses, and not just as a spice. If you want to make a quick, spicy, tangy pilaf rice, add some paprika to the rice while cooking. It will impart a deep color (depending upon how much you use) and a unique taste to the rice. My experience has been that, in American cookery, you won't find paprika used that often. And that's sad. Because once you start experimenting with it, it will intrigue you. That being said, I find that most of the prepackage, processed American paprika sold in supermarkets is kind of mild. To my palette, pure Hungarian paprika is best. If you can't find that, then go for Spanish paprika (pimentón), it's just as good.

Paprika is actually a powder which is made by grinding the pods of various kinds of peppers known as capsicum annuum. The pepper varieties range from bell peppers (mild) to chili peppers (hot). And it is the fourth most consumed spice in the world. Its the national spice of Hungary (think of Hungarian goulash). There are different grades of Hungarian pepper; but the favorite variety (specially in the U.S.) is édesnemes, or "noble sweet," which is slightly pungent and a bright red color.

Dishes which highlight this great spice include such stalwarts as deviled eggs, and the famous chicken paprikash. The dish I give below is chicken with a paprika sauce. Its tasty, innovative, and delicate. So, go out, get some chicken breasts, some paprika, and go to town. You won't be disappointed.

CHICKEN WITH PAPRIKA SAUCE

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds, halved
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium to large sweet red pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into strips about 1/4-inch wide
1 small onion, peeled and cut into thin rings
2 teaspoons paprika (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (about 2 tablespoons)

1. Rub  chicken breasts with pepper.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet. Add the breasts and cook about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 1/2 minutes on the other side.
3. Scatter the red pepper strips and onion over the chicken. Then sprinkle with the paprika.
4. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 4 minutes.
5. Add vinegar, chicken broth, and cream. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook an additional 8 minutes.
6. Remove to serving platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.  


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