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With our weather beginning to cool down into autumn, I start thinking about flavorful and hearty soups that are perfect for this time of the year.
Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew but somewhere in between. It’s primarily a beef dish cooked with onions, sweet or pickled peppers and paprika. In some recipes, potatoes or noodles are added.
Just like goulash, chicken paprikash is not really a soup or a stew. It’s made primarily with bone-in chicken, onions, chicken stock and plenty of paprika. Paprikash is slow-cooked on the stove along with a pot of potato dumplings or noodles and a platter of Hungarian pickled peppers along with a loaf of crusty home-baked bread.
Hungarian paprika has a more distinct, stronger flavor and aroma than traditional paprika. It lends a sweet, gently spicy flavor and deep red hue to goulash. A word of caution, though. Do not use the Hungarian hot paprika in these recipes. The first time I made paprikash, I did, and paid dearly for it. I do, however, add a pinch or two just for a slight bit of heat.
I’ve had a tough time finding the Hungarian peppers in our area, so if you can’t locate any, a good substitution would be pickled banana peppers.
Don’t burn the paprika
When making all kinds of goulash and paprikash, it’s best to start by frying the onions in some oil until lightly translucent, remove from heat and then immediately add the paprika powder and stir well. Add the meat and stir again to coat the meat with the onion and paprika mixture before returning to the heat. This technique will allow the flavor of the paprika to be released, ensuring it does not burn or become bitter, which may happen if you don’t take the pot off the heat first.
My version of chicken paprikash may vary from others, but my first introduction to it was at an old Hungarian restaurant that also sold its peppers in a jar behind the bar.
The chicken was cooked slowly in plenty of chicken stock well-flavored with onions, Hungarian peppers and paprika. The result is more like a soup than a stew. Many prefer their paprikash a little thicker, more like a sauce, with added sour cream.
If you like the taste of Hungarian paprika, you’ll really enjoy the flavor and aroma of Hungarian Chicken Paprikash, Hungarian Goulash and Burgundy Mushroom Soup.
Hungarian Chicken Paprikash
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots, finely chopped
4 Tbsps. vegetable oil
3 Tbsps. Hungarian paprika
4 chicken thighs, excess skin removed
1 tsp. fresh black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup pickled Hungarian yellow peppers, chopped
In a large pot, saute onions, celery and carrots in the oil until tender. Remove from heat and add the paprika; stir well. Add chicken, coating with the onion/paprika mixture, and brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic powder and pepper. Add chicken stock, mixing well. Cover and let simmer slowly until chicken is tender and falls off the bone, about an hour.
Once the chicken is cooked, I like to remove any bones from the pot and then add the peppers and simmer for another 30 minutes to allow all the flavors to blend. Then, add either dumplings or your favorite cooked noodles to the paprikash. Makes 4-6 servings.
Hungarian Goulash (traditional)
If you can’t find beef shank, you can use chuck roast, though it isn’t quite as flavorful. Use pickled banana peppers if you can’t find the Hungarian peppers.
1 (10-12 oz.) beef shank (or chuck roast)
3 medium potatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. Hungarian paprika
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
3-4 black peppercorns
1 medium carrot, chunked
1 medium parsnip, chunked
1 cup Hungarian pickled peppers, chopped (or banana peppers)
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, crushed
Cube the meat into 3/4-inch pieces. Peel potatoes and cut into 3/4-inch pieces.
In a large pot, heat some vegetable oil and then sauté onions over low heat until golden yellow, not brown. Remove from the heat and add paprika, beef, salt and 4 cups of water. Place the caraway seeds and peppercorns in a tea ball or small bag (for easy removal before serving) and add to pot. Return to low heat and simmer.
After 30 minutes, add carrots, garlic, bay leaf, parsnips and peppers. Once the meat is nearly tender (about another 30 minutes), add the potatoes. Continue to simmer until potatoes are tender. Serve immediately with fresh, warm crusty bread. Makes 4-6 servings.
Burgundy Mushroom Soup
If you don’t like shitake mushrooms, use whatever type you prefer.
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2-1/2 cups finely chopped shitake mushrooms
1 cup chopped red onion
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 Tbsp. Hungarian paprika
1/2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1/4 lb. (1 stick) butter
1 cup flour
8 cups (or more) hot beef broth
Heat oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add mushrooms, onions and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent.
Add butter to the pan. When melted, stir in flour. Cook and stir until butter is browned. Slowly whisk in hot beef broth. Stir in wine, paprika and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until thick and smooth. Makes about 8 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.