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Hungarian paprika adds flavor and aroma to many soup dishes

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

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. 

Though not really a soup, I also enjoy making goulash and especially, paprikash. My favorite is chicken paprikash, a traditional Hungarian soup or stew 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.

I’ve had a tough time finding the Hungarian peppers in our area, so when my son comes to visit every year from Akron, he brings down about a dozen jars for me. If anyone knows where to buy them locally, let me know.

Don’t burn the paprika

When making all kinds of goulash and paprikás, 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/paprika mixture before returning to the heat. This technique will allow the flavor of the paprika to be released, ensuring that 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 that was 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 Vegetable Soup 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, remove excess skin

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 of the bone, about an hour.

Once the chicken is cooked, I like to remove any bones from the pot and then add the Hungarian 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 servings.

Hungarian Vegetable Soup

1 large bone-in chicken breast 

2 bay leaves

3-4 celery stalks, chopped in 1-inch pieces

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 

3 medium onions, chopped coarsely

2 cups carrots, chopped coarsely 

1 sweet red pepper, coarsely chopped 

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 

2 Tbsps. Hungarian paprika 

4 cups chicken broth

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked rice or egg noodles (leftovers are fine)

Salt and pepper to taste 

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped 

In a medium saucepan, place the chicken breast, 1 bay leaf and enough water to cover the chicken. Cook uncovered at a gentle boil until the chicken is done, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and pour the liquid through a strainer into a small bowl. Discard the bay leaf and set the liquid aside. Once cooled, remove and discard the skin, pull off the bone and cut it into thin strips. Cover and refrigerate until ready to add to the soup. 

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; add the onions and cook until softened, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook until softened slightly.

On low heat, add red pepper, garlic and paprika; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until you smell the aroma of the paprika. Add chicken broth and 1-1/2 cups of the reserved liquid from cooking the chicken. Discard any remaining cooking liquid. Add the thyme and remaining bay leaf. 

Cover and cook at a simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cooked chicken and rice or noodles (for a thicker soup, use both); salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 10 minutes until heated through. Discard the bay leaf. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Makes 6 servings.

Burgundy Mushroom Soup

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 12 servings.