Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Technique Tuesday: Paprika

Everyone knows paprika as the red dust that always tops deviled eggs. Though I've actually never used it for that specific purpose, paprika is one of my very favorite spices to use. There are several different varieties of paprika that each lend a different, yet delicious, flavor to many dishes. Growing up, we used Hungarian paprika to top twice baked potatoes but that was about it. Nowadays, I keep sweet and smoked paprika handy next to my stove and add it to protein dishes as well as side dishes like grilled potatoes with aioli or combined with chili powder for a delicious kick to my breakfast potatoes (search both recipes in the sidebar). Paprika has the most beautiful, vibrant red color that just brings foods to life, both for your eyes and your palate. Below is a quick crash course in paprika that should help you feel very comfortable adding different varieties to your dishes in no time.

1. Where does paprika come from?
Paprika is made from red or chili peppers that are dried and crushed to form a powder.

2. What varieties of paprika are out there?
Even if I wanted to, I don't think I'd be able to accurately list all of the different types of paprika that are floating around there. The varities range from mild and sweet to smokey or fiery hot and come in all different shades of red. I find myself using sweet paprika most frequently, but I also really enjoy the depth of flavor that smoky paprika brings. Experiment with the different types, and you will surely find one that you can't live without!

3. What are the traditional uses for paprika?
Paprika is most commonly used in Hungarian cooking. Goulash, in particular, is made with paprika. Spanish and Mexican dishes often claim paprika as an ingredient as well.

4. What can I make using paprika?
I recommend sprinkling a bit on your eggs for some spice, or adding a smokier paprika to proteins like chicken or fish. My favorite pairing, as I mentioned before, is grilled potatoes with paprika (search sidebar for this recipe). You can even add a dash or two to potato salad to make it extra special.

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