Paprikás

So, I was supremely lazy on Friday, and made cumin lavender cracklin chicken because the hearts, livers, and gizzards in my kitchen had not thawed well enough.  Mea culpa.  But!  They are fully thawed now, and I’m making Paprikás (pronounced “paprikash”) tonight.

First a little about the offal in question:
Chicken gizzards are part of a chicken’s digestive tract.  When eaten as human food, they’re great sources of protein, B12, iron, selenium, phosphorous, and zinc.  They’re delicious in a multitude of ways, especially when they’re fresh.

I’m the first one to extol the virtues of liver.  First of all, liver is delicious.  Secondly, it is a powerhouse.  Chicken liver specifically is a great source of Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Phosphorus and Selenium.

I also have some lamb hearts on hand.  Like most offal, heart is great for getting Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Phosphorus and Copper, Protein, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Iron and Selenium into your guts.

I’m not a nutritionist, by any means.  However, as a personal choice, I prefer food that is nutrient dense, and having a good dose of Vitamin B12 is a sure fire way to get me to consume something (along with being delicious).  Vitamin B12 is essential for a healthy nervous system, and deficiencies are not uncommon.  A B12 deficiency can cause things like fatigue, depression, and poor memory.  I like the idea of getting the majority of my nutritional content from actual food items rather than supplements if I can.

So that’s what’s on the chopping block this evening.  I’m making Paprikash.

Paprika is excellently paired with offal, firstly because paprika is delicious, and secondly because it nicely compliments the iron-laden flavor of offal.  If you’ve never eaten the internal organs of a creature, there tends to be a flavor I happen to love but can put some people off if they’re expecting a kidney to taste like muscle meat.  It’s a bit metallic and quite rich in quality and things like butter, paprika, lemon, onion, and fig play nicely with it.

So, Paprikash is a traditional Hungarian dish.  I started making it when I was reading Dracula in college, enticed by Jonathan Harker’s sumptuous and enthusiastic discussions of Hungarian cuisine as he ventured into the Carpathians early in the first few chapters.  Here’s how I do it:

Prep your offal.  Remove the sinewy hinge from the gizzards — this will make the gizzards cook to tenderness time requirement decrease.  You can leave them whole, but if you’re hoping for dinner in the shorter term, I recommend removing the hinge.  Carve the hearts by ventricle.  The chambers are typically quite easy to recognize.  I have faith in you.  Liver doesn’t need a lot of prep, especially chicken liver.  It’s a largely undifferentiated organ, so bite-sized or slightly bigger chunks should do you just fine.  If you’re using cow liver and find the iron taste puts you off, just soak it in lemon juice for 24 hours before you use it.  The citrus bath will break down some of the blood-like flavors in the liver.  Chicken livers, in my opinion, don’t need that sort of treatment.  They’re fine, as is.  Find some bacon, or take your jar of bacon grease out of the fridge.

Mis-en-place time:

Your meat is prepared.  Put it in a bowl and leave it on the counter, not the fridge, while you do the rest of the prep.

You have rendered some bacon fat, either today or another day.  You’ve done this, because we’ve hung out a few times, and I’ve been like, “keep your damn bacon grease and cook with it.”  Goose is better, but like, if you find a butcher in the tri-state that will give you rendered goose fat, you better give me their number.  I will give them all of my damn money. You can also use duck fat, if y’like, which is sometimes available at the grocer.

Mince a large onion.  Use a sharp knife, for the love of crap.

Grab the salt.  It can be any kind of salt.  I do not abide salt woo.  I use a truffle salt, when I’m being fancy (always, have you met me?); but a smoked salt, sea salt, or just table salt will do just fine.

Collect whatever paprika you plan to use.  You’ll be using sort of a lot.  I typically blend 2 Tablespoons of Hot Hungarian Paprika with 1 Tablespoon of Smoked Paprika, because basically if you smoke something, I will consume it with enthusiasm and delight.

You’ll need a Tablespoon of tomato paste, and enough chicken stock or bone broth to cover the meat in your dutch oven.

You may, if you like, add up to half a cup of sour cream.  Tomthulhu thinks it is gross; I will eat it by itself out of the container with a spoon.  If I’m making supper for both of us, I leave it out and just put sour cream on my plate because people I love are allowed to have preferences.

Cut up some sweet potatoes into approximately one inch cubes, or use small fingerling/young white potatoes.  Traditionally, paprikás is served on a bed of egg noodles.  I make mine to sit atop a crown of either boiled or oven roasted potatoes.  You can also use cauliflower!

Mince two cloves of garlic.

Here’s what you do:

Put your fat in a large dutch oven.  Ideally, you possess a ceramic or cast iron dutch oven.  Use it for freaking everything, and love your life.  Heat the fat until it melts over medium-high heat.

Put the onions in your heated dutch oven with the fat.  Cook them until they’re tender and clear, then push them all over to a remote corner of the dutch oven.

Brown about a pound of mixed hearts, gizzards, and livers in the onion-fat.  I usually turn up the heat when I do this to get a nice Maillard Reaction going.  Don’t let it get out of hand, though.  Offal doesn’t like being overcooked.

Add your salt, tomato paste, and paprika blend.  Add enough stock/broth to cover.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Put a lid on your dutch oven, and let this simmer for an hour to an hour and a half.  Check it after about 70 minutes.  If you de-hinged your gizzards, the dish might be done in as little as an hour. If you didn’t, it will take closer to three hours for them to be tender all the way through.  If the gizzard squeaks against your teeth when you bite it, it isn’t done yet.

Use this time to prepare your potatoes, sweet potatoes, or egg noodles (if you’re not on the paleo/ancestral template).

When it’s getting close to done, take the lid off, and simmer some of the liquid off.  This dish is meant to be rather thick; more like a thick stew than a soup.

As the liquid reduces, add your minced garlic.  Add the sour cream, if you’re doing that.

Serve on the starch of your choice.

That’s it.  The preparation time is pretty long, but the work is pretty simple.  This meal freezes and reheats well, and is excellent for chilly evenings with a glass of wine.  Pretend you are on a train trip through Budapest on a grand adventure as a newly minted solicitor.  “Memorandum: Get recipe for Mina.”

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Paprikás

4 thoughts on “Paprikás

    1. I think trying liver for the first time successfully is about managing your expectations. It is strongly flavored and a very different texture than the meat we get from muscle tissue. So, adjusting your expectations and knowing to pair it with strong flavors (and not overcook it) will help it be a positive adventure. It’s something of, I think, an acquired taste. I got to like it by deciding I was going to like it. Now, I love it! Let me know if you try it out. I’d love to hear how you find it.

      As a casual aside, you can also use my paprikash recipe for a whole chicken, or boneless thighs or breast meat. It’s pretty adaptable.

      Enjoy! ❤

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