Northwest Wine - Online Magazine
Smoked Spanish Paprika
My Secret Ingredient, by Michael Sherwood - Avalon Food & Wine Writer
Smoked Paprika [pimenton], made in Spain from smoked, ground pimiento peppers and often referred to as simply smoked paprika can be found in varying intensities from sweet and mild (dulce) bittersweet medium hot (agridulce) and hot (picante).
This paprika is not the relatively bland stuff you get at the local supermarket. It's more a cousin to traditional Hungarian paprika. What makes all of these varieties distinct is the deep smoky flavor they share.
This precious powder is indispensable for Spanish chorizo sausage, in pork dishes and any number of shrimp dishes and tapas. It adds the absolutely perfect taste of authenticity to paellas. It crosses into regular American cuisine as a seasoning for barbecue pork, kebabs, and rich beef and lamb stews. There is no substitute for its use in authentic Spanish cooking.
I wish the English translation on the picante tin didn't say "hot", as it brings visions of flaming spices of Thai or Schezuan cuisine. But this is not the case. Traditional Spanish cuisine never assaults you. It seduces.
The color is a striking deep red that spreads through any dish to which it is added. It has an intoxicating smoky aroma from the slow oak smoking, and a silky texture from the repeated grinding between stones.
We like to add it to our spice rub or barbecue sauce for baby back ribs, or as an accent for roast potatoes or as a flavoring for potatoes and fish dishes, all things with shrimp, light stews, sauces, garlic chicken and roasted meats. Whatever wine you pair with your meal when it includes smoked paprika… that wine takes on a nuance not seen before. Listed at right are some of our favorite wines that go with these dishes.
We recommend you experiment with this ingredient and make it your own. There are so many ways to use it. One whiff when you open the can and you will imagine a dozen ways to use it. It's that intoxicating. Below are a few suggestions, and the story behind the best Spanish paprika available:
La Dalia - THE Smoked Paprika
Pimenton is often compared with Hungarian paprika (which descended from Spanish pimenton.) It is a powder ground from the Capsicum annum pepper in the case of the sweet variety and the cerasiforme subspecies in the case of the semi-hot product. The peppers are roasted over the hot night fires of pedunculate or holm oak. Cultivation began with the Jerunimos monks from the Yuste Monastery in the 16th century in La Vera region of western Spain.
Luscious red peppers have been produced in the La Vera microclimate of Spain's Extremadura region for centuries. The paprika made from these peppers is the first aromatic seasoning to attain the coveted status of Denomination of Origin (D.O.). Mature peppers are dried and smoked over oak fires and then stone-ground to a fine, powdery consistency. The bittersweet smoked paprika possesses a smoky warmth with a mild bite on the finish.
The best pimenton is made, as it has been for four generations, by the Hernandez family.
The Hernandez family began the manufacture of Pimenton de la Vera at the turn of the century. Today, their "La Dalia" brand smoked Paprika is considered THE smoked paprika by the best chefs.
Don Valeriano Hernandez Martin founded "La Dalia", a company dedicated to the manufacture and distribution of Pimenton and Spices. Thanks to its quality, it quickly established a great name for itself amongst the finest food competitions winning the "Diploma de Honor" at the "Exposicion Internacional Permanente de Barcelona" in 1916 and the Silver Medal in the "Exposicion Iberoamericana de Sevilla" (Latin American Exposition of Sevilla) in 1929 and 1930.
The traditional methods of manufacture and preparation of the product have been passed down from father to son throughout the generations, making this reasonably priced spice one of the most affordable "must have" spices, essential to every gourmet kitchen.
The Many Uses for Smoked Paprika
- Mix with olive oil and rub between the skin and breast of a roast chicken.
- Prepare sensational beef goulash.
- Add to deviled eggs or egg salad sandwich.
- Spice up hot tomato or cold tomato soup.
- Mix into guacamole dip.
- Make smoked paprika butter. Add crushed garlic; a pinch of sugar and paprika to the butter.
- Flavor risotto and top with a rustic mixture of chorizo sausages and tomatoes.
- Cook in a little oil to release the flavor and then mix with olive oil and use for marinating feta cheese.
- Add a little sweet smoked paprika to vinaigrette and toss it through a salad.
- Put some thick Nancy's yogurt in a shallow dish, drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle well with bittersweet smoked paprika. Use as a dip.
- Quickly fry 2 chopped cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika and a bay leaf in a little extra virgin olive oil. Add a splash of wine vinegar and some chopped red onion and toss it with steamed broccoli, cauliflower or sautéed zucchini.
- Slowly fry waxy potatoes, sliced onions and chopped garlic in olive oil and a little sweet smoked paprika, season well and serve with roast lamb.
- Rub skinned boned firm white fish fillets with a mixture of 2 tablespoons of sweet smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the juice of a lemon, dust with flour and fry in hot olive oil until golden.
About Michael Sherwood
Michael Sherwood is an Oregon original - your modern day Renaissance man. He's done more interesting jobs than most of us - FM radio personality, commercial logger, commercial fisherman, rock band promoter, neighborhood advocate, energy conservation expert, arts festival coordinator, software developer, non-profit executive, beer and wine guy and land use planner.
After 10 years developing software in Seattle, Mike moved back to Portland and was soon drafted to be the first Executive Director of the Oregon Brewers Guild, a fledgling non-profit trade organization, which he helped turn into one of the most dynamic small brewer associations in North America.
All the while he was managing the affairs of the states craft brewers, he was not so secretly a wine lover and worked providing marketing assistance to a local winery. Beverages are 'in his blood' as his family owned a beer and wine distributorship in the 60's and 70's in Roseburg.
Today Mike runs a wine sales, marketing and technology consulting business called Arbre which provides branding and sales support for wineries large and small. He has also created the Internets first truly virtual stealth restaurant and underground wine bar called Sub Rosa. We liked his mix of wine savvy and irreverent humor so much, we hired him to write for Avalon.
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