Herbie’s Herbs and Seasonings: Paprika
This is Herbie. Now you might think that I’m trying to entice you in with an adorable cat picture. Well, you’d be half right.
Herbie is a beautiful cat (shouldn’t he be modeling?!) whose name represents something even finer: the herbs we use in our food.
With Silver Spork News, we don’t just want to show some recipes that you can put together in the kitchen. That’s boring. That’s not cooking. We want to teach you to experiment and design, to be an artist with your food. Why should I use two buns on this burger? Why should you buy elbow pasta when you already have farfalle? Why shouldn’t I try mixing all of this together? No matter what happens, I promise it will be better than Chicken Noodle Soup.*
The artist that you will become will use herbs as your tools in the kitchen. And every time you add an herb, you’ll think about this cat’s beautiful face. You’re welcome.
Herbie’s Herb Lessons: Paprika
I know what comes to mind when you think about paprika: the red dust on deviled eggs and Paprika, the 2006 anime film directed by the late Satoshi Kon. Let’s stick to the one on the eggs for now.
Paprika has a smoky and sweet pepper flavor without the heat. Its unique flavor is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, but more widely with Eastern European cooking.
Here in ‘MURICA you’re really only going to notice it on the deviled eggs, and even then it’s just a garnish. In fact, I highly recommend mixing a bit more paprika into the actual yolk. It helps bring out that smokiness without overwhelming the other flavors. But that only helps so much since paprika’s beauty can’t be fully realized until it is heated.
Paprika itself has a hugely varied background now. There are versions from Hungary, California, Spain, Israel, and dozens more from all over the world. And not one of them is alike. No matter what you like to cook with, there’s a paprika for you. Spanish paprika is usually smoked, so it’s my preferred paprika for meat.
So twice damn those deviled eggs! Let’s take a look at what else you can use paprika for.
Beef Stew, a traditional favorite everywhere. Like, literally everywhere. No one doesn’t have beef stews. The way to change up a beef stew is not to buy a different cut of beef or different vegetables. Take whatever recipe you’ve been using for years and play with the seasoning. Does it call for chili powder? Put in paprika instead. Maybe double it. Your call. Get that strong paprika taste to meld with your beef, carrots, and potatoes. When you finish you’ll have an entirely new stew. Something from another dimension, a dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Twilight Zone.
Shrimp, are you ready? This one might make you hate your parents. If you haven’t had paprika shrimp, you haven’t lived. With a paprika-based seasoning mix, you can toss the shrimp and broil them to perfection. This gives a new taste to something you’ve been eating your whole life. You’ll love it. Unless, of course, you can’t shut out their tiny screams in your head every night. “Help me, Ian. Help me. Don’t rip out my spi-blegh…” I haven’t slept since Long John Silvers six years ago.
Chocolate Cheesecake. Whoa. Calm down. Put the pitchforks away. I understand that cheesecake is a sacred topic amongst foodies, but I’m just going to make it a little better. Once you’ve served chocolate cheesecake on a plate, garnish it with paprika. I get it. I was all against paprika garnishes earlier. But this time I want you to add a lot. Enough that you can soak it up with the cake. It gives the always-too-sweet cake a little kick. Trust me. You haven’t lived until you’ve added that spicy kick to your sweet desserts. Next stop? Habanero ice cream.
Disclaimer: Silver Spork does not advocate the consumption of chicken noodle soup.
Post and Herbie photo by Ian Sims.