29 September, 2008

Pörkölt - Hungarian Stew

One of my family's favorite cold-weather suppers is Pörkölt, an Hungarian stew that can be made with beef, pork, veal, or chicken. Our favorite is pork.

As stews go, this one is relatively quick - a couple hours of prep and cooking time - but it's still something we generally make on a weekend. Best of all is making it the night before and reheating it for supper the next day, so the flavors have a chance to fully develop overnight.

Start with 4 to 5 tablespoons of fat. You can use a vegetable oil if you like, but pork fat or lard is traditional. Usually, I take some pork fat trimmings and render them for a few minutes until I have some fat on the bottom of the pan.

Chop two or three onions finely - about 2 cups - and add them to the hot fat along with two cloves of garlic, minced. Sautee the onions and garlic until the onions are turning translucent and amber.

Turn off the heat
and stir in 3 or 4 tablespoons of good Hungarian sweet paprika. There are two secrets to really delicious pörkölt here: The first is to turn the heat off before adding the paprika. This keeps it from burning and getting bitter when it hits the hot fat. Stir it in without heat, then turn the fire back on after the paprika is "preheated." The second secret is to use good Hungarian paprika. Don't use that cheap red dust you can get in the supermarket or dollar store: it's just not the same and the final result will betray the inferior ingredients.

Bring up the fire again under your pot and add about 2 pounds of cubed pork. This is a stew, so use a cheap cut - pork shoulder is fine, or shank, or those silly "country style ribs" which aren't ribs at all. Some fat on them is okay, too, but don't worry about it too much especially if you started with some rendered pork fat in the beginning.

Anyway, add the pork and stir it well to coat it all over with the paprika and onion. Let it cook for a few minutes over medium heat.

Add a chopped bell pepper and a cup of chopped fresh, ripe tomato. I had a couple of very ripe but kind of sad-looking tomatoes - almost the last of the season - from my garden, so I cut them up and put them in. Then add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot and float the peppers. Too much water will make the pörkölt too soupy. As the stew cooks, it will thicken by reduction.

Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook covered for about twenty minutes. Uncover and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for an hour or so more. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Allow the broth to reduce into a thick gravy, only adding water as necessary to prevent the meat from scorching on the bottom of the pan.

When the pork is tender and the broth has reduced into a delicious thick gravy redolent with the blended flavors of paprika, onion, garlic, and bell pepper the pörkölt is ready to serve. You can serve it with galuska (Hungarian dumplings), or noodles, or over rice like we always do.

Pörkölt (Hungarian Stew) made with Pork

4 - 5 tablespoons fat
1½ to 2 cups finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
3 - 4 tablespoons good paprika
2 pounds pork, cubed
1 large bell pepper
1 cup chopped tomato
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat fat in a heavy Dutch oven. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is translucent and amber. Turn off heat and stir in paprika, then return pot to the fire and add pork. Cook over medium heat while stirring to coat pork completely. Simmer a few minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.

Add bell pepper and tomato to the pot and just enough water to cover the bottom of the kettle and "float" the bell pepper. Cover and bring to a simmer, then cook for fifteen or twenty minutes.

Finally, uncover and continue to simmer for 90 minutes or so to reduce the broth into a gravy. Adjust seasonings as necessary. When pork is tender and broth has thickened, the pörkölt is ready. Serve with dumplings, noodles, or rice.


Anonymous said...

Yum! As a gal who's part Hungarian, I love this! (Pork is my favorite, too.) And I couldn't agree with you more about using good paprika. Thanks for sharing!

a.k.a. The Hungry Mouse

Sharon said...

I've been looking for a fairly easy Hungarian recipe and this just might be it! Looks great.

goldfinc said...

impressive simple no fuzz recipe, can't wait to try this version. Thanks for sharing