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July 12, 2009

Pimentón agridulce/smoked bittersweet paprika (Recipe: chakchouka)

Chakchouka

Guest post and photos by Kim in Pasadena, California.

When it comes to discovering new foods and ingredients, I’m like a dog who spots a squirrel. The world simply freezes for me.

I can walk down any grocery aisle in any store, and if there is something I’ve never seen before, my brain puts on the brakes, and before I know it I am reading the label. I’m flexible, but I keep Kosher, so I read carefully.

You’d think I would whip out my BlackBerry at this point, to reveal the mystery ingredient. But I don’t own a BlackBerry, nor do I have Internet on my phone. This might sound strange coming from a computer geek who makes a living building and fixing computers.

Even if I could, looking up stuff right there and then would spoil the ride home for me. All the anticipation until I can get to my computer and Google my new-found treasure is just too delicious. The surprise of some magical taste or a new recipe can be such wonderful journey. 

Sometimes this can be a bit of a let-down (mustard oil comes to mind), sometimes downright scary (got to put black salt in that box). But then there are the times when the food gods smile upon you and you get a real treat. 

Bittersweet paprika is one of those treats.

All paprika is a blend of thin skinned peppers that have been dried. Bittersweet paprika –- pimentón agridulce -- differs from the Hungarian paprika that you sprinkle to give food a bit of color, because it's made from sweet and hot peppers and has a distinct, smoky flavor and aroma. (Smoked paprika also comes in sweet and hot varieties.)

My bittersweet paprika of choice is from the Chiquilin company, which has been making pimentón in Spain since 1909. I first fell in love when I saw a tin at my favorite Italian grocery store, Claro’s

Chiquilin pimentón is made from ñora peppers which are smoked over oak logs to develop the flavors. Peppers smoked over an oak fire develop into a rich and complex profile which is much more powerful and pronounced than if sun-dried or commercially dried.

Pimentonagridulce1

The tin had such warm and inviting colors, complete with an image of a cheeky little boy. When I opened it for the first time, the aroma just blew me away. My mind raced with all the possibilities.

Online, I found a recipe for a North African dish of eggs poached in a pepper ragout. One of the primary ingredients was paprika, and because I was not using a sweet paprika but a smoked one, the recipe needed to be tweaked a bit. Okay, tweaked a lot.

That’s the fun of discovering new ingredients. You never know where they'll take you.

Chakchouka

Serve this vegetarian main course dish with crusty bread or rice. Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp bittersweet pimentón
1 tsp harissa
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 tsp fresh savory, finely chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
14-oz can of diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp red wine
1 cup water
1 green pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
Pinch brown sugar
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
4 eggs, soft poached

Directions

Heat the oil over a medium flame in a deep skillet. Stir in the pimentón and let cook slightly to color the oil, about 10-15 seconds. (The sugar content of pimentón is very high, so be careful not to burn the spice. Really what you are aiming for is dissolving the pimentón in the oil.)
Add the onion and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent and wilted but not browned. Add tomatoes, savory, balsamic vinegar, wine and water bring to a rapid simmer. Add peppers, pinch of brown sugar and salt/pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to create a sauce.

Form four indentations in the simmering sauce to hold the eggs. Gently crack one egg and slide it into one indentation, being careful not to break the yolk. Do the same with the remaining eggs. Simmer another 5 minutes or so, until egg whites are firm.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Egg curry
Pumpkin stew
Sweet potato, lentil and raisin stew
Potatoes a la huancaina
Chicken ratatouille

Comments

Very nice! I love smoked paprika!

I use the badia brand pimenton. I have to say that I don't get 'it' Maybe my tastebuds are out of whack. Even straight up on eggs I don't taste the wowness everyone else tatses. Rumour has it that there are people who can tell the difference between paprika and pimenton. Lucky bastards is all I have to say to that :)

thanks for bringing a bit of africa to the internet

This sounds wonderful. (I'll bet a few shrimp could replace the eggs.) I discovered smoked paprika about the same time I discovered Aleppo pepper, and now couldn't do without either.

This is also a popular dish in Israel and other parts of the Middle East, also spelled Shakshouka (and other ways). With individual variations, no doubt.

This sounds just delicious. I do know that feeling of having time stop when you see an ingredient that's brand new to you (and I bet Lydia does too!)

This is a dish that my four grandchildren love and ask their mother to make quite often. Two of them were born in Israel and two here in North Carolina, and all have dual citizenship. Right now they are spending the summer in Israel visiting and reconnecting with their other grandparents and relatives.

Anh – I make a salt and pepper mix adding in the smoked paprika. A sprinkle in scrambled eggs makes all the difference

Milton – try frying in oil, the process causes the taste to be quite pronounced

Jean – Please try my version and make a bit extra of the sauce … you’ll find it’s quite good on fish chicken and tuna and shrimp.

Mae – As you can see I’ve added quite a few additions. The peppers add an interesting texture.

Kalyn – Thanks so much, I sometimes wonder if I am the only person that has this obsession with food. One of the reasons that I am addicted to Lydia’s blog is that she shares my passion.

Louise – Some day I hope to go to Israel. I do wish that parents in America would try more healthier choices for breakfast instead of going for the fast and easy sweet cereals. I believe that if children are exposed to healthier choices for food they will usually choose them.

This looks delicious!!!

I have never ever even seen this! Sounds awesome.

This looks great! I've been trying to eat less meat, so I'll have to add this to my "must try" list!

Treehouse – Hope you consider trying the recipe. It really is as good as it looks

Janet – One of the things that caught my eye about this recipe was the how unusual the methods were in creating the dish, from frying the pimentón to poaching the eggs in the tomato sauce.

Maris – I actually try to collect recipes that are meatless. Here in Los Angeles it does get quite hot so sometimes meat is just too much. I’ll also will make the sauce ahead (when it's cool at night) and eat this dish for lunch and dinner.

I am just starting to discover the different kinds of paprika. I have regular nondescript, sweet, sweet smoked, and hot. But even though I have four.. I never seem to have the kind called for in the recipe!
Your dish looks delicious.

I love Shakshuka as prepared at a local Israeli-owned restaurant here in NYC called Hummus Place -- they do a version that comes to your table in the skillet in which it was baked, with fat slices of haloumi cheese. It is DELICIOUS with fluffy Israeli pita for sopping up the tomato sauce.

Gorgeous. I've been on a poached egg kick lately, using paprika sizzled with butter. Must try this. Thanks!

Natashya - You know there is always some pantry ingredient that wants to challenge you. The cool thing about this recipe is that you can use any of the paprika’s just bear in mind the heat levels and adjust.

TeaxanNewYorker - Ooooh! I want to go to that restaurant that version sounds to die for even if it’s dairy. BTW you can sub all the tomatoes and the peppers and just add Ro tel with some tomato sauce.

Susan - I so know what you mean. I made this recipe for the blog and now I’m on to Asian Udon noodle soups that usually have a poached egg included.

Cheers for sharing this. Have to try it very soon. Looks so yummy.

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