a lovely find
My previous experience with paprika was of the basic supermarket variety: the utterly flavorless stuff that serves a purely aesthetic purpose. When I think of paprika, I imagine it being a spice for people who don't actually like food or cooking all that much. I associate it with the condensed-soup-based casseroles of my Midwestern youth.
This stuff, though, is delightful. It's made by drying pimientos over an oak fire for days. I opened the jar, tasted a little, and realized what the secret was to all the good Spanish food I've ever had. It's not the same kind of smoky-spicy as chipotle; this is a more muted taste that begs to go with saffron. In fact, I instantly cooked up some rice with smoked paprika and saffron just to give my new purchase a whirl, and it was great. This makes me want to go buy some shrimp and some good bread, saute the shrimp with this stuff and some good olive oil and lemon and sherry and lots of garlic, and sop it all up with the bread....sigh. I can also see it doing wonderful things for potatoes. And paella, it goes without saying.
There's a real "secret ingredient" appeal here; I think this is one of those things you could slip into many dishes to impart a depth of flavor that few people will be able to pin down. But I'm afraid of using it too much now that I've discovered it. I almost don't want it to become one of my staple tricks! I'm afraid of diluting the magic, I think, if that makes any sense.