Tuesday, January 24, 2006

a lovely find

I just ordered some new stuff from Penzey's, including this:

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.


Blogger Sarah said...

Oh, I don't think you can use a good paprika too often.

Any other goodies worth mentioning from Penzey's?

8:32 PM  
Blogger tara said...

Let's see...I got some herbes de Provence (which you hooked me on, by the way, when you brought me back a jar from one of your trips to France years ago), cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, and something they call Northwoods Seasoning (coarse salt, sweet Hungarian paprika, rosemary, garlic, chipotle and thyme, I think). I don't often buy the spice mixes (other than curry powders), but I thought that one sounded interesting. It sounds like it would be nice on fish, roasted potatoes, etc.

12:09 AM  
Blogger lis said...

I've also been dismissive of paprika, but this makes me want to give it a try.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Besides herbes de Provence, my other favorite French seasoning is fleur de sel, the delicate flakes of sea salt harvested by hand off the beaches of Normandy after evaporating naturally in an air perfumed with cider, garlic, and baguettes. (Okay, so I made that last part up, but it is Normandy, after all.) Each little flake just explodes with flavor, perhaps because there's more surface area than on a regular grain of salt. My aunt gave us a bottle of gourmet olive oil flavored with garlic, chiles, and herbs, and we've been using it for dipping good bread, adding the fleur du sel to the oil. Oh lawdy it's good.

11:51 AM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

Oh good, a report on this! I've been wondering if Penzey's spanish paprika was good and now I will go order some.

1:09 AM  
Anonymous sally said...

I ran out of Penzey's cinnamon yesterday (I put it on oatmeal). And the replacement jar I got at the grocery store is just not as good. I'll be putting in an order to Penzey's soon :)

9:02 AM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

Remember just up there ^^ where I said I had to go to Penzey's for spanish paprika? Well, a friend's daughter just came back from Spain and I now have two tiny bottles of the good stuff. happy dance

First thing I did with it was sprinkle some on homemade sweet potato chips. Yum!

1:55 PM  

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