Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pork chops Hongroise

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 Pork chops Hongroise I reach back to an old favorite cookbook for this Hungarian treat, giving it a new twist with smoked paprika.
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Pork chops Hongroise

Think of Hungarian cuisine and you'll surely think of paprika, a familiar spice that's all too often used more to add a dash of color to the top of an otherwise bland-looking dish than to celebrate its own natural flavor, a fruity-spicy taste that can range from sweet and mellow to downright hot.

Quality paprikas often come from Hungary, but Spanish paprika is also a strong contender. Check the label and, if you choose a hot variety, use with care, as some of the hot Hungarian paprikas in particular can be startlingly fiery.

At the risk of natural repetition, I strongly advise making an effort to locate naturally produced, pasture-grown local pork if you possibly can. It's worth the effort, even at a premium price.

For more on cooking with paprika (and with another exotic, aromatic spice, saffron), you're invited to participate in the "Featured Ingredient" topic in our FoodLovers' Discussion Group, which currently is focused on discussions and reader-submitted recipes using either or both spices.

I based today's featured recipe fairly closely on the Cotes de Porc Hongroise in a favorite older cookbook, the late Pierre Franey's 1979 60-Minute Gourmet. Franey called for generic paprika; I dramatically enhanced this recipe with Spanish smoked paprika sent by an Australian friend from the excellent Herbie's Spices in Sydney. Penzey's Spices in the U.S. is also a good source for exotic spices; and if you have quality local spice shops or specialty stores in your town, like Lotsa Pasta or Nuts N Stuff in Louisville, it's always good to support them.


(Serves two)

2 inch-thick pork loin or rib chops, about 8 ounces (240g) each
Black pepper
1 teaspoon (5g) quality paprika, smoked if available
2 tablespoons (30ml) peanut oil
1/4 cup (60g) sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup (60ml) dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard


1. Put the pork chops on a plate and season both sides to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle on the smoked paprika, trying to spread it evenly, but don't obsess about perfection. You can start sauteeing them immediately if you wish, but if your schedule permits, it's better to set them aside for a half-hour or so to pick up the flavors of the spices.

2. Peel the onion and chop it finely; measure out the other ingredients and have them ready when you start to cook. This mise en place procedure is a good habit to develop, as getting organized will save you time and avoid mistakes.

3. Put the oil in a heavy skillet - black iron is excellent - that's just large enough to hold the pork chops comfortably in one layer. Turn heat to high and heat the oil until it sizzles. Put in the pork chops and sear them on one side for three minutes, then turn and sear on the other side for two minutes. Reduce heat to medium, cover the skillet loosely, and let them cook for another five minutes or so.

4. Remove the cover, return heat to high, and sprinkle the chopped onions around the chops. Cook for a minute or two until the onions start to cook; then remove the chops to a plate and hold them in a warm oven while you finish the sauce.

5. Continue cooking the onions in the accumulated fat in the skillet for a moment or so; deglaze with the white wine, cooking until it is reduced to a thick, scanty syrup. Turn heat down to medium low and, when the skillet cools slightly, add the cream and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens a little.

6. Put the chops back in the skillet, turn them once or twice, and serve, topped with the sauce.

MATCHING WINE: It might be fun to try this with a dry Hungarian wine, but sadly, only a handful are available in the U.S., including the low-price Egri Bikaver ("Bull's Blood") and sweet'n'sticky Tokaji dessert wines, which can be delicious but probably not with pork chops. I'd switch over to either of two go-to wines for versatile food matching: Riesling or Pinot Noir. This time it was Willamette Valley Vineyard 2005 Oregon Pinot Noir, and it worked just fine.

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