Smoked paprika comes from the La Vera region of Spain and is often referred to as pimenton de la Vera. It’s likely you have a different sort of paprika already in your spice cabinet. The paprika sold in grocery stores and usually labeled simply “Paprika” or “Hungarian Paprika” is often used to finish off a dish, to add color and a bit of spice without getting too extreme like you might get with chili powder or cayenne pepper.
If you like deviled eggs, it’s likely you’re accustomed to sprinkling paprika from a red tin on the eggs as the last step right before eating. But smoked paprika is something different. It’s smokiness elevates dishes in ways that regular paprika or its spicy cousins can’t, but it's also earthy and complicated. In the La Vera region located west of Madrid near Portugal, peppers are harvested and smoked over wood fires of local oak to achieve the signature smokiness.
When shopping for smoked paprika be aware that you may have to find it at a specialty foods store or order it online. It’s definitely worth investing in, if only to make simple black beans other-worldly. Smoked paprika is a brilliant flavor addition to dishes you may already make.
Add a teaspoon of smoked paprika to your black beans after they have been soaked and simmered.
Toss 4 cups cooked popcorn with the juice of a lime and a teaspoon of smoked paprika.
Add a sprinkle of smoked paprika on your white fish before pan-frying for fish tacos.
And for something really special, add pimenton to baked sweet potatoes.
Smoked Paprika Sweet Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 tablespoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap each sweet potato in aluminum foil and place directly on the top rack of your oven. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any liquid that seeps out. Bake for 45 minutes.
Use a fork to mix the butter, paprika, orange zest and salt together in a small bowl.
Unwrap the potatoes and allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Make a lengthwise slit down the potato and use a spoon to scoop out the orange insides and mix with the paprika butter. Return the orange flesh to the skins and serve.
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Photo by Ally-Jane.