Hungarian Stuffed Peppers

stuffed peppers

Hungarian yellow wax peppers have always been treasured vegetables in my family. It's our connection to the old country, so to speak, since they are rather difficult to source in the States unless you grow them yourself. My dad was always the gardener of the family, growing prized peppers as well as other vegetables every year. Now the tradition has been bequeathed to me and I hope to continue it for many years to come. This year the garden has provided a beautiful bounty of peppers, both hot and sweet. I've used them in all types of preparations, in saut├ęs, stir-frys, and, of course, stuffed peppers.

An iconic dish in Hungarian home-cooking, stuffed peppers can be lumped with the popular dishes of chicken paprikash, goulash, and stuffed cabbage. I'm sure every household has a different recipe for stuffed peppers, but the recipes are still very similar. If you have eaten stuffed peppers before, it probably was with bell peppers prepared in an Italian way, but the preparation and flavor of that dish are much different. It has to do with the ingredients, which are the most important aspect of any recipe, but especially so in this traditional recipe.

Hungarian peppers

Hungarian peppers are the focus of this dish. They are pale yellow in color, pointy in shape, and have a mellow but very fresh flavor. They of course are the peppers that eventually turn into the spice paprika. The peppers ripen completely until they turn red, are dried, and finally ground into a fine powder. In Hungarian, the word paprika stands for peppers, so usually peppers are referred to as fresh peppers, and the red powder is called ground dried peppers. The powder comes in three strengths, sweet, half-sweet, and hot. It's used in pretty much every Hungarian recipe except dessert.

Both fresh paprika and dried paprika are used in this recipe for Hungarian-style stuffed peppers. It's a recipe that my mom makes all the time in the summer. The peppers are simply stuffed with ground meat and rice and simmered in sauce until the filling is cooked and the rice tender. The sauce, which starts with a roux base, gets its color and flavor from fresh or canned tomato sauce and the spice paprika. The tradition is to serve the finished dish with a dollop of sour cream, which adds tartness and thickens the sauce. Don't forget to mop up the remaining sauce with a slice of crusty bread.

Hungarian Stuffed Peppers

for the peppers and filling:
6 to 8 Hungarian sweet yellow wax peppers
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 medium onion, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground pork (or any combination of ground meat to total 1 pound)
1/2 cup rice

for the sauce:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups tomato sauce
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

for serving:
sour cream
finely chopped parsley, for garnish

Core the peppers and remove the seeds and membrane; discard.

To begin the filling, warm oil in a medium saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add onion, saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add paprika, stir and remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix together the ground meat, the sauteed onions and garlic, and the rice. Season with salt and pepper. Add a 1/2 cup water. Mix well.

Using your hands, stuff the peppers. If you don't have enough peppers to make use of all the filling, make large meatballs.

To make the sauce, warm a large pot over medium heat. Combine oil and flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring often, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and 2 cups water; stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste. If too tart, add sugar to taste.

Add the stuffed peppers to the sauce. Make sure the peppers are submerged. If not, more water can be added. Cook, covered, on a low simmer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. The tenderness of the rice will indicate doneness. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with chopped parsley. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

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