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Hungarian-Style Stuffed Peppers

Yield: 8 peppers, 4 servings

  • 8 Hungarian yellow waxed peppers

Filling:

  • 3 tablespoons long-grained rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 oz. pancetta, diced to 1/8 inch pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 6 mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 3/4 lb. whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (pimenton), optional
  • 2 tsp. Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. hot paprika
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Sour cream for garnish

Put the rice and half a cup of water in a small pan. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes. If water hasn’t evaporated drain the rice. Place in a bowl large enough to hold the pork and other stuffing ingredients.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed small frying pan. Brown the pancetta over medium heat. Add chopped mushrooms and onion, stir and cook for about 2 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and immediately turn off flame. Remove to a bowl to cool.

Place the pork, egg, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and a generous grinding of pepper in the bowl with the rice. Add the mushroom-pancetta mixture. Mix well, and take a small bit and either cook it in a pan or microwave it for 20 seconds, and taste for seasoning. Adjust with more salt and pepper if needed.

Trim the stems from the peppers with a small sharp knife, and remove the seeds with a small spoon, being careful not to break the peppers. Stuff each completely with the pork mixture. Make meatballs out of any leftover pork mixture.

To make the sauce, dice the tomatoes and whirl in a food processor or blender until pureed. Strain into a bowl. Put the butter in a pan large enough to hold all the peppers, and melt. Add the flour, and stir the resulting roux for two minutes over medium-low heat. Add the tomato puree and the Hungarian and smoked paprika, plus the hot paprika if you want a little warmth to the sauce, and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth. Add ½ cup water, or a little more if needed, plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground pepper, and bring to a simmer. Lay stuffed peppers (and meatballs) in the pan, and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes, turning several times and basting with the sauce. If the sauce cooks down too far, mix in a quarter cup of water.

Remove the peppers to a serving dish, and if needed, reduce the sauce (or thin it again). Taste, adjust seasonings, pour over peppers and serve, with sour cream on the side.