Cooking With Paprika from the Hungarian Meat Market and Delicatessen

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There are almost no signs along Second Avenue from 78th Street to 86th Street that a thriving Hungarian (and Czech and German and Polish) community once existed there. On the corner of East 82nd Street is Johnny Foxes Taphouse Grille; online reviews say that the sports bar "has something for everyone." On the same spot once stood the mighty Paprika Weiss, which had everything for Hungarians. The store, owned by the Weiss family for three generations, was packed not only with spices, pork products, baked goods, and dairy, but also dishes, cookware, and linen embroidered with the ubiquitous red and green of the Magyar flag.

Although Paprika Weiss is no more, there is a more basic--and friendlier --survivor from the 1950s: the Hungarian Meat Market and Delicatessen. The store, which also has a branch in Fairfield, CT, is small and appealing, its walls covered with beige paneling that was ubiquitous in 1970s living rooms. The variety of goods the market carries is not as vast as that of Paprika Weiss, but all the Hungarian basics and then some are available in abundance; that is to say, you will be able to choose from five or six paprikas, not ten or twenty.

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There can be a bit of a language barrier. When I tasted a delicious bit of sausage (there are often samples set out on the counter) and asked what it was, I was told, simply, "cooking sausage." However, you won't need to speak the language to enjoy the flaky, delicate biscuits that are always on display in the window. Just point, and decide whether you want the cheese or crackling (bacon) variety. Both are shatteringly crisp on the outside, layered on the inside, and very, very moreish. Get the miniatures, which have proportionally more savory, salty crust. Other prepared foods, with an emphasis on gulyas, paprikash, and soups, are steeped in tradition, and delicious.

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Kapros tejfeles tökfözelék, a great, creamy, dill-rich zucchini recipe that I've provided here, absolutely requires fresh Hungarian paprika. Don't reach for that dusty, rusty can of brown powder that you use once a year to garnish deviled eggs. The dish simply will not sing, or even hum. You can however, cut down on the fat considerably. Halving the butter and substituting low-fat yogurt for the sour cream will work out just fine. Even the native Hungarian source of this recipe, my best friend's mother, says so!

Yorkville Meat Emporium/Hungarian Meat Market

1560 2nd Avenue, New York NY 10028 (at 81st Street; map)
212-628-5147
hungarianmeatmarket.com


Related:
Mary Kiss's Creamed Dilly Zucchini

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