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Nov 24, 2015
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WINE WITH…Letscho (Hungarian Pepper and Sausage Stew)

The French can probably take credit for the greatest diversity of delicious stews--Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, Cassoulet and so on--but the Hungarian culinary repertoire also includes a number of distinctive stews, from Goulash (Gulyás) to Chicken Paprikash. One of the most satisfying stews from the Hungarian roster is Letscho (pronounced, lech-oh), a flavorful, sturdy, simple and relatively quick-cooking dish redolent of red peppers, onions, tomatoes and sausage. Like all Hungarian stews, letscho is distinguished by a good jolt of paprika, which adds both flavor and color.

Letscho

Serves 4-6

You could use red bell peppers exclusively but a variety of different peppers (red, yellow, green) adds more flavor and visual diversity.

Some cooks serve the rice separately but we prefer to integrate it in with the other ingredients.

2-3 slices bacon cut into 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, sliced
2 red peppers
3 yellow peppers
2 mild green peppers such as Anaheim, banana or Italian
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1 ½ pounds smoked sausage such as Kielbasa
salt and pepper
2/4 cup medium grained white rice
1 cup sour cream

Cook the bacon in a sturdy casserole or Dutch oven until browned. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and reserve them, leaving the bacon fat in the bottom of the pan. Slice the onion and stir it into the bacon fat. Cut all the peppers into long thin slices and add to the pot with the onions. Cook over medium heat until have softened, stirring frequently during cooking to coat them thoroughly with bacon fat. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and the paprika and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Cut the sausage into rounds and add it to the vegetables. Simmer the mixture for ten to 15 minutes; then taste for seasoning. The Letscho may be made up to a day or two ahead to this point.

About 45-60 minutes before serving, reheat the letscho if necessary. Stir in the rice, cover the pot and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring the mixture frequently to make sure the rice cooks evenly and does not stick to the bottom of the pan. If the mixture looks dry, add water as necessary. Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top.

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Letscho (sometimes spelled lecsó) is full favored and slightly sweet due to the peppers and paprika. It goes best with light to medium-bodied red wines, but a substantial white will do fine as well. In our tasting, the wines that showed best were all quite fruity, echoing the sweetness in the dish. More austere or tannic ones did not fare as well. This is comfort food, so you need an equally comforting wine to go with it.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Calera, Central Coast (California) Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2014

$19

An elegant Rosé (not surprising considering Calera’s track record), with lightness married to depth of flavor and impressive length on the palate. This is pink wine for serious wine lovers.

Famille Perrin, Côtes du Rhône (France) Réserve 2012

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

$12

An earthy red, with black peppery undertones but soft, pliant tannins, so a good match with this flavorful but in no sense heavy dish.

Martin Ray, Russian River Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2012

$08

A rarity in California Pinot Noir, this wine shows supple red fruit flavors and a silky texture, without heat or the sort of saccharine sweetness that mars so many renditions of the variety—especially those sporting higher price tags.

Saint Roch, Côtes du Roussillon (France) Grenache Blanc/ Marsanne “Vielles Vignes” 2013

(Imported by Eric Solomon Selections)

$14

An excellent value, this mineral-rich white has enough flavor and heft to pair successfully with this dish. Its ripe flavors also impart a layer of sophistication and class.

Val Sotillo, Ribera del Duero (Spain) “Finca Buena Vista” 2012(Imported by Tradewinds Specialty)

$22

Sumptuous, with soft tannins but full flavors—red fruit enhanced by earthy, leathery undertones. Those secondary characteristics emphasized the rustic qualities in the dish.