Give me sauteed onions and tomatoes and I will be happy. There are lots one can do with this basic sauce – add it to fried fish with eggs or simply add more eggs to the mixture and it will be a great breakfast either with rice and sausage or simply a filling for a sandwich.
So it is no surprise when I saw this recipe for Hungarian lesco from Sunday’s WSJ that I would try it. Molly Stevens, the WSJ journalist, wrote that this pepper stew is Hungary’s answer to salsa and this seemingly versatile mixture can be added to anything – fish, pork, poultry.
Our neighbor has given us so much grape tomatoes lately that we can’t keep up eating them. The other day I stewed them over fried fish, a week before that we added it to a Filipino sour-soup of pork (sinigang).
It so happened we have all the other ingredients for braised chicken, even the Hungarian pepper which is required. I should remind myself to plant them next year because they are easy to grow and gives you plenty of peppers.
If you don’t subscribe to WSJ, here’s the basic recipe:
One 2-ounce piece of smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1/2 cup) (we used 4 bacon strips)
1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil, or as needed
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
Kosher salt to taste
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 pound Hungarian wax peppers, scored, halved, seeded and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 cup chopped tomatoes (about 8 ounces) fresh or canned
1. In a large lidded saucepan over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring regularly until fat is mostly rendered. (Don’t let the bacon get crisp or too brown.) Add oil to the pan so you have about 2 tbsps. fat in total.
2. Decrease the heat to medium low. Add paprika, onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring until onion softens about 8 minutes. Add peppers and remaining salt to pot and saute, stirring to combine. Cover pan and decrease heat to very low. Stir every few minutes for the first 10 minutes, making sure stew is gently simmering.
3. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until peppers are soft and tender, about 45 minutes more. The stew should be thick; if it seems soupy, remove lid, increase heat to medium and simmer uncovered, stirring regularly for another 10 mins. to evaporate some of the excess liquid. (We used grape tomatoes which is very juicy so I let it simmer for a while.) Serve hot or warm.
Note: The WSJ writer wrote one can substitute any other thin-skinned peppers to the Hungarian wax pepper but stay away from green and red sweet peppers as they are thick-skinned.
Actually after long simmering, the peppers have mixed with the sauce so well that the only trace of its presence is the mild smoky flavor and a little heat.
Chicken Thighs Braised in Lesco
Trim 8 bone-in chicken thighs and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large, deep skillet or shallow braising pan over medium-high heat and add enough vegetable oil to lightly coat the bottom. When the oil shimmers, lay in the chicken thighs skin-side down and cook, flipping once to brown both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Do this in two batches if necessary so as to not crowd the pan. Set aside and pour off all but a thin film of fat.
Add 2 cups lesco (1 recipe’s worth) to the pan and cook over medium heat until just simmering. Return chicken to pan, skin-side up, cover reduce heat to low and braise gently, checking after 5 minutes to make sure the lesco isn’t bubbling too vigorously. If it is lower the heat. After 15 minutes spoon some lesco over chicken thighs and continue cooking until chicken is tender throughout, about 3 minutes.
Serve with boiled potatoes, or if you are a rice-eating person like me, hot steamed rice.
Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe. I copied it almost word-for-word but once you’ve read the instructions you will find it is very simple to make.
Next time I will try simmering pork belly in lecso.