Pimenton is the spice that makes chorizo red, stews hearty, bravas sauce spicy, Galician octopus smoky and mojo picón sauce fiery. Pimentón, aka Spanish paprika, is as essential to Spanish cuisine as black pepper is to other cuisines.
But it wasn’t always that way…Spaniards have Christopher Columbus, a convent of monks and some funky Spanish soil to thank for the classic pop of red and punch of flavor that is now so ingrained in Spanish cuisine.
Capsicum annuum, the peppers used to make paprika, had been growing in Mexico and Peru for more than 2,000 years. But it wasn’t until Columbus returned from the Americas in 1493 that these now iconic peppers made it to Europe. Once they got there, they spread like wildfire. Traders brought the peppers from Spain into the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. Turkish immigrants then took them north through the Balkans and finally to Hungary, where paprika is synonymous with Hungarian cuisine.
Even while paprika was exploding across Europe, Spanish production barely ventured outside the confines of a single monastery in the southwestern Spanish province Extremadura. Half a millennium later, the same order of monks is still making some of the most coveted pimentón in all of Spain. From the type of peppers to the smoking and milling methods, the recipe for making Spanish pimentón has been guarded for hundreds of years.
The county of La Vera is where the Jeronimos monks first created the characteristic technique for making Spanish paprika, a technique still used to this day. After harvesting, the peppers are slowly smoked in a specially designed wood and brick smokehouse for up-to 15 days. A small oak wood fire constantly simmers below the floorboards, gently drying the peppers and giving them their unmistakable smoky flavor. This dish showcases that signature flavor.
Chuletas de Cerdo a la Madrilena (Broiled Pork Chops with Paprika)
- Small bowl
- Broiler pan
- Salt and pepper
- 4 large Loin pork chops, 1-inch thick
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp Parsley, minced
- 3 tbsp Onion, minced
- 2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika. (Sub: Sweet paprika)
- 3 tbsp Olive oil
- Salt and pepper the chops. Mix garlic, parsley, onion, paprika, and olive oil in a small bowl.
- Heat broiler and arrange chops on a greased broiler pan. Spread half garlic mixture on top of chops. Place pan 4-5 inches from the heat source and cook for 5 minutes. Turn chops over, spread remaining garlic mixture on top, and broil for 5 more minutes. Serve with any collected juices, mashed potatoes, and maybe a salad with a vinaigrette dressing.