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Stewin’ in the Heat

July 20, 2011
Lecsó

It’s the middle of summer, and it’s hot, reducing our will to even move, least to say cook.  However, it’s also the prime season for most fruits and vegetables, and nothing compliments a summer dinner table better than fresh, locally grown produce.  This Hungarian stew, lecsó (“lecho”) is a summertime favorite in Hungary, featuring peppers and fresh tomatoes.

Ingredients

Ingredients

 

The ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. of bacon
  • About 2/3 of a rope of sausage or Polish kielbasa (about 10 oz)
  • 3-4 large bell peppers, or 5-6 medium wax peppers, or 10-15 mini sweet peppers
  • 6-10 medium Roma tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • Salt, black pepper, optionally paprika
First, cut the bacon into small pieces; the sausage to very thin rings; the onion to thin half-circular slices.
Cutting the bacon

Cut the bacon...

Cutting the sausage

... and the sausage...

Slicing the onions

... and the onions, too.

In a large pot or stock pot, start heating the bacon over medium to medium-high heat.  As the bacon starts to render and becomes transparent on the fatty parts, add the onions and salt the mixture.  The salt will help draw out the water from the onions, hence helps them soften and cook.
Onions and bacon in the pot

Mix in the onions as the bacon starts to render

Leave it to cook, stirring occasionally.  In the meantime, core the peppers and cut them to thin strips if you’re using bell peppers; thin rings, if using wax or mini peppers.  I do this just holding the pepper in one hand and paring knife in the other – however, this is only for experienced knife wielders!
Cutting the peppers in hand

Cutting the peppers in-hand

If you do it like this, be sure that the edge of the paring knife and the flat part of your thumb are at a right angle, and never make a pulling motion across the pepper – that’s how you cut yourself.  Just let the blade gently slide through the pepper until it stops against your thumb, applying little to no pressure at the very end.  If you’re not so confident with your knife skills, feel free to use a cutting board.  Here is a representative of the size of the pepper pieces, with my 1-1/2″ paring knife as a size comparison:
The right size for the pepper slices

The right size for the pepper slices - the knife blade is about an inch and a half

Don’t forget to stir the onions and bacon in the pot every now and then.  As the onions turn translucent, add the sliced sausage to the mix, and up the heat a little bit, to just under medium-high.  Spice it up with salt and black pepper – paprika is optional, I generally only add any if the tomatoes are not quite red enough.

Stir the sausage in now

That's when you stir in the sausage.

Leave it alone yet again, stirring whenever you have a mind to it; and in the meantime, cut the tomatoes into large-ish chunks.  You can do this in-hand, too, or the option of a cutting board still stands.  I personally like the irregularity of hand-cut chunks as well as I love having less dishes to do.  Your chunks should be about like this:

Cutting the tomatoes

Chunks of tomatoes

 

By the time you finish, your sausages should look something like this:

Ready for the peppers

Ready for the peppers

Yup, you just need to dump in all the peppers, stir them together well with the bacon-onion-sausage goodness and make sure it’s well covered in the fat and juices.  Cover the pot and turn the heat down to just below medium.  Leave the peppers to stew for at least 10-15 minutes, or until they soften up, stirring occasionally.  When the peppers lose their crunch, add the tomatoes as well and stir everything together, lifting the bottoms up to the top.  I like to use a wide wooden spatula for this – makes the turning a lot easier.  Cover it back up and let the whole pot stew for another 20 minutes or so, increasing the heat just a little bit to a little over medium and stirring it every now and again.  Taste it halfway through and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.  You know it’s ready when you can’t really identify tomato pieces anywhere and the whole house smells like a wonderful, summery concoction of peppers, tomatoes and smoked meats.

Lecso

Ready to serve!

It may appear a little too watery, but lecsó thickens as it stands.  You can also take off the cover for the last few minutes and boil some of the extra moisture out.

Serve it in a bowl, with a thick slice of sourdough bread on the side for dipping, and perhaps a spoonful of sour cream on the top or on the side – as well as an ice cold glass of your favorite lager to chase it down.  You can also serve it over rice for an even more filling dinner, or just to make the amount stretch a little further.  And if you have leftovers, just heat them in a skillet and add some eggs for a hearty breakfast scramble – or fill an omelet with it!

Lecsó

Lecsó

 

Enjoy your meal!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ancsa permalink
    October 14, 2011 01:41

    Hello from Hungary! I like your blog! Nice photos, delicious dishes. Keep it up!

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