Stewin’ in the Heat
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.
- 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
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.
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:
By the time you finish, your sausages should look something like this:
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.
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!
Enjoy your meal!