0421 400x600 The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in Southern CaliforniaYesterday morning I woke up smiling, looking forward to another day off work. I stretched, I yawned, and I enjoyed the slow-motion feel of my lazy morning. I decided to stay in bed for a while. A cup of coffee steamed on my nightstand. Husband brought it as soon as he heard me moving about. With the laptop resting on my knees, and fuzzy, striped socks hugging my feet, I was ready to welcome another glorious day to my life.

The Beasties stayed in bed late, awake, I am certain, but extremely silent, which was as good in my book as if they had been asleep. Breakfast turned into brunch with easy and quick puff pastry rolls filled with Nutella, barely giving the girls time to change out of their pajamas and brush the tangles out of their hair.

I planned on attacking my patio plants and getting them ready for spring. My mind was bursting with ideas of the new arrivals sitting pretty in clean, colorful pots. The neighbor several doors down had already accomplished the feat, and I felt like I was lagging behind. Not acceptable at all. But as the sun sank deeper and deeper behind the clouds, all my hopes for getting dirty evaporated. Or so I thought.

I had to abandon the patio project, but another one, much less enjoyable and much more tiresome popped up on the horizon. The first daily glimpse of the Beasties’ room sent me back to the kitchen to gather the cleaning supplies and my drill sergeant uniform, complete with the whistle and the whip. The ranks were unruly at best, and the exercise dragged on for hours. My girls take after the Husband and hoard every card, picture, painting, drawing, or scribble. They love to make cards, paint, draw, and scribble, and in a few weeks there are piles hiding every bare surface of the shelves, nightstands, desks, and even carpet. Interspersed with the papers were tiny Barbie shoes, plastic dishes, mini Beanie-Babies, barrettes, crayons, and various miniature objects I did not have the time to identify.

Armed with a garbage bag, I directed them to separate and sort the mess. I took a pile of very important paintings and drawings that needed to be saved for posterity, and took photos of them. The originals went into the garbage can. It took some time, but eventually carpet started to appear, liberated from debris. Satisfied with the progress, I left the room, promising to stop by every fifteen minutes to prod them forward (after all, rediscovering all those amazing trinkets and almost forgotten messages posed a serious threat to a timely and thorough cleaning).

By this time, the rain was coming down in sheets. I looked sadly at my forlorn plants, and bid them goodbye for another day at least. I turned toward the kitchen, trying to get an inspiration for a gloomy day dinner. I guessed (correctly) that Husband did not feel like mingling with the Sunday crowd at the supermarket (people in Southern California rush to the stores when it rains to stock up on food; and driving in the rain is an adventure). I rummaged through the freezer, but nothing made me jump up and say “Eureka!” The refrigerator, on the other hand, held a hidden treasure: about a pound of Mexican chorizo sausages.

I love comfort food, but it usually means planning ahead, starting the preparations around noon, simmering, stirring, and babysitting the pot on the stove for hours. I actually enjoy the process, but the day started pretty blue and warm, with not a cloud in sight, and my “think ahead” mood was turned off. No daubes, no tasty braised lamb shanks, no beef stews, no gulash, no piggy roasts. But there is a dish that comes about in thirty minutes, a low maintenance one, but as flavorful, as filling, and as satisfying as its much more time-consuming friends: Krompir Paprikaš (Potato Paprikash), which sounds much more appealing and romantic in Spanish, as Patatas a la Riojana.

Mother made this humble dish for us often in the winter time, using homemade smoked garlicky sausages that hung in our pantry, spreading their tantalizing smell for months. I remember vividly coming home after several hours of skiing, cheeks numb from the icy wind, knees wobbling, hair in disarray under the hat, fingers and toes barely moving, only to be greeted by the welcoming aroma of smoked sausages and fried onions that filled our small cabin.

My chorizo was not from Spain, but my paprika was. Mother used the Hungarian sweet paprika ubiquitous to Balkan cuisine, and the sausages gave off wonderfully smoked undertones to the dish. To emulate the rich, smoky flavor of her Krompir Paprikaš, I grabbed smoked paprika, Pimentón de la Vera, which they use in Spain to prepare Patatas a la Riojana.

In no time, the onions were sizzling in the pan. Once they yielded to the heat, I added garlic (this is the Spanish addition – Mother would never put garlic in her paprikash), and let them become soft and almost caramelized. I stirred in perfect, pink half-moons of chorizo, let it get warm and just a bit brown, and then mixed in cubed russet potatoes, a nice heap of smoked paprika, some salt and pepper. The stock went in, the heat went up, and the cover went onto the pan. I poured a glass of California cabernet, wishing that we had some Rioja on hand and blaming the rain for my reluctance to send Husband off on a journey to the World Market.

I put my fuzzy-socked feet up, grabbed my laptop, and rested the wine on the nightstand. The paprikash was softly simmering on the stove, the rain abating, the light disappearing, while the happy children voices rang from a distance. Comforting, indeed.

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  • 2 Tbsp  lard (or olive oil, if you are making Patatas a la Riojana)
  • 1 large onion, slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb Spanish chorizo, cut into chunks
  • 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 Tbsp (or more) smoked paprika
  • 1 scant tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • water or chicken stock (for the Spanish version a part of the liquid can be white wine)


Heat the lard or olive oil on medium heat in a heavy skillet or a stainless steel pot. Mix in the onions and garlic, and cook for 15 minutes, until almost caramelized and soft. Add the chorizo and stir for a couple of minutes. Stir in the potatoes, and cook for 1 minute. Add the paprika, salt, and pepper, stir to combine, and then pour the water to cover. Turn the heat to high until it boils, reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. It should look like a thick stew.

My friend Sue from New Zealand has a great blog Couscous and Consciousness (stop by, she has wonderful recipes and really pretty photos). She has started recently an event that she calls Make It…..with Mondays. Every Monday we make a dish that features that week’s chosen pantry ingredient. For this Monday we were given paprika, and I think that my Krompir Paprikaš, aka Patatas a la Riojana is going to be a perfect dish for this event.

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