Cooking with Lady Smokey: Smoked Paprika Obsession

Dolan Geiman, Señor, original collage with handmade reclaimed metal frame

I’ve had a little bit of a smoked paprika obsession for awhile now. I’ve been using it so frequently I thought it might be a good theme for a blog post. Smoked paprika is often used in Spanish cooking, which is why we originally started using it. We like to have paella parties. Back in his days working in wine in Seattle, Grant learned to make paella from an old Spanish chef. Very quickly, I began to share his enthusiasm for this quintessential Spanish dish. Although there are many chefs who have come up with recipes for Paella for One such as this one (also a good vegetarian option), most people who first learn to cook paella invest in a paella pan. Although they come in many different sizes, a typical one feeds several so cooking for a bunch of friends is our preferred method. We’ve cooked for eight…

For twenty on the grill in this awesome made in Tennessee Lodge cast iron pan I got for Grant on his birthday…

And most recently, we cooked for forty in a pan that could have probably fed up to seventy-five which our friend Rhonda invested in for her beautiful party space, Front Street Terrace, down in beautiful Normandy, Tennessee.

Grant never uses any recipe and says he just goes by “feel” when making his paella and he has done it so many times now I’m pretty sure he could do it in his sleep. His is in the style of a Valencian paella. I wrote about it a little over here, when I first started my blog. But I did recently search and there are many recipes out there.

Another favorite Spanish recipe we love, especially in the summer when you can use it on top of grilled vegetables or meat, is Romesco Sauce. One of our very best buddies, Bray, has made this for years and always brings it to parties. We love it.

 Romesco Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Whole Raw Almonds, blanched to remove skins and then toasted
  • 1 slice Whole Grain Artisan Bread, torn into pieces
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • ½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • ½ tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 large Roasted Red Pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • ½ tsp coarse Sea Salt, or to taste
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Finely grind almonds, bread, garlic, red pepper flakes, and paprika in a food processor. Add grilled peppers, vinegar, and salt, then purée, adding oil in a slow stream.

We found the sauce to be so versatile- delicious as a dipping sauce but also fun on sandwiches, mixed with  pasta, as a bruschetta topping, and as a side dish on top of grilled potato rounds! YUM!

I’d just like to say that smoked paprika seems to pair pretty well with southern summer veggies, too. I recently made a stir-fry of fresh okra, corn, peppers, and onions and seasoned it with a little smoked paprika. Fabulous!

Served here with Roasted Tomato Grits

A favorite recipe of ours to make for a before dinner snack is homemade mixed nuts. The rosemary and the smoked paprika go so well together.

Spiced Mixed Nuts

  • 2 ¼ cups Mixed Unsalted Nuts and/or Seeds (Almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, and pumpkin seeds are my favorites for this but you can really do any combination, depending on what you have.)
  • 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped Fresh Rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Toss the nuts together in a bowl and then spread out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients and then thoroughly toss the toasted nuts with the spiced butter to coat. (You can also do it the lazy way and just saute them gently in a big iron skillet and then add drizzle butter over and sprinkle spices.) Serve hot or let cool and then store in a glass jar.

So, I never measure very well when I am cooking. The last time I made these nuts, I made up the spices for those nuts in a little bowl and ended up having some spices left over. I tried using that to season some skillet roasted chicken which turned out pretty tasty. I served it with some collards and roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

Then later in the week, I found some locally farmed catfish fillets and decided to cook those up with some smoked paprika which we loved! Here’s how I did it. It was so simple.

Smoked Paprika Catfish

  • ½ cup Fine Cornmeal
  • ½ cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 Catfish Fillets
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • Dash (or two) of Tabasco
  • Grape Seed Oil

In a medium sized bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, and spices together. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk and the hot sauce together. Soak the catfish in the buttermilk mixture. Heat iron skillet on medium heat. Add grapeseed oil (I only use a couple tablespoons.) Remove each fillet from the buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture. Place in the oil and cook 5-10 minutes on each side or until golden brown and done on the inside.

Sadly, I haven’t been out to see as much live music lately. The upside of this, though, is I have been playing way more music at home and finally making some time to catch up on new releases I had not yet heard. This weekend, I have really enjoyed listening more to Ashley Monroe’s new album, Like A Rose. Ashley is one of the three talented women in the group, The Pistol Annies. Turns out, all these women stand equally (if not better) on their own as they do as a trio. Born in Knoxville, Monroe has been living in Nashville since she was a teen. Like A Rose is actually Monroe’s second album and it is already getting much critical acclaim. My current favorite song, “You Ain’t Dolly (And You Ain’t Porter),” along with the song, “Weed Instead of Roses,” really show her sense of humor which is refreshing in the sea of mind-numbing worthless song lyrics present in many of the younger country songs of today.

I’ll close with the video for the title track.

She has some of my favorite Nashville musicians backing her on her live shows so definitely go see Ashley Monroe if she happens to come through your town.