"Hungary" for Goulash

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Lisa Parsley
Sunday, February 3, 2013

When I was a kid, I thought “Goulash” was a hot dish of elbow macaroni and ground beef mixed with canned tomato soup. If we were really feeling rebellious, or needed a vegetable, we would toss in some corn kernels or peas (which I remember methodically picking out.) Not exactly gourmet cuisine; but it was a fairly quick and cost effective way to feed a bunch of hungry kids.

As I got a bit more experienced in the kitchen, I found a recipe for goulash which turned everything I thought about the bland casserole on its head. Apologies to the People of Hungary. We have annihilated your national dish. Adding macaroni to goulash would be like taking America’s favorite apple pie and substituting it with mango. Just should not be done.

The key to goulash is paprika. You use A LOT of it in this recipe. (Yes, it does say one third of a cup.) I can’t think of another recipe that calls for more spice. Blending it in advance with the red peppers takes out the graininess that I often find in dishes containing paprika. If you want to follow the recipe below, I encourage you to treat yourself to a new jar/tin. Look for something bright red--paprika is not supposed to be rust colored.

One of the reasons I like this recipe is that you can skip the "browning of the beef" stage. In a traditional stew, I generally always flash cook the beef until it gets caramelized and brown before the liquid is added. This adds a lot of flavor to the dish. However, the downside is that you generally get your stovetop (and your eye glasses) splattered with grease which then takes an additional 10 minutes of cleaning. I think because this recipe has an intense peppery base to it, the pre-browning is not necessary. (I'm all about making things easier!)

I hope you enjoy this hearty and savory winter warmer-upper. Serve it with those two Wisconsin favorites—boiled russets and a good microbrew.

And hey, light a fire and stay in for the evening. It’s cold out there.

Did/does your family make “goulash”? Is yours of the macaroni variety or the traditional Hungarian? I’m curious as always.

Hungarian Beef Stew

Adapted lightly from Cook’s Illustrated (took out a couple of their fussy steps). I’m thinking it may also work in a slow cooker. If you try that, let me know how it works.

1 boneless beef chuck-eye roast (3-4 lbs) , trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch

1/3 cup sweet paprika

1 jar roasted red peppers, drained (about 1 cup)

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp white vinegar

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

4 large onions, diced small (about 6 cups)

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick rounds (about 2 cups)

1 large bay leaf

1 cup beef broth

1/4 cup sour cream

Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  1. Process paprika, roasted peppers, tomato paste, and vinegar in food processor until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.

  2. Combine oil, onions, and 1 teaspoon salt in large Dutch oven; cover and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften but have not yet begun to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Tip-I will often add a Tbsp or so of water, turn the heat to low, cover the pot and walk away for 20 minutes for the same result.)

  3. Stir in paprika mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions stick to bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add beef, carrots, broth and bay leaf; stir until beef is well coated. Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides of pot.

  4. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat is fork tender and surface of liquid is just below top of meat, 2 ˝ to 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Add water if it looks like it is drying out, but don't submerge the beef.

  5. Skim fat off surface and stir in the sour cream. Remove bay leaf, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve over noodles or boiled potatoes.

Last updated: 9:25 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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