Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Time To Dust Off The Slow Cooker: Hungarian Goulash

My lovely daughter and her boyfriend just got back from a trip to Hungary. When she asked me what I would like for her to bring back for me, being a big foodie, I of course said some Hungarian paprika. I know that I can buy it at my local supermarket, but there is just something about an overpriced souvenir that says love to me.

When I was a girl growing up in a little Texas town, my mom, who was a very good cook in her own right, would occasionally make her 1970's version of Hungarian goulash. Although she just called it "goulash" the insinuation of its Hungarian origin was always there and we loved it. I mean who wouldn't love a combination of beef, paprika, tomatoes and noodles with a swirl of sour cream on top?

So, when my daughter came over this weekend and presented me with a little decorative bag of fragrant red powder from Hungary, I knew goulash was the next blog post. Since my mom is no longer around to give me her recipe, I hit the web looking for the real deal recipe and I think I found a couple of recipes for inspiration. True to form, I felt I had put them together and tweak them just a bit, because that's how I roll.

Before I present the recipe to you, I have to say that I found the variety of recipes for goulash quite interesting. I was a bit surprised to learn that authentic Hungarian goulash is really more of a soup or stew than what my mom used to make. Her recipe would more than likely fall into the Czech version of goulash which is more like a casserole or entree than the Hungarian version.

I also thought it interesting that it is actually a peasant dish developed by Hungarian herdsman (gulyas), that they would cook outside over an open fire. It wasn't until the latter part of the 19th century that this dish gained popularity among Hungarian society prompted by rising national awareness around the country. Now it is easily the most recognized dish in Hungary.

There is also a Czech pork and sauerkraut version called segedinsky gulas which I plan to make for my daughter's sauerkraut loving boyfriend soon. I am a firm believer that if you are a sauerkraut lover, you must be rewarded for it. So stayed tuned for this dish coming later this fall, but for now with the first hint of cool weather, this will really hit the spot.

Hungarian Goulash

I couldn't think of a better dish for a Halloween gathering, tailgating, football Sundays, or for my friends in the UK, Bonfire Night. This aromatic dish is perfect for the slow cooker or those days when you just want something bubbling away on the stove.

2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 medium size yellow onions, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sweet or hot Hungarian paprika (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika (if you prefer you can omit this and use 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika instead)
1 pound beef, cut into 1" cubes (the cut you use is up to you, but the cheaper the cut, the longer you'll have to cook it)
1 - 3 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to your taste)
A good grinding of black pepper
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 cup chopped parsnip
1 cup chopped potato
1 cup chopped carrot
1 half of a green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 small handful celery leaves

Place oil in a medium to large size sauce pan that has been preheated over medium high heat.

When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and saute for one minute longer.

Add the beef and saute for approximately 5 minutes or until its color begins to brown. To this mixture add the paprika and stir it all very well to thoroughly coat the meat.

Add just enough water to this to cover the meat and onions. Add the bay leaf, salt, pepper and caraway seeds before bringing the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat is tender. At this point I transferred mine to my small slow cooker and set the temperature to high, but you can leave it in the sauce pan, covered and cook until desired tenderness is reached. My London broil cubes took a little over 2 hours to reach the very tender stage,

Once the meat is tender, add all the vegetables, the celery leaves and a little more water if needed. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer, replace the cover and cook until the vegetables are tender yet still firm. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Serve immediately with crusty bread and a little drizzle of sour cream if desired. Like most stews, goulash just gets better leftover and reheated for the next couple of days.

Serves 4

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