Friday, February 01, 2008


Goulash! Goulash, goulash, goulash. Sure, the word might sound unappetizing, too close to “goo” or perhaps “ghoulish,” but the stuff itself is delicious, perhaps the perfect winter food. And I don’t even like beef that much, so this is truly a ringing endorsement.

Fellow beef-take-or-leavers: The pieces of meat are really tiny (that is, if you read the recipe correctly—I somehow misread it as “2-inch cubes” instead of “1/2-inch cubes” when I started cutting, then realized my error and had to go back and pare down the giant beef chunks after I’d browned them), and they cook for so long they get nice and tender. Everyone else: beefy goodness! Plus bacon, red peppers, and a rich, spiced, beautifully glossy reddish-brown broth. I was particularly fond of the flavor imparted by the caraway seeds. Oh, and let’s not forget that after talking your ear off about Spanish smoked paprika for the last month, I’m finally moving on to a new paprika—Hungarian sweet. It didn’t jump out and grab me the way the smoked stuff did, but it’s key to the warm flavor of this dish—and sure is more flavorful than ordinary red-powder-on-top-of-your-deviled eggs paprika.

The nitty-gritty: The recipe is from Gourmet, via The Smitten Kitchen. Some of the quantities are odd because I halved the recipe (it originally served 12). It was quite easy to make, especially since once you get everything mixed together, it just simmers for an hour while you talk on the phone or do yoga or watch TV. It’s sort of a soup, sort of a stew (depending on how much and what kind of liquid you add), and sort of a sauce you can ladle over egg noodles, as I did. (It turned out I had exactly 3 cups of frozen beef broth in my freezer, so I used all of that and didn’t add any water or beer, and I was very happy with the consistency…though beer might add a really nice flavor.) Served with a green salad, and with some homemade chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies for dessert, it was the perfect Sunday-night food: solid and comforting, but not heavy or decadent. Last week was cold and rainy, and this stuff braced my spirit and warmed my tummy.

3 slices bacon, diced
1½ pounds boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions (about ¾ pound), chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ tablespoons sweet paprika
¾ teaspoon caraway seeds
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2½ cups beef broth
½ cup to 2½ cups water or beer (use water to make a stew, beer to make a soup)
½ teaspoon salt
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine

1. In a large, heavy kettle, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring, until crisp. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.

2. In fat remaining in kettle, brown chuck in small batches over high heat, transferring the browned meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add oil. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until tender and golden. Stir in paprika, caraway seeds, and flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in vinegar and tomato paste and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, salt, bell peppers, bacon, and chuck and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 60 to 75 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve over egg noodles if desired.

Serves: 6
Time: 2 hours

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