If you’re like most people at the tail end of this frigid first week of January, you’re likely torn between wanting to “do good” for yourself by cooking healthy foods with your eye on the long-off prize of bathing suit season (no matter how improbable it seems as your fingertips numb after spending only half a block exposed) and wanting to “hibernate” with indulgent food that sticks to your ribs, promising to keep you warm and padded until spring comes, and sadly thereafter.
Fortunately, not every meal picks sides. And since I know you didn’t believe that we only ate a cucumber salad for dinner a few nights ago, it is clearly time to tell you about that evening’s other Austro-Hungarian dispatch: goulash.
Gooooouuuulash. I just sigh thinking about how delicious it was. Part stew, part soup, goulash a spicy beef dish originally from Hungary (gulyas were herdsmen, I have learned) but found throughout central and eastern Europe, notably those parts that once comprised Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s got onions, red peppers and a lot of sweet paprika. Yes, paprika. Alex thinks this dish was just an excuse to pick up my fourth bottle of paprika (already in residence: basic flavorless paprika, Spanish smoked, Spanish spicy and smoked) this time the sweet Hungarian variety. And he’s right: it was.
But once I tried it, I knew it was so much more–rich, mildly spicy, warm, filling. I think it’s exactly what we all need right now. Well, actually, I need to be back on the beach in Aruba, but since that’s obviously not in the cards today, I’ll settle for some of your goulash once it is ready. Can I come over?
One Year Ago: World Peace Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet, December 1994
Goulash can be made into either a soup or stew, and the latter can be spooned over egg noodles, potatoes or even gnocchi–how awesome does that sound? Also: This tastes so much better the next day, it is almost a shame to eat it the day you make it. Trust me.
Makes about 16 cups, serving 12
5 slices bacon, chopped
3 pounds boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons paprika (preferably Hungarian sweet*)
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup tomato paste
5 cups beef broth
1 to 5 cups water or beer (use the former to make a stew, the latter to make a soup)
1 teaspoon salt
2 red bell peppers, chopped fine
In an 8-quart heavy kettle cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp and transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. In fat remaining in kettle brown chuck in small batches over high heat, transferring it as browned with slotted spoon to bowl.
Reduce heat to moderate and add oil. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden. Stir in paprika, caraway seeds, and flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Whisk in vinegar and tomato paste and cook, whisking, 1 minute. (Mixture will be very thick.) Stir in broth, water, salt, bell peppers, bacon, and chuck and bring to a boil, stirring. Simmer soup, covered, stirring occasionally, 60 to 75 minutes.
Season soup with salt and pepper. Soup may be made 3 days ahead and cooled, uncovered, before chilling, covered. Reheat soup, thinning with water if desired.
* New Yorkers, we actually found this at Gristedes. Non-New Yorkers, Gristedes is a totally generic grocery store. Oddly, Whole Foods didn’t have it, but they could have been out. Looks like it is available on the Web as well.