In addition to claiming Julie Andrews as the 5th member of her family, my wife consumed a fair amount of goulash in her formative years. Early in our relationship my wife tried to serve me goulash about 2-3 times a month, but this didn't fly with me because as a I child I developed an aversion to this dish. Marriage - as you well know - is a challenging endeavor, when something as simple as pondering a dinner menu becomes complicated.
Despite my vocal protest and a turned up nose, my wife insisted on serving this comfort food from her childhood. After three years I embraced goulash. Now on the occasional autumn evening when falling temperatures hint at winter, I find myself craving a hearty, steaming bowl of goulash.
The middle America goulash my wife craves as comfort food consists of a mixture of ground beef, canned tomatoes, onions, macaroni, and a hodge-podge of spices. On our trip to Prague, we were able to sample the Eastern European version of goulash, which bore no resemblance to the American version. The Czech goulash we ate consisted of tender chunks of beef bathed in thick, rich paprika and onion broth. It should also be noted that Czech goulash was always served with a dense dumpling to sop up the piquant broth. Washed down with a liter of beer, this dish induces a food coma.
(In the above picture, I strain to loft my beer. Note: It's as big as my head, and I have a ginormous head. I've decided that Czechs eat hearty foods like goulash, so that I have the energy to lift their liters of beer. The average Czech consumes 156.9 liters of beer per year, which leads the world. The U.S. is ranked 13th, with the average American consuming 81.6 liters.)Once I returned home, I had to replicate this recipe. After reading several recipes, I settled on the following Wolfgang Puck recipe posted on the FoodTV website:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika (Use a good paprika; I really like Pride of Szego)
- 1 teaspoon spicy paprika (I didn't have any spicy paprika on hand the first few times I made it, so I just substituted sweet paprika)
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 1/2 pounds beef stew meat
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Even though this dish possesses a rich flavor, it's a simple dish to prepare. I was surprised that it didn't call for the beef to be browned. Also the goulash is great reheated. As with most stews and chili, the flavor intensifies with time.
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and sugar until caramelized
- Add the garlic and caraway seed. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the sweet and spicy paprika, marjoram, thyme, and bay leaf. Saute another minute, until fragrant.
- Add the tomato paste. Deglaze with the vinegar and the stock and add the pieces of beef shank, salt, and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until very tender, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
- Serve with dumplings***(See note below).