Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stew For Ghouls

Halloween at my house has become a tradition for my family since my sister and I had kids.  So everyone comes over, there's lots of pictures, crying, laughing and just overall chaos and then the kids go trick or treating.  It also happens to be my birthday, but for some reason I always find myself cooking for a mass of people.  Nonetheless, for someone who loves food as much as I do, I couldn't imagine doing anything better for my birthday than cooking.  That doesn't mean however that at the end of the night I don't plop down on the couch, and think to myself, "why in the hell did I sign up for this?"  So for this Halloween I wanted to take it easy and cook something that could just sit on the stove and be ignored until people were ready to eat, and the first thing that came to mind was Goulash (the name is fitting isn't it).  Now if you haven't heard of Goulash here's my interpretation of what it is.........stew, with paprika.  Now around the world various cultures have their own versions of stew, and Goulash is the Hungarian version.  My research on Goulash recipes and what is authentic turned up the usual conclusion, as with all recipes iconic to any culture, Goulash is very different between regions and between each and every household in Hungary, but the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that the following ingredients had to be included: beef, tomatoes of some variety, caraway seeds, onions, carrots, and most important, paprika.  On the topic of paprika, it was stressed that the ONLY paprika considered acceptable for Goulash was Hungarian paprika (appropriate given the origin), and since I was honestly too tired of reading about Goulash and the differences between the varying types of paprika, I went with the experts and made certain that I only used the Hungarian variety in this dish.  One of the main dilemmas when looking at various recipes of Goulash is whether to include pasta, or dumplings, or neither, or maybe some potato, and on, and on, and on.................I think I am officially half comatose now.......I hate starch. 
Finally I had reached my breaking point, and just had to say "screw it" and build my own interpretation of this dish.  So I gathered all my ingredients and like a witch over her cauldron I concocted my Goulash potion.   Also, it would not be Halloween if there wasn't blood spilt, so let's say I "sacrificed" a chunk of the end of my left thumb for my potion.....and proceeded for fifteen minutes to try to locate this chunk in my pile of chopped sun dried tomatoes (I know....gross, but it is Halloween damn it!).  Luckily I found it, and started all over with a new pile of sun dried tomatoes, and a heavily bandaged thumb which kinda looked like a miniature version of the over sized bat I used in softball when I was a kid.  So in the end, the dinner was WAY more work (and blood) than I intended, but it was delicious and even though this Goulash is probably a weird, screwed up version of its true self I thought that it was fitting since, well, Halloween is just for that.......a chance for all of us to transform into a weird, screwed up version of our former selves.

2 1/2lbs stew meat
2 strips of bacon minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions diced
4 parsnips diced
3 carrots diced
4 medium red potatoes
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
6 oz tomato paste
5 sun dried tomatoes packed in oil diced
3 cups beef broth
4 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley chopped
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon pepper

In a small skillet, roast the caraway seeds over medium heat just until they are aromatic, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove the seeds from the heat and grind them in a spice grinder (I have a retired coffee grinder that I have converted into a spice grinder). 
If you don't have a spice grinder just buy ground caraway and roast the ground spice in the skillet instead.  Set the ground caraway aside and preheat a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the minced bacon to the dutch oven and cook until crispy and until the fat is rendered, about 8 minutes.  While the bacon is cooking sprinkle the meat with half of the salt and half the pepper (you can add more......I know that I do, but I am a little of a salt freak) and about 2 teaspoons of the ground caraway seed.  Once the bacon is crispy remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside.  To the bacon fat add the meat in three additions, browning all pieces on all sides before adding the next batch. 
Between each batch set aside the browned meat.  Add the additional olive oil if needed to help with the browning of the meat.  You want to get a lot of caramelizing on the meat, it really flavors the sauce, so please......please don't crowd the meat!  Once all the meat is browned add the salt and the brown sugar.  Lower the heat to medium and allow the onions to cook fully and to caramelize, about 10 minutes.  You'll notice that when you first add the onions they will do a nice job deglazing the pan, this is a very, very good thing! 
Once the onion is caramelized add the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire and scrape up all those yummy bits.  Add the sun dried tomatoes, all the paprika except for the last two teaspoons, the rest of the caraway, one tablespoon of the fresh rosemary and thyme.  Cook for about 2 minutes, but not too long, you don't want to overcook the paprika, it will taste bitter.  Add the tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes, then add the broth, water, all the veggies, reserved bacon and reserved beef.  Bring the stew to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat is fork tender, about an hour and a half. 
Once the meat is tender add the remaining paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper, and remaining fresh herbs.

 Cook an additional 10 minutes.  Serve the goulash with a dollop of sour cream (this is traditional) and with whatever yummy bread you prefer.

No comments:

Post a Comment