Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Gulag? No, Wait... Gulash! That Was It...
Can you say, "on top of our game?"
Doesn't matter. I can.
Anyhoo, to cap off Soup Month we decided that we ought to bring out the ol' Austrian cookbook. An artifact once promised its own month of glory (see the triumph of laziness that was November), this slender tome has been in hiding for a good bit now. We'll see if we can't win back its favor. We never did write down the recipe for Apfel Streudel... it would be crazy not to stay in its good graces.
Some may argue that trying impress a cookbook is crazy enough.
Regardless, we're back in the last of Osterreich. Or at least in the land of the Austro-Hungarian Empire... gulash technically hails from Austria's paprika-rich neighbor. Same thing, right?
This guy knows.---------------------->
So gulash, or Ungarishces Saftgulasch, if we go by the proper title in our book, is essentially a fancy beef stew with a tomato-y, well-spiced base. Hungary, as I referenced before, is widely known for its high-grade paprika exports... always has been. Paprika, if you know a little bit about it, comes in both hot and sweet varieties. Our recipe today uses the sweet variety, though we're eager to experiment with its hotter counterpart in the future. Something we'll certainly be keeping in mind when we do, however, is an old Hungarian saying: "Good paprika burns twice." Confused? Wikipedia, in its infinite knowledge, explains. "Paprika contains strong spices; these may cause a burning sensation in the mucuous membranes of the anus." Eek. A rootin' tootin' good time for sure... O_o
As is the case with most of the Austrian recipes we plan to feature, I've made gulash once before in a group setting during my Austrian Cuisine course in Salzburg. I had some idea, therefore, what our end product ought to look like... but not a good one. I probably just chopped onions last time.
Oh well. It wouldn't be C.C. material if we knew what we were doing.
What You'll Need
1 oz. cookin' oil
5 oz. finely chopped onions
1 t. finely chopped garlic
3 T. sweet Hungarian paprika
2 lb. beef chuck, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
1/2 t. caraway seeds
1 1/2 pints chicken or beef stock or water (we used beef)
1.2 t. (or so) salt
To taste: freshly ground pepper
1 T. tomato paste
1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped (approx. 1 1/4 cups)
2 medium sized green peppers, with seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1/2 t. marjoram or oregano
Heat the oil in a 4-5 quart heavy saucepan* until a light haze forms over it, then reduce the heat to medium and add the onions. Cook them for 8 to 10 mnutes, or intil the onions are lightly colored. Add the beef cubes; fry until the meat turns light.
*We used an electric frying pan. Note that if you do this, you'll have to adjust the cooking times accordingly as the increased surface area with cause faster evaporation / heating
Add a T tomato paste and stir for about one minute. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the paprika until the onions are well coated (and it BEST be Hungarian or else).
Add stock or water and season with caraway seeds, salt, pepper, garlic, and marjoram. Bring the liquid to a boil and partially cover the pan. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the beef is almost tender.
Add the tomatoes and the peppers** to the stew. Partially cover again and cook over medium heat for 25-35 minutes, or until the beef is tender. Taste for seasoning.
**As is generally the case, we managed to mess something up here. We forgot to buy green peppers, using a red pepper and a can of diced tomatoes with chopped green peppers already included... Not a very professional shortcut and not one that I'd recommend, but I'm just tellin' it like it is. We're not pros. NEVER forget (the Alamo soup).
Serve the gulash with dumplings***, potatoes, or Spaetzle.
***We made dumplings, Austrian-style "knoedel", which we'll detail in the next post.
There you have it. Gulash at its finest. Don't worry if it doesn't look like much... its finest isn't saying much. Gulash is an ugly dish (like many we've shown recently), but an interesting one if nothing else. It's the spices that make a difference in this beefy stew, adding a little bit of "OIC whatchu did there!" to your dish.
Overall, we give this one a mediocre rating plus points for intercultural style. A pseudo-thumbs-up, if you will.
If you're HUNGARY for something different, give it a try.
Oh come on, did you really think I could avoid that lame joke throughout the whole post?? As good as I may be, I'm not THAT good.
Best of luck.