EARTHBOUND HUNGARIAN GOULASH
The Earthbound Cook
by Myra Goodman
My mother is Hungarian, and she grew up with goulash made with beef and potatoes. There are many versions of this stew, as different families made it with different ingredients. Some recipes insist on bell peppers, and those can certainly be added if you like. Goulash, like all stews, gets even better a day or two after it's made as its flavors meld together and intensify. It's especially good served over hot egg noodles.
Serves 4 to 6
• 8 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 pounds boneless beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
• 4 cups diced yellow onions (1/4-inch dice)
• 1/2 cup chopped garlic
• 2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
• 2 tablespoons dried oregano
• 2 tablespoons dried thyme
• 1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup tomato sauce
• 4 to 5 cups cold water
• 3 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 6½ cups)
1. Heat 2½ tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of the meat and cook, stirring frequently, until browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the meat and any pan juices to a bowl, and set aside. Repeat with another 2½ tablespoons oil and the remaining beef, and set aside.
2. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic, sweet paprika, oregano, thyme, hot paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft, 5 to 8 minutes.
3. Add the beef, with any accumulated juices, and the tomato sauce to the pot and raise the heat to medium-high. Add enough cold water to cover the meat, cover the pot, and bring the mixture to the start of a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook until the beef is tender, about 1¼ hours.
4. Add the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt to the pot. There should be enough sauce to almost cover the potatoes; add 1/2 cup more water if needed. Cover the pot and simmer the stew until the potatoes are just tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook or the potatoes will fall apart.
5. Season the goulash with salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot. (The goulash can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days.)
Choosing Stew Meat
When it comes to making stew, tough is good. Instead of wasting money on expensive cuts of meat, choose cuts that come from the parts of an animal that get the most exercise, like the shoulder and legs. These cuts are more flavorful and contain a lot of collagen, which when simmered in liquid imparts a luscious texture to foods. The key to tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat in my Hungarian Goulash is slow, moist cooking, so that the connective tissues have time to soften.