A recipe that speaks tradition and is all about slow, low cooking and flavor. I love goulash, it reminds me of my heritage and brings back great memories. I know spring has started, however, we still experience a few chilly days in Chicago that justify cooking a cozy home cooked stew.
Cooking a goulash is a slow process, it takes time. However, once you start cooking and your house is filled with the intoxicating aroma of roasted onions, spices and pungent sweet paprika, you know instantly it was worth every minute.
Slow cooked food tastes better and goulash needs to be slow cooked to develop that awesome flavor. Goulash tastes even better after it’s reheated; never cook a goulash and serve it right away.Low and slow, cooked in stages and reheated after a day or two, that’s how you do it. Interesting fact, Goulash originated in Hungary as a simple kettle cooked shepherds food and originally was a soup with roasted meat and onions.
Today goulash, as the world knows it outside of Hungary, is actually a Viennese goulash. Viennese chefs adapted the Hungarian goulash soup recipe, brought in by the 39th Hungarian Infantry Regiment, and turned it into a thick sauce or as it’s known as a Viennese Saftgoulash.
It became such a success that Vienna goulash spread throughout the Austrian – Hungarian empire and beyond. It was a typical army food and transferring regiments spread the recipe along with them. One thing with Vienna Goulash, you will not find ingredients such as beans and carrots.
Accompanied by crusty bread and a cold beer, I promise, you will be serving a bowl of heaven.
You’re definitely going to want to make sure you have leftovers so you can eat this again for lunch or dinner the next day. I learned quickly to cook my stew in larger quantities. Investing 8 hours of slow cooking into a stew, I might as well cook some extra to reheat and enjoy it more than just once or twice.
This recipe and post is inspired by a recent dinner invitation from the Waldmeier’s.
Leo and his wife, Karen, are longtime friends. Karen prepared for us a great beef goulash with spätzle.
Chef Leo was the Chef at the Singapore Hilton before taking the position as executive chef of the Drake Hotel in Chicago. He retired a few years ago after 28 years at the prestigious Drake Hotel.
You know getting invited by Leo and Karen, it will be a wonderful evening with great food and great company. Chef Leo, a classical trained Swiss Chef, is one of the chefs I have always admired.
In Chef’ Leo’s words, a good consommé needs to stick to your lips; if it doesn’t stick, it’s not a good consommé. Something to be said about that statement.
Let’s get back to goulash, there are a ton of different types of goulash cooked all around the world with seasonings that vary from country to country. I prefer beef shank meat, if you can get this from your butcher, go for it. Otherwise, a good quality beef stew meat will work fine. Hungarians rule the world in regards to paprika and produce several different paprika powders all rated by the level of heat. For a good goulash, you need a good quality sweet medium heat paprika. FYI, the darker the paprika is in color, the spicier the paprika will be. I add bay leaf, a touch of smoked paprika, hot paprika, garlic, thyme and red chili flakes to my recipe.
Caraway seeds are essential for a great goulash. You want to crush them into smaller crumbs with a mortar and pestle. You don’t want to pulverize the caraway seeds. There are chefs out there that may not agree with adding garlic, thyme, etc. They believe a traditional goulash is only cooked with sweet paprika powder, marjoram, beer, vinegar and caraway seeds; that’s it. Cooked with anything else, it has nothing to do with original goulash. I used to cook a goulash with red wine. However, I agree, a good quality Pilsner style beer for the first braise is all you need.
Nothing is needed to thicken the goulash; the meat, onions and the paprika powder will do the job.
You will need a lot of onions and the onions should be diced, not minced. I realize the temptation is there to run the onions through a robot coupe, however, dicing the onions will make a difference.
So sharpen your knife and start dicing. Cooking the onions slowly until they turn translucent and begin to caramelize at the edges, creates a smoky sweetness that gives the goulash its round flavor.
Cooked slow and low for a total of about 8 hours, until the meat is spoon tender. The onions will melt in the sauce and along with the spices and paprika powder create an awesome stew.
Served with crusty bread and a cold beer you have a bowl of pure heaven.
Enjoy for dinner or as a quick lunch. Guten Appetit