Chili Goulash

Posted on Jun 5 2015 - 11:19am by Megan


I keep a running list of chili ideas and usually look over it when I’m trying to decide what to make next. However, some ideas just hit me like a lightning bolt and I feel the need to run with them right away (of course after I fully recover from getting hit by lightning). That was this recipe.

I was killing time on the treadmill by watching Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals show on Hulu and he was making a quickie goulash. As he’s making it, I’m realizing that it’s a chili: meat and peppers slow cooked in a thickened broth (well, in this case it was only cooked for 10 minutes, BUT traditionally it’s a much slower process). So I started some researching ***thank heavens for smart phones and gym WiFi*** and started gathering information on what goulash really is.

As with most “traditional” recipes, there are die-hards insisting their way is correct and if you stray from their grandma’s ingredient list, you’ve bastardized the meal. And of course, everyone’s grandma has a different list of ingredients, so who’s really to say which is correct.  In one case, the recipe I read claimed the only thing that truly qualifies a dish as goulash is if you use the proper pot- “the magic is in the pot” they said.

There were a few staples in each recipe: beef, Hungarian paprika, and onion. Most also included garlic, bay, caraway and some mix of root vegetables and mild peppers. It seems like onion really is key and the more, the better. There is a seemingly overwhelming amount of it in this recipe, but it mellows nicely as it sautés in the lard and mimics the sweetness of the paprika as it slowly stews.

onions and paprika

I found this to be the most interesting dish that I’ve researched so far. Take, for example, the star ingredient: Hungarian paprika. Actually not a native of Hungary! Paprika is a spice made by grinding dried chilies which are native to the New World (hmmm, similar to what we’d use in chili). The chilies were introduced to the Old World via Spanish and Portuguese explorers. It can be sweet or spicy and surprisingly none of the recipes I researched specified which version to use. I thought about asking my neighbor John, but then he reminded me he was from Bucharest, NOT Budapest. So, feeling like a stupid American, I went to my local foreign market, grabbed this “exquisite 100% sweet delicacy” off the shelf, and hoped for the best:

hungarian paprika

There are a lot of great websites out there offering up instructions on how to make gulyas, or goulash, which was a soup/stew hybrid dish eaten by Hungarian cowboys (cowboy chow: another commonality with chili!). If you want to learn more about this I would recommend checking out these:

Aside from what goes into the pot (or “bogracs” if you’re using the traditional magic goulash-cooking vessel) there are also variations on how to serve this. With a pinched pasta/dumpling called nokedli, or a cucumber salad. Buttered noodles, macaroni, potatoes or even rice. Top with sour cream, stir sour cream into the dish, serve sour cream on the side, or NEVER involve sour cream. Include a side of crusty bread- or not.

I like sour cream so I put some on top. I like having a starch to soak up the gravy and I had some leftover bread in the fridge (given its “refrigeration required” gluten-free nature- I know better to refrigerate REAL bread- so stop yelling at me!). Use what sounds good and what you’ll enjoy eating. Don’t get too caught up in following tradition if you’re just in it for fun and tasty food. And never ask someone from Bucharest about the national dish of Hungary. Élvez!

The recipe:

Into a large pot over medium-high heat, add 2 T of bacon grease and 5 cups of diced white onions (yield from approximately 2 very large onions). Cook until the onions turn soft and translucent- about 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 2 T of Hungarian sweet paprika. Reduce the heat to medium, return the pot to the stove and add in 2 pounds of beef roast cut into 1 inch by 1 inch cubes, 2 T (about 3-4 cloves) of minced fresh garlic, 2 t of salt, ½ t black pepper, and 2 t of ground caraway. Stir to combine and cook until the meat starts to release its juices- about 10 minutes.

slicing the beef

Add in 3 bay leaves, 1 c of beef broth, 1 6oz can of tomato paste, 1 T of garlic powder, 1 cup of diced carrots (about 2 small carrots), and 2 cups of orange or red bell peppers (this was about 2 medium sized peppers). Stir until combined, reduce heat to low, and cover. Let this cook for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Then remove the lid, turn up the heat slightly (about a 1.5 or 2 on the stove dial) and let this cook for another 30 minutes in order to thicken the broth.

To serve, ladle into a bowl and top with sour cream. Accompany this with some fresh baked, hearty bread.

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