Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hungarian Goulash & Spaetzle

Here's the perfect dish for a cold night and several subsequent cold days as tasty planned-overs. I use an 'authentic' (supposedly) version, rather than the Lutheran church cookbook version that has all kinds of crazy things in it, like macaroni and tomato sauce. In this version the only thickening comes from the potatoes as they break down from cooking. I make mine a touch spicy, since that's just how I roll, but that's probably not 'authentic'. The dish will be much yummier if you add some stew-bones or oxtail, so try not to omit those. I threw in some parsnips, which added a lot to the flavor.

2-3 oxtails or stew-bones
2 lbs cubed boneless chuck
2 Tbsp. lard, shortening, bacon drippings, or oil
2 large onions
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks (you can also sub-in parsnips, rutabagas, or turnips for some of the taters)
3 heaping Tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika (I sub-in 2 tsp. sharp paprika)
1 qt. water
S & P

In a large, heavy pot, brown the oxtail and beef in the fat. Get things really hot and don't do too much meat at a time, or it will start releasing its juices too soon. Set the meat aside and in the remaining fat, brown the onions over medium-low heat. Add the paprika and a few good grinds of pepper and stir. Add the meat back in and combine with the onion mixture, turn the heat down further, put the lid on, and allow the meant to stew in its own juices for one hour. Add the water and a tablespoon of salt and simmer, covered, one more hour. Add the potatoes and other root vegetables and boil gently until they are tender and the edges are starting to get indistinct. Add some more pepper, a ton more salt, and if it needs it, a dash of vinegar. If you think it's missing something, just add more salt and it will be fine (this is axiomatic for soup).

Serve with: Spaetzle!

Set a large pot of salted water a-boiling. You want it to be at a full, rolling boil. Also, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. This makes a lot, so unless I'm feeding a crowd I usually halve the recipe. In a bowl, combine:

2 c. flour
2 eggs
3/4 c. milk
pinch salt

Beat together with a fork (should be smooth and fairly runny) and let sit for a few minutes. Squish the batter through a ricer and into the boiling water in several batches. There are other ways to do this, depending on your equipment. e.g. You can also cut the batter into the pot in thin ribbons with a knife (look online for pictures). Boil for 1-2 minutes until the spaetzle rise to the top, and skim them off. Set them in a dish, tossing with the melted butter, and keep warm. Place some spaetzle in each serving dish and scoop goulash over them. Yummmm!

When your meal is finished you can go two routes: put the planned-overs directly into tupperware while still warm, because the goulash will be hard to scoop out when it's cold (the collagen and potato starch and all). Or you can leave it to cool in a big pot, then remove the orange fat from the top. This stuff is GREAT for frying potatoes in. Makes 'em crispy, red, and flavorful. I suppose you could do both, but are you really going to save the fat when you're nuking your lunch at work?

This recipe totally hit the spot for me, especially with the cool weather arriving. It's definitely worth the cooking time and the expense of the meat because it's so stick-to-your-ribs.

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