Hungarian Goulash (Gulyás)
March 2, 2009 § 5 Comments
When I received the recent issue (#118) of Saveur last week, I quickly flipped through to find the article on the glazed Hawaiian-style baby back ribs (cover feature). But something stopped me before I could get there. It was the piece on Gulyás, also known as Hungarian Goulash. The Mister immediately came to mind since he loves these type of dishes. So I asked him if he’s ever had Goulash.
The Mister: Oh, I love Goulash! My uncle used to take me to this place where they had the best Hungarian Goulash! I would always order it and then have the cheesecake for dessert. You know my grandfather was Hungarian.
Me: He was? I thought he was German?
The Mister: He was, but he was also Hungarian!
Ah, so that makes The Mister German, Croatian, Polish, maybe some Italian, and now, Hungarian. And possibly some other Slavic heritage thrown in here and there!
So after reading the article, The Mister threw a challenge at me to make an authentic Goulash. Huh, I wasn’t even sure what authentic Goulash was before reading the article. I, apparently like so many mislead Americans, thought Goulash was just another style of beef stew. Even the mother-in-law was eager to hear about the results when she found out about the challenge.
As usual when trying a new recipe and not really sure how authentic Goulash should taste like, I followed the recipe exactly (you can find the recipe here). The recipe is pretty straightforward. The only thing I couldn’t find from the ingredients list was the Italian frying pepper. Not sure what Italian frying peppers were, I did a quick search and found that they are similar to Cubanelle (Anaheim) peppers. Now I was set.
Right off the bat, I had to adjust the heat on my old stove when cooking the onions. The recipe calls for cooking the onions, covered, on medium heat. The heat was too high and started to brown the onions too much, so I adjusted it down one notch.
I tasted the broth after adding the 5 cups of water. It seemed quite bland to me so I added a bit more salt and fresh ground pepper. I also thought it needed it to help flavor the beef while it cooked. After 40 minutes of simmering with the lid on, I added the potatoes. This is what it looked like at the 40 minute mark. There’s just a slight layer of oil on top but the broth was starting to get a brown coloring and the meat was starting to get tender. I tasted the broth again and I still felt it needed a bit more salt.
In looking at this, I can see why some people think Goulash is a tomato based soup. The Hungarian sweet paprika really does provide a wonderful rich color as the recipe states.
After another 25 minutes of simmering with the lid off and the potatoes were tender, I added the pepper and tomato. I tasted the broth and it was perfectly seasoned for me. I think that last salt add was just the touch it needed. Cooked it for the final 2 minutes and then plated it up with some fresh sourdough bread.
The Mister said it was awesome. Guess he really meant it because he didn’t say a single word while eating 2 bowls of the Goulash. The meat turned out really tender, the parsnip added a wonderful flavor (it might be my new favorite vegetable), and the depth of flavor from the soup was outstanding. Now I love Hungarian paprika but I never knew it could be so good as the primary seasoning.
This was the best beef soup I’ve ever had. And in all honesty, I wasn’t convinced in the beginning that I was really going to like it because I never really got into beef soup or stew (I know, Goulash isn’t stew). As a matter of fact, I had 2 bowls of it too.
So there you have it. A winner from Saveur and many thanks to Carolyn Bánfalvi for sharing her mother-in-law’s wonderful Gulyás recipe.