Chef Tell It Like It Is Talks Hungarian Goulash


Goulash is called gulyas in Hungary. It is actually a soup. A couple pieces of meat and noodles are served in a bowl of un-thickened sauce (soup). In my family, as in most restaurants, it is a hearty main dish.

This is an authentic Hungarian recipe that my maternal grandmother made for me and my family. It is the recipe of her mother, Lotte Rosenthal, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1879. Six kinder and two decades later, along came Stella, my Grandma. Grandma cooked for me, taught me to play piano, babysat me, and handed down some recipes, like this Hungarian goulash.

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2 pounds of chuck or any stew beef in 1 inch cubes with all visible fat removed
2 cups chicken or beef stock
All-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, or pure but not extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cups of a good, drinkable
red wine
Noodles or potatoes
Red cabbage or pickled beets

Dredge the beef cubes in flour seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika. Lightly toss. Work in batches, so the meat doesn’t get pasty. Shake excess flour off meat.

Smell the oil. It should have no scent (unless it’s a fruity oil). If it smells, throw it out and buy new oil. In a large, deep skillet, pour enough oil to generously coat the pan (we are browning, not deep frying). Lotte used chicken fat and passed on at 93 years old, never hospitalized. Cook over medium heat. Oil needs to be just hot enough to sizzle. Don’t burn anything, but heat enough so the beef doesn’t soak up oil.

Carefully place cubes in pan, and do not overcrowd (pro tip: use tongs). Brown the meat on all sides. Remove to baking dish. Add remaining cubes. If needed, adjust temperature or add oil. You may need to pour out fat and add fresh oil.

Once meat is browned and removed, lower the heat and add the garlic and yellow onion. Saute lightly. Sprinkle some paprika and salt to your taste and blood pressure’s tolerance.

Chef Gary now puts his personal spin into this classic dish: deglazing. Remove the pan from the heat and add the wine. Never cook with cooking wine! I will address this in a future column. Return to the stove top on high heat. If a gas stove, work on medium high.

Bring wine to a boil. With a wooden or silicon spatula, scrape off bits at the bottom of the pan. When wine reduces by half, lower the heat and add stock. If you have chicken broth left from the Sept. 27 column, you can use that. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, return beef cubes to pan. Cover and simmer 40-50 minutes.

This would traditionally be served over broad noodles. If you’re a politically correct feminist, you can use wide noodles. Boiled potatoes are an excellent substitution. Cook noodles until al dente (Al dente was the first Hungarian-Italian to do stand-up comedy in the Catskills).

Serve noodles with a few cubes of beef and sauce. The sauce should be slightly thickened from the flour used in dredging. We dredge to keep the beef from sticking, aid in browning, and protect from burning. The thickened sauce is a bonus from the dredging process.

To further accompany this delicacy, I add my standby: greenwood red cabbage or pickled beets.

Essen, even fressen, and enjoy my modernized classic. Thank you Lotte and Stella. Your recipes will remain with me, along with your love.

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