08 September 2012

Goulash at the Poison Kitchen Cafe

Legend has it that back in the Middle Ages, the cook lost his mind and murdered the whole priory with a poisoned vat of goulash, hence the cafe's ghoulish name and signature dish: goulash of course.

from Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Poison optional
I'd never eaten goulash before.  I thought I had.  My grandma, aka The World's Worst Chef, sorry Greema, but when the dog prefers dry kibble to your table scraps, well, there you go.  Anyways, Grandma liked to make what she called Goulash, it had lima beans, canned potatoes, ground beef, tomatoes and ketchup, all mixed up and served in bowls with little handles on the side. 

Naturally after this early introduction to 'goulash' I wasn't eager to recreate it.  But just for fun, I decided to look it up.

As it turns out, goulash, the real stuff, is very different.  It's also the national dish of Hungary and thankfully it does not contain lima beans or ketchup.  There are many variations and I suspect every Hungarian Grandma has her own time honored version.

I tried to find the most authentic and ended up combining several recipes I found online.

I hope you give goulash a try, it is very edible.

Gather the ingredients

Toast the Caraway Seeds
Set the browned meat aside for later

Cook the spices and onions into a sticky goulash-y mirepoix

Stew the goulash over a low heat
Hungarian Goulash

1 pound lean beef, cubed
1- 1/2 onion, chopped (use what you have on hand, I had a white and a yellow)
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp Caraway seeds, roasted over medium heat till fragrant (about two minutes) then ground till powdery
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 cups chicken stock (homemade is best, but canned will work too)
1 tbsp fresh thyme and 1 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves (confession, I forgot to add them!)  I'm sure they would have really added to the dish, but it was still super good without.)


1.  Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a dutch oven or large frying pan (one that has a tight fitting lid) over medium high heat.

2.  Sprinkle the meat cubes with salt, pepper and ground caraway.  Drop the meat into the pan and sear the cubes on all sides (ifyour pan isn't very wide, do this in steps, setting the finished meat aside when you are done).

3.  Remove meat from the pan and add onions.  Sweat the onions over medium high heat for five minutes.  Then add the garlic, stir constantly for one minute then add the paprika, bay leaf and tomato paste.  The mixture will turn dark and sticky fast, so keep an eye on it and after about two minutes add the chicken stock.  Stir stir stir and bring to a light boil.

4.  Add the meat back into the pot and bring the goulash back to a boil, then turn the heat down to a low simmer (that's between the 2 and 3 on my electric range), cover the pot and set a timer for one hour.

5.  When the hour is up, remove the lid, add the balsamic and allow the goulash to cook down a bit.  The juices will thicken and the meat will become fork tender.  I thought this would take just 15 or 20 minutes, but I guess the meat I bought was a bit tougher because this step took almost 45 minutes.

6.  Spoon the meat with sauce over noodles, rice or  Kale Mashed Potatoes aka Colcannon with a dollop of sour cream on top.  Mmmm, very tasty and the leftovers were even better.