The Food Maven Diary
Entry: News and goulash
I promised you a Hungarian goulash recipe and it follows.
But I know that you also want to know what's happening. As you can see by my previous diary entry, I resigned from WOR last Tuesday, August 24. The phone hasn't stopped ringing since. I really wanted to do nothing for awhile – stare at the walls at least a few hours a day, maybe sleep late – but, as they say, when you're hot you're hot. Nothing may become of any of it, but it's nice for the moment to be wanted. (Did you see the piece in the New York Times today? Or the one in Newsday?)
There has also been an immensely gratifying outpouring of sentiment from my listeners and website readers. Thank you, all of you. I haven't been able to answer all the mail yet, but I hope to acknowledge everyone.
Also in Food Maven news: Sean Brady has resigned as my assistant. He gave me nearly a year's notice, so this was no surprise, or an impulsive decision like mine. It was just a coincidence that we changed our lives at the same moment. (If I went into therapy over this, I'd probably find out differently, but … .) Sean is in Florida, giving his parents a couple of months of "quality time," before he moves to Salerno. Yes, Italy. He is renting an apartment from a friend of ours. He'll master Italian. (He's already fluent in French.) He hopes he'll eventually be able to work, too. His picked Salerno because he has a support system there. It's the nearest city to my cooking school in Paestum, and where Cecilia's family lives. It also has a lively social life for those under 35. Also for those over, but that is a more private social world. So now I call Sean my "operative in Salerno," rather than my assistant.
Okay, here's the goulash recipe.
Serves 6 to 8
As I said on the radio, the first time I made this I couldn't find parsley root, or celery root (celeriac, also called celery knob), or a fresh "long green" or "Hungarian pepper." So, I left out the parsley root (which is not the same as the root on leaf parsley), used celery leaves instead of root, and added a few dashes of ground cayenne pepper at the end to season it. It was less nuanced than it could have been, but very delicious anyway. By the way, I learned on my trip to Budapest, that, at least nowadays, goulash is always soup, never stew. It's a big soup, though, filled with chunks of meat and potato in a rich broth, but a soup nevertheless, eaten with a spoon and often before a main course.
Note: The cut of meat is important: Beef shin (or shank) has a lot of connective tissue and gelatin that breaks down to make a very richly textured broth. You can make the dish with other stew meat, but the broth will not be as good. In my supermarket, beef shin comes in slices with the marrow bone in the center. (It is beef osso buco in essence.) I cut the meat off the bone and chunk it up myself. You can add the bones to the pot, too. They'll add even more texture to the broth, but I find that this enrichment makes the soup too heavy. The marrow is fabulous, if incredibly fattening. Poach marrow bones in water with a few drops of lemon juice and cook until the marrow "gells," then put them under the broiler with a crust of breadcrumbs seasoned with minced garlic and parsley.
1/4 cup light vegetable oil (in Hungary, it would be sunflower oil)
2 to 2½ cups (2 medium or 1 large) chopped onion
¼ cup sweet paprika
1 cup cubed (1/2-inch) celeriac or 1/3 cup dark celery leaves, chopped
2 to 2½ pounds boneless beef shin (shank), cut into 1- to 1½-inch cubes
10 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground caraway seed
1 large tomato, chopped (or 1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes)
½ "long green" or 1 small yellow "Hungarian pepper", chopped (or, in a pinch, a jalapeno pepper
1 sweet red pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup)
3 medium potatoes cut into ½-inch dice (about 3 cups)
In a minimum 5-quart, heavy pot, sauté the onion in the vegetable oil over medium heat until tender, about 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the paprika and ½ cup water. Stir well, return to medium-low heat, and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the meat, garlic, salt, pepper, and ground caraway seeds. Cook, still stirring constantly, until the meat tightens, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the celeriac or celery leaves, the tomato and peppers. Add enough water to come about halfway or so up the meat and stir again.
Simmer gently, partly covered, for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. If necessary, add water by the spoonful to keep the level the same. After an hour, add 2 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer. Add the carrot. Cook for 15 minutes.
Add the potatoes and cook 30 minutes longer, or until the meat and potatoes are fully tender. Taste and correct seasoning, adding more salt and black pepper if necessary. Add more water if a less rich broth is desired, in which case you will have add a little more salt.