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   Goulash Or Goulish?
   By John Havel

  Goulash is a spicy dish, originally from Hungary, usually made of beef, onions, red peppers, and paprika powder. Its name comes from Hungarian gulyás, the word for a stockman or herdsman ("gulya" means a herd of animals, usually cows). It has traditionally been considered a simple home meal because it requires little attention after the initial preparation and because it uses more affordable cuts of meat. Today, however, it is also often served in restaurants.

  In the United States and Canada, various adaptations have made the dish more suitable for local preferences, with the result that American "goulash" often bears little or no resemblance to the Hungarian original. Hamburger frequently replaces stew beef in American goulashes, which reduces the cost as well as the cooking time. The meat and onions are then placed in the kettle, the other ingredients are added to them, and the dish might be ready to serve in as little time as 30 to 45 minutes. This form of the dish was made popular by its inclusion in cookbooks in the twentieth century.

  American goulash is commonly finished by the addition of noodles or pasta (elbow macaroni being particularly popular), which does not so much thicken the product as absorb the juice of the tomatoes. Depending on the amount of noodles or pasta used, American goulash may be a stew, a soup, or a casserole, rather than a true "goulash" such as one finds in Hungarian cuisine.

  Now that we know what goulash isn't, we can look for what makes an authentic recipe. Some say you should never use tomatoes - that the color and savor of goulash is derived from paprika, in generous amounts. However, like most classic dishes, there are different ideas as to what makes it "authentic". Just don't make it goulish.

Beef Goulash
   4 slices bacon, chopped
   3 pounds boneless beef shank, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
   Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
   3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
   2 tablespoons olive oil
   2 medium onions, chopped
   3 garlic cloves, minced
   2 roasted red bell peppers, peeled and sliced
   3 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
   2 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted and ground
   2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
   1 (15-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed
   6 cups low-sodium beef broth
   4 russet potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
   1/2 cup sour cream
   Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

  Place a large heavy pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Fry for about 5 minutes until crisp and remove to a paper towel and reserve. Add the beef to the hot bacon fat and brown it evenly on all sides, turning with tongs; season generously with salt and pepper. While the beef is searing, sprinkle the flour evenly in the pot and continue to stir to dissolve any clumps. Add a little oil if necessary to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

  Toss in the onions, garlic, roasted peppers, paprika, and caraway; cook and stir for 2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the vinegar, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, covered, stirring occasionally.

  Add the potatoes. Crumble the reserved bacon into the stew and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir the sour cream into the goulash just before serving. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

Music By John Havel


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