Hungarian Goulash


If I had to prepare a meal for someone that represented me and my cooking style, I would probably make goulash. It might best represent my food ideas and cultural perspective, and how they change. This meal is a great example of whole foods and slow foods.

Hungarian Goulash was the first complete meal that I attempted on my own. Start to finish I cut meat off bones and made noodles. It took me forever and I loved every minute of it.

As a child, goulash was something that mom usually bought from the deli counter and I could never pronounce. I said goo-shla. Love it we did, but it really was Goo-shla. Cheap and mass produced, it was elbow macaroni, ground beef, cheese, and sauce. A casserole type dish.

 As an adult goulash is pronounced Goo-yash and is rooted in so much more than the local grocery counter in Lutz. I was inspired to learn how to prepare goulash after a summer in Eastern Europe. Tall Dark and Handsome was working on an archaeological excavation in Hungary and I flew to meet him and with backpacks on our shoulders we set off together from there. Eating and exploring, we visited every major church and museum every time we stopped. There was wonderful cheap beer, yummy pickles, Palatschinken, kraut, paprika ketchup, spatzle and goulash. Although goulash varies from region to region, it is generally a paprika soup or stew. There are bean and beef varieties, too, but I like to make pork.

 I take a day make this from start to finish. I find myself a large pork shoulder to break down myself. Around here, it is not too hard to find people who will chip in on a whole pig from the local farm. We buy a pig raised by the family and they butcher it into large or small cuts of meat.

If I buy a picnic shoulder from the local grocery store then I start by removing the skin [if on]. The skin can be scored and seasoned and turned into pork rinds! The shoulder bone can be roasted and used for stock. The meat, cube it up and reserve for a very large pot of goodness I like to call Goulash.

When we serve goulash, I like to make spatzle (like a noodle or dumpling) and a fresh loaf of bread.

This recipe is all approximations. I tweak as I go along and make this is varying quantities and styles. If I want rustic style then I chop everything large and square. For a more refined and smoother option use a small dice. Sometimes I slice the onions thinly and go for long stringers that attach to noodles or spatzle.

 Grocery list:

  •  • 1-2 lbs Bacon
  • • 2-3lbs Cubed pork roast
  • • Flour, enough to dredge pork
  •  • 3 Onions
  •  • 3 Red peppers
  • • 3 Carrots
  •  • Paprika, 1 cup or more
  •  • 3T Tomato paste
  • • 2T Caraway
  •  • 2T Cayenne
  •  • 2T Oregano
  •  • 2T Black Pepper
  • • 3 Bay Leaves
  • • 2-4c Stock
  •  • 1 bottle beer or equivalent red wine

 Get the biggest pot you have and warm over medium heat. Render the bacon in batches leaving the fat in the pan and reserving the bacon. Dredge pork chunks in flour that has been HEAVILY seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika. Working in batches, fry the pork chunks in the reserved bacon fat until they are golden brown. Add more oil as needed. Reserve the meat with the bacon.

 Add onions to pan cooking until shiny, and then add the carrots. Sauté until tender. Add paprika to the pan stirring to coat everything. Cook 1-2 minutes then add the remaining spices. Fry this sticky mess until you think it will burn then stir in the beer and tomato paste, stirring up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and let simmer for at least an hour before serving.

 I sometimes make this and then transfer to a warm crock pot to let simmer on low for hours.

To serve, ladle hearty portions over spatzle, noodles or potatoes. Stir in sour cream if desired and top with sour kraut.