Hungarian goulash (gulyás in Hungarian) is the pride and joy of the Magyar, the Hungarian people, who rightfully proclaim this dish to be of world-class quality and savor.
Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew, it’s somewhere in between. Though in Hungary it’s considered to be a soup rather than a stew, so look for it among “Soups” on restaurant menus.
If cooked in the proper way, goulash has a nice and evenly thick consistency, very similar to a sauce.
While most people erroneously assume it is colored Crimson by tomato sauce, it is in fact tomato sauce and paprika, the glorious spice of Hungary that really stains it this brilliant red. In the U.S. you can buy great imported paprika from Hungary here.
Also, the key flavors are provided by fresh marjoram and A LOT of onions that are cooked into the sauce to provide sweetness and the true liquid essence of goulash.
I also prefer my goulash with small egg noodles called csipetke. The name comes from pinching small, fingernail-sized bits out of the dough (csipet = pinch) before adding them to the boiling soup. You can omit these if you prefer.
Potato also plays a key role in this recipe – Hungarians insist it must be made from a unique native variety that grows only in native Hungarian soil.
Perhaps – but my version is as authentic as it gets outside of Hungary. I shared it with a chef at Gundel (the finest traditional restaurant in Hungary) after a fabulous meal there.
He literally broke out in tears of joy that a non-Hungarian “understood” how to make it properly.
I think nothing else needs to be said. 😉
Battle on – The Generalissimo
3 ½ pounds meat from the shin of beef (preferred) or chuck or other stew beef, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch cubes
4 pounds (yes – 4 POUNDS) of onions, peeled and sliced very thin
½ cup corn oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaping tablespoon caraway seed
3 Tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 ½ – 3 ½ teaspoons hot Hungarian paprika (depending on how spicy you like it – I go for 3 ½)
2 banana peppers, chopped and seeded (these are also called “Hungarian wax” use the sweet blunt ones or the pointed piquant ones, as you wish)
2 heaping tablespoons fresh marjoram (or 1 heaping tablespoon dried marjoram, if fresh is unavailable)
1 heaping teaspoon fresh marjoram (if available, otherwise omit)
4 medium new potatoes (preferably the Hungarian Rózsaburgonya,
or “pink potato”) — peeled and cut into 1-inch square cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry red wine (JH preference – the fantastic Hungarian red wine called “Egri Bull’s Blood”, of course!)
1 cup of fresh, homemade tomato sauce
½ cup beef stock – preferably homemade, or use top-quality low-salt store brand
1 ½ tablespoons unbleached white flour
Juice of ½ lemon
A bunch of celery leaves, tied in a bundle with string
1 Bay Leaf
Garnish: homemade pasta bits (made from 1 egg and ⅔ cup flour) and finely chopped green onions
In a Dutch oven (preferably cast iron), heat the oil over medium-low heat on top of the stove. Saute the onions, stirring often, until they are soft and translucent. Add half of the sweet paprika and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scorching.
Add in the crushed garlic, caraway and dried marjoram (or the fresh, if using) and cook 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Add the meat and potatoes and cook 5 minutes more, again stirring constantly.
Sprinkle the flour over this mixture and mix it in thoroughly. Cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring all the while to make sure nothing sticks or burns.
Add the remaining paprikas, hungarian peppers, wine, stock, tomato sauce, salt, black pepper, the bundle of celery leaves, bay leaf and all but the 1 teaspoon of fresh marjoram (if using). Stir everything together, cover tightly and simmer on the lowest possible temperature for 1 hour.
After one hour, add the lemon juice and check to be sure there is sufficient liquid in the pot. Stir thoroughly when you add the lemon juice – note that the majority of the liquid comes from the cooked down onions, so it should not be very liquid. If the sauce does seem too thick, add another ¼ cup of wine or stock. Cook for one hour more, periodically checking to make sure the consistenecy of the sauce is correct, adding more wine or stock – only as needed. Stir to prevent scorching.
In the meantime, prepare the pasta by kneading the flour into the beaten egg. This is especially easy in a food processor. The dough will be stiff. Cover with plastic and let rest for at least an hour. Knead again briefly, then roll into a pencil shape and cut into pea-size pieces. Sprinkle with a little flour to keep from sticking.
When 10 minutes away from serving, bring the soup to a boil. Add the pasta pieces and the remaining heaping teaspoon of fresh marjoram (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE DRIED, just omit if you don’t have any), reduce heat, cover partially, and leave alone for about 10 minutes or so. Mix carefully. Remove celery bundle and bay leaf. Then ladle into bowls and top with finely chopped green onions.
Serve with good chewy bread and butter, plus glasses of the incomparable Bull’s Blood wine!