Hungary: Pörkölt (Goulash)

I don't know about you, but when "food" and "hungary" come into my mind, I automatically think "goulash." Goulash seems to be synonymous with Hungary, and it's no surprise, given that it is one of the three National Dishes of Hungary.

I pulled this version of goulash from Chili & Vanilia's blog. They had a wonderful, detailed post about the different kinds of goulash. Pörkölt is a thick meat stew that can be made with all kinds of meat, and is considered the traditional Hungarian goulash. Gulyásleves is a goulash soup--the one that Americans typically think of when they think of goulash. It has more root vegetables, water, and always contains caraway seeds. Additionally, there's Paprikás (Chicken Paprikash) which has the same base as Pörkölt, but is thickened with flour and sour cream.

To make this more authentic, you can use lard or other animal fat in place of peanut or sunflower oil. I cannot bring myself to buy lard, so oil it is. I felt the end product was still awesome, so I don't think it's a big deal if you don't want to use lard. In the original post, there was also much debate about what you can put in this version of goulash: Caraway seeds, red wine, fresh tomato, smoked bacon, green peppers, etc. I opted for the first three, because I was worried about a lack of flavor, and I had both on hand. I was extremely pleased with the end result.

Pörkölt Goulash (from Chili & Vanilia)
-1 kg beef or pork stew meat, cubed (This is about 2.2 pounds. I used 1.8 pounds, which turned out fine. I also highly recommend "Country-Style Pork Ribs," the boneless kind. SO GOOD and very tender).
-3-4 big onions, finely chopped (I bought 3 big onions, but two ended up being about 5 cups chopped. So...I went with that. If you're adventurous, you could add another 2-3 cups with the other big onion, but I think 5 cups was plenty).
-4-5 tbsp peanut or sunflower oil (or lard)
-3-4 tbsp best quality Hungarian sweet paprika
-Salt (I used a generous 1/2 teaspoon...salt according to your tastes)
-Pepper (I used a generous 1/4 teaspoon...pepper according to your tastes)
-1 green pepper, sliced
-1 fresh tomato, sliced in half or quartered
-1/3-1/2 c. water (NOTE: I ended up adding a whole cup of water AND 1/6 cup red wine, because I really thought the sauce would burn. The first 1/3 cup got mixed in, but didn't look like it got at all watery, so I added in the wine and the second 1/3 cup. This would probably have been sufficient, but I'm paranoid, so added another 1/3 cup. I should've trusted the recipe, because after a 1/2 hour, the mixture was VERY saucy. I guess this was because the meat is uncooked and leaches a lot of moisture into the mix. Oh well. It was still good a little saucier than the recipe dictates--just not as authentic.)
-*Optional: 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
-*Optional: 1/6 cup red wine (I used merlot--the fruitiness added a nice dimension of flavor)
-Serve over egg noodles, boiled potatoes, or dumplings.

1. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the finely chopped onions (and caraway seeds, if you so choose) and cook until translucent.

2. Now comes an important secret step: Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the paprika. This is very important, because if you keep the heat on the pan, the paprika could burn from the sudden heat and get bitter.

3. Put it back, add beef/pork cubes and stir so that the spicy onion mix covers the meat evenly. Cover with about 100-150ml (1/3-1/2 cup) water (and wine, if you want) so that the liquid doesn’t completely cover the meat. Add the sliced green pepper, the whole tomato (which will be removed at the end), salt, and pepper. Simmer covered on very low heat for about 1-1,5 hours.

4. After 1 hour, check, add a litle more water if necessary, so the stew doesn’t burn. Depending on the thickness of the sauce, cook for 10-15 minutes uncovered so that all the liquid reduces and all what you get is a spicy, thick sauce which covers the meat. It tastes even better reheated.

-Serves 4
-Calories: Unknown

Verdict: This was so delicious. When I first tasted the sauce (before it boiled), I thought, "Ewwww, paprika water." And I did not have very high hopes. But something magical happens in the hour it simmers, and it becomes fabulous and complex. I would make this again and again.

Greg's Country Battle Royale: Hungary wins over Senegal.


Nino said...

I prefer "International Food Fight Club." :)

Lo said...

Goulash always seems like such a delicious thing -- well seasoned, tender chunks of meat that simply melt in your mouth... and that transformation from "paprika water" to a thing of such wonder is pretty amazing. Now, the thing I've always wanted to tackle (but haven't) is the spaetzle!!

Heather said...

Oh, I know! The reason I haven't tackled spaetzle is because I would need a "spaetzle press." And, you know, I just don't know that I would make enough spaetzle in my lifetime to necessitate buying an entire press.

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