I got older this week. Hit a milestone, you could say. I'm now a full-fledged adult, not only can I vote, drink, and buy dirty magazines, I can now rent a car! That's right folks, I'm 25!
And oh man, did I celebrate. My amazing friends and family celebrated my birthday for two weeks. There was a dinner with my friends at one of my favorite restaurants, Pinocchio's Bar & Grill, dinner at my mom's house, and dinner at my dad's house.
For the big day, I had absolutely nothing planned. Literally, my plan was to do nothing. Around 9ish I dragged myself out of bed and promptly made a pot of coffee, transferred a pile of blankets and pillows from my bed to my couch, and snuggled in with a book to waste away in the sunlight streaming in from the window behind the couch. It was perfect. My amazing friend and (lucky me) roommate was able to spend the day with me, and in between naps she fixed breakfast and an amazing lunch. She makes a mean quesadilla! One was chicken with tomatoes, red peppers, and a ton of sharp cheddar cheese. The other was steak with mushrooms, onions, and again a ton of sharp cheddar cheese. They were slow cooked to perfection!
Around 4 o'clock, I finally peeled myself off the couch to frost about 1000 cookies I had made earlier in the week. Finally, I was ready to begin preparation of my birthday dinner. Everyone kind of scoffed when I said I wanted to cook my own birthday dinner. But I was excited, it was the perfect culmination of a stellar day. "What did you make?", you ask. Well, if the title didn't give it away, I made a goulash!
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had watched someone make a goulash before, but really wasn't paying attention. I also didn't want to look up a recipe. I know this seems a bit idealistic, but I figure those who make goulash as a staple probably learn their recipe from their parents, grandparents, or just trial and error. The best I ever has was in Prague, and it was amazing. Nothing like the one I ended up making, but definitely something to strive for!
Not wanting to look up a recipe, I started with Wikipedia. I figured this way I would know what comprises a goulash without actually seeing a recipe. Turns out, I was right!
Goulash is simply onions, meat, and a lot of paprika. That is it. According to my Internet resource, you can add all sorts of stuff to make regional varieties, but I wanted to start with the basics. So, here it is, my recipe for...
1 large yellow or white onion
1-2 cloves of garlic (I can't help myself, I love garlic)
1.5 lbs of beef
1-2 tablespoons of flour
Lots of paprika
I began by defrosting my beef. If this is your first time checking out my blog, I tend to freeze all of the meat I purchase so that I always have some on hand. See my recipe for Summer Meatloaf for tips on defrosting meat. Next I coated the beef with a light layer of flour to help seal in the juices and tossed it all into hot olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat to brown the meat on all sides. Remove the beef from the pan.
Use this same pan with the remaining fat and oil from the beef to sautee the roughly chopped onion over medium-low heat. Add a pinch of salt to help the onions begin to breakdown. When the onions begin to become translucent, add the minced garlic and sautee for another minute.
When there is a good bit of liquid in the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat. Add hot, smoked, or mild paprika (or a combination of all three) bit by bit. I would say I added about 6 tablespoons, although honestly, I was measuring it out in the palm of my hand. I would not add anymore than 1/2 cup of paprika. Stir the onion paprika mixture together until well blended, adding a bit more olive oil if needed. Return to medium-low heat and add the browned beef, mixing well. Cover and let the slow cooking begin, checking in on your goulash every so often and give it a stir so the bottom doesn't burn. Give it 2 hours if you can to allow for extra tender meat. That's it, that is all there is to it, trust me.
When you are thinking about a cut of beef for your goulash, or really any stew, you want to look for meat with a higher percentage of fat. Also, your meat does not need to be the most tender cut. The meat will become gradually more tender as it slow cooks.
Note that when you are browning meat, you are not cooking the meat. You are using a really hot pan to quickly cook the surface layers, while leaving the middle relatively uncooked.
I think in the future, I would either dice the beef smaller (I used 1 in. cubes) or after it had cooked for a while with the onions and such, I might try and shred it a bit in the pot.
I served mine with pasta, it was tasty.