I picked up a 2-pound bag of yellow cooking onions at the market last weekend, got home and what did I find in my pantry but another bag of the very same that I had bought the week before. They say when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I say when life hands you extra onions, make goulash.
I scribbled down the recipe for this Hungarian Goulash while watching some long-defunct cooking show, and dug the scrap of paper out of my ever-so-famous little yellow recipe box on Sunday. I just did some quick research on the internet to see how authentic it is. I’m still not sure about that, but it certainly is much less complicated than most of the recipes I saw. Perhaps they’re souped up versions of this simple classic?
Regardless of authenticity, this stew is incredibly easy and quickly assembled. It only calls for a few principal ingredients, and the flavour is definitely swoonworthy. Not only that, but it will perfume your kitchen with an alluring aroma that will elicit repeated cries of, “Is it ready yet?”
Preheat oven to 350°.
- 2 lbs beef (I use a less expensive cut, like rump roast), cut into 3/4″ cubes (more or less; this is not geometry class)
- about 1/4 cup flour
- 2 – 3 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
- 2 lbs yellow cooking onions, sliced (will be about 6 cups or more)
- 2-1/2 cups beef stock (I use a bouillon base)
- 1-1/2 tbsp sweet paprika (or 1 tbsp sweet and 1/2 tbsp hot paprika, or whatever proportions suit your taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
If you bought a whole roast, cut it into cubes. You can buy stewing beef pre-cut, or save yourself a little money and get a bit of a workout while fancying yourself a butcher.
Put the beef in a paper or plastic bag with the flour, and toss until coated. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pot like a Dutch oven. Add the beef, leaving behind as much of the loose flour as possible, and brown it on medium high heat in two batches. The trick is to let it caramelize and release from the pan before turning over. If you try to stir it around too soon you’ll break it up. Set aside the prepared beef and turn the heat down to medium low.
Add another tablespoon of oil if the pot seems dry, then strew the onions atop all the caramelized and sticky bits left behind from browning the meat. Cover the pot, but stir frequently for about 10 minutes. Prepare to be fascinated by the magic of the onions cooking down, softening, caramelizing and integrating with all the lovely beef bits that have loosened from the bottom of the pot. Mmmm, looks good already. (The photo above was taken about halfway through the onion cooking time.)
Stir in the paprika, then add the meat and stock, and some black pepper. Cover and finish in the oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. (You can also simmer it on very low heat on top of the stove, but I find that takes more tending than the oven.)
The beef becomes ever so tender during the cooking process, and the onions practically melt into the broth, creating a savoury sauce highlighted by the sweet piquancy of the paprika.
Serve with egg noodles, or simple mashed potatoes and a simple side of steamed or fresh vegetables. This is one of those dishes that makes for leftovers that you can hardly wait to eat. Great to make on the weekend and enjoy the following week. That’s smart cooking!