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    Tuesday
    Feb082011

    Hungarian Goulash

    Okay, yes, the name is redundant because yes, I know, goulash is a Hungarian word for stew or soup. But that’s what my mom called it and this is mostly (but definitely not) my mom’s recipe, so that’s what I’m calling it. My mom was a fan of the old Betty Crocker style of cooking that often involved things like bisquick and cans of soup. This is not one of those recipes. No recipes on this site are.

    Goulash is really a simple dish; no fancy ingredients or dexterous methods. It’s basic home food. So why my mom’s version included convenience foods is beyond me. This is also one of the cheaper ways to make something a little different than your typical beef stew.

    The ones I ate as a kid were simmered on the stovetop, but I was on a roll with the “once a month cooking” thing and my tiny stovetop was already occupied so I did this one in the crock pot.

    What you need:

    1 lb stewing beef, or some other tough-ish cut that will stand up to simmering

    2 tbsp flour

    Salt and pepper

    1 onion

    1 red pepper

    3 cloves garlic

    ½ tin (~1/4 c) tomato paste

    ½ tsp Wostershire sauce

    1 tsp paprika

    2-3 c beef broth (or water, if you don’t have any broth handy)

    1 tbsp vinegar

    1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)

     

    What you gotta do:

    Chop the onion and red pepper into pieces. Size and shape is your preference, if you make them too small they’ll disappear into the broth after simmering all day. If you’re trying to feed this to a kid, that might be a good idea actually.

    Finely mince the garlic.

    If it hasn’t already been done, trim any excess fat from the beef and dice into cubes. 1 inch or so should do.

    In a largish bowl, toss the beef with the salt, pepper and flour until it’s coated. Dump the beef into the crock pot. Don’t put the bowl in the sink just yet.

    Dump the garlic, onion and pepper on top of the beef, in the crock pot.

    In that largeish bowl that once had floury beef in it, combine the tomato paste, Wostershire sauce, paprika, stock (or water), vinegar, and brown sugar (if you’re using it). Stir gently until it’s kinda soupy looking.

    Pour the soupy tomatoey, brothy mixture over the beef and veggies.

    Put the lid on the crock pot, set it to high, and find something to do for 3 or 4 hours. Or set it to low and occupy yourself for 6 to 8 hours.

    I like mine over noodles, usually wide egg noodles, but I’ve seen it served over rice or potatoes too. I’ve even seen recipes that include potatoes and carrots and mushrooms and any other veggie that’s handy. I mean, really, it is a basic throw together dish, so you can add or subtract just about anything. The one thing you can’t do away with is paprika.

    Paprika is a dried and ground capsicum. Yup, it’s a pepper, kinda like cayenne, but it’s not as spicy, in fact, it’s more of a sweet pepper, and it’s got a kind of smoky flavour since they’re usually dried by smoking. Paprika is a natural food colourant (like when “natural colour” is listed in the ingredients) and sometimes used in henna so try not to get it on yourself. Or am I the only one who needs this kind of warning? It’s got betacarotene, which your body turns into vitamin A, and also has strangely high amounts of vitamin C in it, but that’s usually cooked off.

    The dish itself is a nice rich meal. It’s got almost no fat in it, but if you were to quickly fry that floury beef in bacon fat before putting it in the crock pot.... hey, I’m just sayin’.

    It freezes really well too. I did this as part of my once a month cooking thing at the beginning of the school year, and I got four meals out of it, 2 dinners and 2 lunches. I cooled the pot in a sink of water then ladelled the goulash into sturdy freezer bags. The medium size Glad brand ones hold a lunch and dinner if I make noodles to go with it. If you’re going to save it like this, lay the bags flat to freeze then, once they’re solid, stand them up like books on a shelf. Mine fit handily into the spaces on the rack in the freezer.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     And when you're too busy studying electrical circuts to make dinner, you can just boil some noodles and suddenly have dinner.

     

    Friday
    Feb042011

    Meatball Sandwiches

    So, I was originally going to post a recipe for enchiladas (well, my version of them), but since it’s Super Bowl weekend, I figured meatball sandwiches were more fitting.  I mean, what guy wouldn’t like to bite into a delicious meatball sub, while watching the big game?  Or what woman, for that matter?  These really are simple, and you can easily adjust the recipe for as many or as few as you want. 

    First, we’ll start with the meat.  I used one pound of lean ground beef.  I always use organic beef.  I know it costs more, but if you haven’t tried it, you should.  The taste, in my opinion, is so much better, and if you put lots of onions and stuff in it, it brings the price down. 

    Anyway, back to cooking.  When making a meat mixture, I like to use my stand mixer.  You could, of course do it by hand, but I’m lazy like that.  Throw the meat into your mixing bowl with an egg.  And mix on low speed until completely combined.

     

    Dice a medium onion, half of a bell pepper, and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and throw them all in the bowl.  Mix on low speed just until evenly distributed.  You don’t want to smash things up too much. 

    For making the meatballs, I like to use a cookie scoop.  It’s easier to get them roundish, and they’re all pretty much the same size.  Don’t fret if they’re not perfect.  They’ll taste fabulous, regardless of what they look like. 

    Once you’ve turned the entire meat mixture into balls (yes, I realize that somewhere in this post, I am inevitably going to say something that sounds dirty), slide the whole group of them into a hot pan that’s been coated with 2 or 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. 

    Sear the meatballs on at least 2 sides.  Don’t skip this step, it is important for overall flavor and for helping the balls stay together.

    Once the balls are nicely browned (oh boy), open a jar of homemade marinara. 

    You do have homemade marinara, right?  No?  Ok, since we haven’t covered how to do that yet, store bought will have to do.  Open a pint jar of whatever your favorite is, and pour it over the meatballs.  Stir gently.  We want to try to keep the balls intact as much as possible.

       Cover and simmer for a good 45 minutes or so, stirring occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking or burning. 

    After that time, they should look something like this…

    Are you drooling yet?  The next step is slicing the buns.  My local grocery store makes FABULOUS ciabatta rolls.  You’re bound to see me using them repeatedly on here.  If you can find a bun that is a little crust, a little chewy, but soft with big air pockets on the inside, you’re on the right track.  Spoon enough meatballs onto the bread to cover most of the surface, but not so many they’re just going to fall out as soon as you pick it up.  Top with a slice of provolone or mozzarella and the top bun.  The heat from the mixture will soften the bread and melt the cheese. 

    You may find them easier to eat if they’re cut in half, or if you want them to be more of an appetizer or hors d'oeuvre for the game, you could put a single meatball on a small roll and that would work just fine. 

    Enjoy the meal and the game!  Go… oh, who am I kidding, I don’t even know who’s playing in the Super Bowl.