Archive for October, 2010

It’s goulash, dahlink!

My old pal Rob (known each other since we were four or five) asked me if I had a good goulash recipe.  “Hm,” says I.  “Dunno.”

Well, of course I do.  I just wasn’t sure how long it would take me to find it.  Much to my astonishment, it was exactly where I thought it would be.

Goulash (Pîrkîlt)

Don’t ask me how to prounounce “pîrkîlt,” because I don’t have a flippin’ clue.  Those roof-top looking things (called  “circumflexes,” actually, which is one of my favorite words) make me suspect that it’s not worth the bother and maybe it’s no wonder that people started calling it “goulash” instead.  I mean, there has to be a reason for that, right?  Right.

  • 1/4 lb. lean bacon, smoked ham, or Hungarian paprika sausage, diced
  • 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck, or 1 1/2 lbs. chuck with 1 1/2 lbs. pork or veal shoulder
  • salt and pepper, of course
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • some oil or bacon drippings (you might need it, might not)
  • 3 c. of thinly sliced onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped or smashed
  • 1/2 c. good, fresh Hungarian paprika (not the stuff that’s been sitting on your spice rack for eighteen years), either sweet or half sweet and half hot, or however you choose to mix things up
  • 3 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 c. diced carrots
  • 1 Tbsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 pt. beef or chicken stock (invariably labelled “broth” at the supermarket, for some bizarre reason)
  • 1 c. dry white wine, or beer
  • 1 lb. sauerkraut, drained (optional, but if you choose to use it, I’d recommend the kind that comes in the plastic bag and not the canned stuff)
  • 1/4 c. tomato purée or 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 – 1 c. sour cream or crème fraîche (hey, look!  Another circumflex!  Ask me some time and I’ll tell you how to make your own crème fraîche.  It’s very easy, and has the advantage of not curdling when you cook it, the way sour cream can.  Oh, this ingredient is optional too)
  • spätzle or egg noodles or buttered boiled taters to go with


Brown the bacon or whatever in a big Dutch oven or some other commodious vessel.  When it’s done, take it out, but leave the drippings behind.

Get a grip on your beef/pork/veal and pat it dry with a paper towel or two and then cut it up into cubes about 1″ around.  Hit ’em with some S & P and then toss ’em around gently in the flour.  Knock the excess flour off and then brown them nicely all over in the same commodious vessel you were using earlier.  Add a bit of oil or some bacon drippings if the pot starts to get dry.

Take the meat out–again, leaving the drippings behind–and then add the onions and let them sweat (ideally, on the lowest possible heat, although it takes forever that way) until they’re nice and soft and starting to turn a pleasant shade of light brown.  Add the garlic, stir it all up, and then stand there and twiddle your thumbs for 43 seconds.  Add the paprika, give it another good stir, and let it go for about two minutes.  Now add the bell peppers and everything else up to and including the bay leaves.  Toss it around a bit, and add the stock and everything else up to and including the tomato purée/paste.  Bring it up to a boil, giving the bottom of the pot a scrape now and then (preferably with some implement made of wood), in order to make sure none of the tasty bits are getting stuck.  Add the bacon and the browned meat and let that simmer, with a cover on it, until the meat is nice and tender–probably somewhere around 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 hours.

Take it off the heat, stir in the next two ingredients, and serve it all up with your chosen starch.

This has been a Filmways Production, dahlink.


I don’t know why, but typographical errors make me absolutely batty.  There are very, very few things that get me sufficiently steamed that I would find pleasure in kicking a hole clean through a stained glass window, but you can count typos among them.

It might have something to do with the fact that I used to edit a literary magazine, or that I used to run the classified ads and create display ads for a newspaper.  I don’t know.  If anything, it’s probably the other way around:  I wound up editing and running things because I get uptight about things like typos.  Sounds silly, I know, but everybody has their own little areas of OCD.

I’m most sorely aggrieved by my own blunders (of which there are plenty).

It’s a weird phenomenon, and it breaks down, more or less, thus:

  • Hey, look at that:  I left out an apostrophe!  Good thing I proofread it before going global.
  • I’m an idiot for leaving out an apostrophe.
  • Oh God, what else did I screw up?
  • Here we go again.
  • This is kind of fun.

That, however, is the life that I have chosen, and I’m pretty well stuck with it.  I’ve almost come to terms with it, and I’m okay about that.  Honest.

The thing that really takes the pleats out of my kilt is repeated and/or public typos.

I’ll give you a few examples:

  • I went to pick up a cake one day, for the honor of a kid who was graduating from high school.  His school colors were red and white.  So I picked up, from the local bakery, a red cake with white frosting letters on the top, saying “CONGRATUTIONS!”
  • Any time that any business has to shut down for the day, or that they run out of something, I can pretty well guarantee you that there’ll be a sign somewhere which includes the phrase “We apologize for the inconvience.”
  • Finally, here are the words taped to a gas pump at one of my local service stations.  I present it to you verbatim:  “dear valuble customer currently credit card is not working at gus pump please use your card in siad store sorry for in conveniente store, Thynk you.”

Drives me nuts.

In my mind, the most forgivable of the three is the last one.  I know for a fact that if I decided, for whatever reason, to up and move to Karachi or wherever, I’d be at a total loss to write anything Karachi-ish.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  At least he’s trying, and he seems to have a pretty good head-start.

The other two, if you ask me, are unforgivable, yet they happen all the time.

I know, I know.  I shouldn’t go around whacking stones at people when I am not without sin.  Trust me, I’ve made more typos than Carter’s got pills (ask your grandmother to explain that reference, if necessary).

When I was in graduate school, one of my professors–can’t remember her name, but she was very nice–told me that I suffered from “a pretty severe case of digital metathesis,” which was her overly polite way of telling me that I couldn’t type worth a hoot and screwed everything up.

“‘Euceminalc’?  What does that mean?”

“Oh, sorry.  That’s supposed to say ‘ecumenical.'”

“Ah.  Now it makes sense.”

For the life of me, I cannot keep double consonants straight.  Here’s a quick list of words that baffle me by their spelling, some of which, no doubt, are misspelled:

  • misspelled
  • sherrif
  • fettuccinne
  • broccoli
  • accommodate
  • spaghetti

Good thing I’m not a commodious Italian deputy with an appetite.  I’d be well up a creek.

My only savior is my sage daddy’s advice, which I probably heard about 462 million times:  “There’s a dictionary, right over there.  Use it.”

I’m not going to lie to you–this soup is a bit of a pain.  It’s not hard, by any means; it’s just time-consuming, in a tedious sort of way.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do something quick and challenging than something easy and tedious.  Still, though, it’s worth the effort (and don’t you dare even think about leaving out the spiced crema–that’s the best part).

You can very easily divide this recipe in half, if you are so inclined.  As is, it’s fit for about sixteen servings, give or take.

First of all, set your oven at 375º.

Now round up the following ingredients:

  • a pumpkin of about 4 lbs.
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 1 c. grated piloncillo
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • some kosher salt
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 2 white or yellow onions, recklessly chopped
  • 6 ancho chiles, no stems or seeds, likewise recklessly chopped*
  • 4 cloves of garlic, also likewise
  • 1/2 g. chicken stock, vegetable stock, water, or any combination thereof
  • 1 c. good, fresh o. j.
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 avocado leaf
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • spiced crema and pepitas for garnishing, both of which we’ll get to momentarily

*–After I’ve popped off the stems and whacked out the seeds, I like to let my anchos soak in hot water for a few minutes.  That makes them softer (and easier to chop up) and also aids in getting rid of any residual dirt and recalcitrant seeds.

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the gunk and the seeds.  Ditch the gunk, but keep the seeds, which are destined to become pepitas.  Put the pumpkin, cut sides up, on a sheet pan.  Dot both halves with butter and sprinkle them with about half of the piloncillo.  Sprinkle them also with a pinch of each of the spices and some salt.  Cover them with foil and let them rest comfortably in your 375º oven 30 or 45 minutes–until the flesh is weak and starting to get kind of spottily brown.

Roast the pumpkin seeds at the same time; just toss them around with some olive oil and a fair dose of salt first.  You can put them right there on the same pan, and they’ll be done when the pumpkin itself is done.  Works out nicely.

Okay, now sweat the onion in some olive oil.  Take your sweet time.

That being done, add the anchos and the garlic for two minutes or so, and then the rest of the piloncillo, the pumpkin flesh (toss the skin, or whatever you want to call it), the stock(s)/water, o. j., spices, bay leaves, and avocado leaf.  Leave the hail clanjamfrie at a bare simmer for about 20 minutes.  Pluck out the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and avocado leaf.

Now transfer the stuff, in batches, to your trusty food processor or blender, and purée the hell out of it.  Once the hell has been puréed out, run each batch through a super-fine strainer** and into a clean receptacle of some appropriate size and purpose.  Stir in the heavy cream and then taste it.  Adjust the seasoning as you see fit.

**–Ideally, you’d use a fancy-pants gadget which is called, for some French and mysterious reason, a chinois.  A chinois, though a very nice thing to have, is a ludicrously expensive fancy-pants gadget.  You’re talking to a guy who owns three mandolines, four rolling pins, a massive KitchenAid mixer, two MicroPlanes, a ceramic tater peeler, and heaven only knows how many other pleasing doo-dads, but I’m not about to drop a wad on a dang fine-mesh strainer, even if it does have an alluring Sino-Gallic name.

We’re almost done now.  Just make the spiced crema, thus:

  • 2 c. crema, or, barring that, domesticated sour cream
  • 2 oz. honey
  • 2 oz. good, fresh o. j.
  • a sizable pinch each of the three aforementioned spices
  • 1 tsp. or so of salt
  • and you ought to have about 1 c. of the already-done pepitas

Stir everything together (except for the pepitas) and stash it in your icebox for at least an hour.  It’s nice if you can put it into a squeeze bottle, but you don’t have to.

When it comes time to serve it up, ladle the soup into some nice bowls, squeeze a squiggle or glomp a dollop of the spiced crema on top of each, and then sprinkle a few pepitas over it, and you’re done.