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.

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