Friday, January 28, 2011

International Week -- Transylvanian Goulash

Every time the subject of goulash comes up in conversation -- and it actually does come up in my conversations, sometimes! -- people tell me about a dish they make with ground beef that almost sounds like a soupy sort of sloppy joe mixture. I'm sure it's fabulous, and I've made similar meals myself. But it's not actually goulash, especially if the macaroni that many folks mention in the same breath is added to it ... really, I mean it.

According to the online Budapest Tourist Guide, goulash "was (and still is) a very popular dish among herdsmen in Hungary. They made it in a cast-iron kettle hung above open fire, out in the fields. Herdsman is gulyás in Hungarian, so that’s where the dish’s name comes from." The basic ingredients are a tomato base, meat, onion, sometimes green pepper and always paprika.

The basis of my own recipe comes from an article in The New York Times Magazine section from February 5, 2006. It featured Transylvanian Goulash, though unfortunately no reason for it being Transylvanian vs. Hungarian is given; both territories were once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, so the basic dish would have been tinkered with throughout the region.

The article told of Joseph Wechsberg, the supreme authority on Austro-Hungarian food who once wrote for The New Yorker and for Gourmet, whose book entitled The Cooking of Vienna's Empire was published by Time-Life in 1968. A friend and collaborator said of Wechsberg: "His writing about food ... was so unbelievably precise, you couldn't argue with it."

And so, when I found the recipe for Transylvanian Goulash that had come from Wechsberg, I knew I had found the real thing. I tweaked it slightly, eliminating a mixture of cream and flour which would only serve to thicken it a bit at the end, but that's not a particularly radical deviation; it's not as though I took out the sauerkraut.

Yup -- sauerkraut. The goulash starts with pork cubes, adds sauerkraut and caraway seeds, and includes a bit of tomato sauce for the base. Long, slow cooking in the crockpot turns these few basic ingredients into an amazing melange of flavors, and a bit of sour cream offered for serving -- to be stirred in, if desired -- makes it richer. I have a note scribbled on my modified version of the original that simply says "EXCELLENT!!!"

Please don't think that sauerkraut is only for hot dogs ... trust me here. Even my beloved friend Wendy, who loathes anything vinegary, really enjoyed this and said that it's very well balanced and smooth. Jeremy ate two huge helpings, and was sorry there wasn't more!

Make a batch of goulash, and you'll come home at the end of the day to a house that smells amazing with the tantalizing promise of dinner, and you'll nourish both your body and your soul when you indulge in this delicious meal ....

Transylvanian Goulash

2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-1/2 pounds pork chops, cut into 1" cubes
1 pound sauerkraut not from a can, drained and rinsed well
3 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2/3 cup tomato sauce
splash of hot sauce, if desired
sour cream, for serving

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat; add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.

Layer the onion/garlic mixture, the pork cubes, and the sauerkraut into a crockpot, alternating layers. Combine the broth, salt, paprika, caraway seeds, and tomato sauce; pour over the pork. Cover and cook on "high" for 4 hours or "low" for most of the day. Serve the goulash with a splash of hot sauce and/or some sour cream, if desired.

Serves 4-6.


shah wharton said...

Thanks for stopping by my hop on its first week - I'm your newest follower from weekend creation blog hop. Shah. X

Renee Hand said...

I am following you from the weekend creation blog hop. Please check out my website and blog when you get a chance. I am an award-winning children's book author. Thank you!

Unknown said...

I love an authentic goulash! I'm with you...too many people think it's like a soupy sloppy joe (great way to put it by the way)! This looks and sounds so good! I haven't had goulash in ages!

1grown2togo said...

New follower via GFC & FB from Feed Me Friday hop~Shari

Karen Harris said...

This recipe conjures up happy childhood memories for me as two of my late mother's specialities were goulash and cabbage rolls. The same English cook that makes that Stilton soup has a recipe for meatballs in goulash sauce that is the best dinner party recipe I have ever made. I plan on blogging about it in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for another delicious recipe Mary!

Cranberry Morning said...

A Count (someone) from Transylvania once introduced me to goulash. :-) Actually, this looks delicious, and since I love all the ingredients listed, I'll have to try it! I don't know if I can find sauerkraut around here that isn't in a can, but I'll try.

Rachel Firasek said...

Waving from the weekend creation blog hop! This recipe looks so yummy! Thanks for sharing.

Rachel Firasek

TexaGermaFinlaNadian said...

Mmmmm, well if you hadn't said it was EXCELLENT I don't know if I would try something called "Transylvanian Goulash". But, it does look mighty yummy on a cold windy day like today! (PS - right beside the end of today's post was your "Plastic Joy" award, and I was having a good laugh at the picture!)

Laurie-J said...

Hi! Hopping by from the Weekend Creative Blog Hop. Love your goulash recipe and the article was good, too.


Rachel Cotterill said...

Thanks for sticking up for authenticity :)

Jenn said...

That really sounds good!! Thanks for sharing & Linking up to Mommy Madness!

Have a great weekend!

Candace said...

Thank you for bringing back some really good memories! The mom of one of my friends in high school made goulash as her specialty. The family always had a big Sunday lunch after church and on the days that she made goulash, she would always allow my friend to invite a few of us over because we loved it so much. :)

Anonymous said...

The background information is as interesting as the goulash itself. (I must admit I have a weakness for anything with sauerkraut.) As the temps hover in the 20s where I live I'd love to have this waiting for lunch!

Candace said...

I popped in to tell you that I left a little something for you on my blog. :)

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