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~ Hungarian Gulyás: Beef, Vegetable & Paprika Soup ~

IMG_4837American-style goulash is made with ground beef and macaroni.  It's tasty, it's filling, it's easy to prepare, and, has the added bonus of being kid-friendly.  It's a stewy take on Hungarian goulash, but, aside from containing meat (originally ground beef, but nowadays chicken or turkey are sometimes substituted), a few vegetables (typically green bell pepper, onion and tomato sauce) and pasta (usually elbow-type macaroni or corkscrews), it all-too-often tastes resemblant of Italian-American spaghetti with meat sauce -- the flavor profile is hardly Hungarian.

A not-so-short but informative bit about Hungarian Gulyás: 

Hungarian gulyás (pronounced goulēus and meaning herdsmen) is the national dish of Hungary, and, the most famous Hungarian dish cooked outside of Hungary.  That said, even in Hungary, recipes vary from cook to cook and chef to chef, and, every one will claim theirs authentic. Gulyás dates back to the 9th Century cattle herders and stockmen and began as a basic well-seasoned, sun-dried meat and onion stew prepared in iron cauldrons -- all they needed to do was add water and cook it.  Over time, gulyás evolved, as cooks began adding additional vegetables (cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes etc.).  That said, many Hungarian cooks and experts argue that true gulyás uses no thickening agents and contains no grains (rice, barley, etc.) or starch (potatoes, noodles, dumplings, etc.)   In the 16th Century, the invading Ottoman Turks introduced paprika to Hungary.  The rest of Europe remained indifferent to the spice, but Hungary embraced it, and it eventually became a defining element of their cuisine and their gulyás.

Gulyás contains no starchy thickeners to achieve consistency -- which is why it's considered a soup rather than a stew.

IMG_4836Hungarian gulyás, while usually prepared with beef, can be prepared with veal, pork or lamb, or a combination of meats.  Typical cuts include inexpensive shank, shin or shoulder.  As a result, goulash derives its thickness from tough, well-exercised muscles rich in collagen (which convert to gelatin during the cooking process), instead of a thickening agent like flour or cornstarch. Vegetables (usually red bell pepper, carrot, potato, tomato and onion) are commonly added to the meat and the mixture is cooked in a paprika-laced slightly-thickened "in between" broth that is neither too thin nor too thick -- I describe it as a rich sauce. Some versions of gulyás are very rustic, containing large chunks of meat and vegetables, resemblant of a classic beef stew. Other versions are quite sophisticated, containing small-diced pieces of meat and vegetables.  All versions contain a healthy dose of sweet Hungarian paprika (a copious amount, more than you'd think), and, genuine imported sweet Hungarian paprika paprika is essential.

A bit about gulyás recipes in general & my recipe:

Authentically prepared Hungarian gulyés is like a brilliant star in the sky of soups and stews, meaning: take a taste and allow your taste buds to see the light.  Some versions are thicker, some versions are thinner, all are silky-smooth and sauce-like, but, none contain starchy thickening agents (just stop with the flour and cornstarch concoctions, they just muddy up the flavor).  The consistency control factor is the length of time the mixture simmers on the stovetop -- this is why, in Hungary, this dish is looked upon and referenced as a soup, rather than a stew.  I do add potatoes to my version (which is not uncommon is any modern day version), because my mother added them and I adored it -- that choice is yours.  When properly prepared, this rustic, easier-to-make-than-a-stew is perhaps one of the most refined soups you will ever experience.

IMG_47883  tablespoons salted butter

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

2 1/2-3  pounds 3/4"-1"-cubed beef chuck roast or chuck steak, from 1, 3-3 1/2 pound chuck roast or chuck steak

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1 1/2  pounds peeled and 1/2"-diced yellow or sweet onions

8  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  cup sweet Hungarian paprika, not smoked or hot paprika

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

6  cups beef stock, preferably homemade

2  packets Herb-Ox granulated beef bouillon

2  whole bay leaves

"the seasonings", aka, 1 teaspoon each:  garlic powder, dried parsley flakes, dried rosemary leaves, dried thyme leaves, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

6  ounces 1/4"-1/2" diced celery stalks

8  ounces 1/4"-1/2" peeled and diced carrots

12-ounces  1/2"-diced red bell peppers

1 1/2 pounds peeled and 1/2"-3/4" diced gold potatoes (optional)

1/2-3/4  cup minced fresh parsley, for garnishing soup

IMG_4604 IMG_4604Important note before starting:  Achieving the signature saucelike consistency gulyás is famous for, without relying on a thickening agent or adding a starch isn't as tricky as one might think.  Great gulyás starts with homemade beef stock, one that is rich in collagen, one that becomes gelatinous when refrigerated, is important.

IMG_4769 IMG_4769 IMG_4769~ Step 1.  To prep the roast, start by slicing it in half vertically -- this will make it more manageable. Place the flat side of each half down, and slice each half into 6-7 3/4"-1" pieces.  Cut each piece into 3/4"-1" cubes, removing and discarding the large pockets of fat as you continue to work.  

IMG_4465 IMG_4465 IMG_4792 IMG_4792 IMG_4792~Step 2. In a wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot, over low heat, melt butter into oil.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add beef cubes, then season with 1 teaspoon each sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper.  Using a large spatula to keep the meat moving, sauté until it has lost its pink color and is swimming around in quite a bit of flavorful beef juices, 6-8 minutes.

IMG_4799 IMG_4799 IMG_4799 IMG_4799~Step 3.  Add the onion and garlic.  Continue to sauté, stirring constantly, until onion is tender, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the paprika and tomato paste.  Stirring constantly, cook 3 more minutes.

IMG_4808 IMG_4808 IMG_4808Step 4.  Add the beef stock, bay leaves and seasonings.  Stir thoroughly.  Adjust heat to the gentlest of steady simmers and continue to cook, uncovered, for 1 full hour.  If you plan to add potatoes to your gulyás, peel and cube them as directed during the last 30 minutes of simmering time.

IMG_4817 IMG_4817~ Step 5.  Add the celery, carrots, red bell pepper and optional potatoes to the simmering soup. Continue to cook until potatoes and carrots are just cooked through, 15-20 additional minutes.  If you have the time, turn the heat off, cover the pot and allow soup to steep for 30-60 minutes, to allow the flavors time to marry prior to serving.  

Ladle into bowls & garnish w/minced, fresh parsley:

IMG_4825Hungarian Gulyás:  Beef, Vegetable & Paprika Soup:  Recipe yields 5 quarts hearty soup.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; vegetable peeler; wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; large slotted spoon or spatula; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b01bb088aee56970dCook's Note: My encounters with Hungarian cuisine have all been good, and authentic too.  While my family is not Hungarian, we are Eastern European (Slovak), meaning the food of other Eastern European countries is often similar, appealing to our appetites.  Thanks to a recipe mom got from a Hungarian co-worker, she made great gulyás.  As for paprikas, that recipe I got from my neighbor's mom who immigrated here from Hungary in the 1950's.  Try: ~ Mrs. Varga's Hungarian Paprikas Recipe ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


Jen -- Great to hear from you again. So pleased you got the chance to make this one. I have two containers in the freezer at present, along with two containers of beef stew. They'll be welcome dinners during the next few weeks. Stay safe and be well my cooking friend. ~ Melanie

Hi Melanie, finally had a chance to make this. A great meal during another stay-home Sunday. We'll be adding this to our 'will make again' list. Thank you for another yummy recipe! Hope you and your family are healthy and well.

Jen -- Can't wait to hear from you after you do -- it's one of my favorites!

Can't wait to try this!

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