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big, easy bites

rainy day beef goulash with gnocchi

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By Jen White · October 21, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Goulash is a dish that Paul and I have radically different memories of. I grew up eating the 1970's school-lunch version known as "Goulash Supreme," which consisted of soggy macaroni, bland ground beef, and stewed tomatoes. I should point out here that when I was a kid, I actually liked it. And that it's pretty much the only thing called "goulash" I remember eating, ever, anywhere. And that I'm ready for a better goulash to take its place in my life.

Paul, on the other hand, has only had goulash in Budapest. Seriously. Budapest, where they have bars with awesome names like "Old Man Pub" and you can eat steak tartare for breakfast, complete with a raw egg and a shot of Jager. When he had goulash there, it was made with goat and was served to him in an individual clay pot with a baked-bread top (as in, they baked a crispy bread right on top of the goulash. DANG.).  It's one of the best things he's ever eaten, he's told me time and time again, and i believe it. I even found a picture of it on the Internets! Here it is, from the Old Man Music Pub:

So what I've come up with here is much, much better than what I grew up eating, and though it lacks a bready top, it's pretty close to what Paul had: a dark, hearty beef (not goat) stew that'll stick to your ribs and stomp out the rainy day blues.  If you want to go for the glory, put some of it in a baking dish and bake a pie crust on top. Even homemade dumplings would be great, but if you're tired, like me, store-bought gnocchi totally do the trick.

Start off by browning the beef and paprika in a heavy soup pot.

Add the onions to the beef and let them get nice and soft.

Then, we're going to put a little Louisiana in there: sprinkle in a couple tablespoons of flour, stir it around, and let it get pasty with the onions, beef, and oil for a couple of minutes. It's like a mini-roux, and it really helps give the goulash a thicker body, which is what I wanted. Less soup, more GOU.

After it cooks for a while with the wine, stock, carrots, parsnips, celery, and turnips, add the diced potatoes (pictured above). This is pretty much the last step, other than adjusting the seasonings and preparing whatever type of dumpling/noodle/gnocchi/pie crust you prefer.

It's really a simple thing to cook, once the beef is browned, and makes a big pot of beefy vegetabley goodness perfect for rainy weather or for freezing for future rainy days. I like to garnish it with celery leaves, but you can use parsley too. 

rainy day beef goulash with gnocchi

  • 4 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (not smoked)
  • 3 pounds beef cut for stew, in 1" to 2" chunks (or cut up three pounds of beef chuck)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, plus more if needed
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup red wine (I used a pinot noir)
  • 5 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 small turnips, peeled and diced
  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (I used 2 yukon golds and 3 red potatoes)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked gnocchi for serving (optional)

  1. Toss the beef with the paprika until well coated. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, until almost smoking. Add the beef to the pot in batches and cook until well-browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Set the browned beef aside and continue cooking until all the beef is browned, adding more oil to the pot if necessary to prevent burning.
  2. Return all the browned beef to the pot and reduce the heat a little, to slightly above medium. Add the onions and saute about 6 minutes, until starting to get soft. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of flour and stir well, incorporating it into the oil (it should be a little pasty).  Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the caraway, bay leaves, wine, and stock. Bring to a simmer and cover; simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the parsnips, carrots, celery, and turnips. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the potatoes; cover and simmer for 30 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper, and additional paprika if you like.  To serve, drop some cooked gnocchi in each bowl, or homemade dumplings, or egg noodles. Or bake a pie crust on top of it in the oven, and let me know how it goes.

makes 8 to 10 servings

Tagged with: goulash, gnocchi, Stew, beef

simple mushroom gravy and John Saturnall's Feast WINNERS!

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By Jen White · October 6, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

WE HAVE WINNERS! 3 wonderful winners of the wonderful John Saturnall's Feast! And we have MUSHROOM GRAVY! More on that in a minute!

The winner of the Twitter contest is: AiLien!

The winner of the Facebook contest is: Martha Banks!

The winner of the blog comment contest is: Jennifer Tillman!

Winners, email your name and shipping address to publicity@groveatlantic.com with John Saturnall's Feast/Food Orleans contest in the subject line. Grove Atlantic will ship the signed copy straight to you!

Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway. Stay tuned for more another exciting book giveaway later this year! (Winners were chosen using random.org, a random number generator.)

And now, a shroom with a view.

Mushroom gravy is one of my favorite things to make, because even though it's gravy, it's so full of mushrooms that it almost counts as another vegetable.  I make this sauce often, when we're eating mashed potatoes, steaks, or pork chops, or sometimes even for burgers or baked potatoes.  It's highly adaptable and suitable for all of your gravying needs--as long as you like mushrooms.

Use any combination of mushrooms you like. I used baby portobello and button, but cremini and shiitake are also especially nice in this.

Saute those babies, then whisk in some flour and let it cook a minute...

then whisk in some stock and let it cook until it thickens...

then, whisk in some half and half. Milk is okay, but only if you're into not being awesome. Heavy cream = bonus awesome points. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Worcestershire and/or Tabasco, and put it on something good.

This gravy is so highly adaptable that you can easily turn it vegan (by using all oil instead of butter, vegetable stock, and no Worcestershire), or amp up the smokiness by adding bacon grease to the oil in the pan.  You can add wine to the stock (either red or white), or use milk instead of cream.  Change the herbs to suit your taste, add some sauteed onions or shallots, spice it up with a little Tabasco...there are too many variations to count.  This gravy has potential! It's going places. It's got opinions. It wants to nestle into your dinner plans.

Don't turn it down.

simple mushroom gravy

  • 1 pound mushrooms (any variety or combination), cleaned and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or use 1/2 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups stock (I used chicken. Use beef for a richer sauce, or vegetable for a lighter version.)
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half
  • optional: Worcestershire, to taste; Tabasco, to taste

  1. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil, letting the butter melt.  Add the mushrooms (the pan will be full but they'll shrink in a minutes) and carefully stir.  Saute over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, until the mushrooms start to shrink down a bit.  Season with salt and pepper, and add the thyme.
  2. Add the garlic and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Keep cooking for 6 to 8 more minutes; the mushrooms will get very juicy for a little bit, giving up all their liquid. Keep cooking them until that watery liquid evaporates and you just have a little buttery juice left.
  3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well with a whisk. Cook for one minute, stirring.  Whisk in the stock until smooth, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the gravy has thickened a little.  Whisk in the half-and-half and simmer for another minute.
  4. Taste to adjust seasoning. I like it with about a tablespoon of Worcestershire and a dash of Tabasco.

Serves 3 to 6, depending on use.

John Saturnall's Feast giveaway!

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By Jen White · October 2, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

FREE BOOKS! Free books free books free books.

Have you heard of the novel John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk? 

It's a 17th-century British tale of a young, orphaned boy who has great things in store for him as far as his culinary talents go. I'm about halfway through so I couldn't even give the whole thing away if I tried, but I will say that it has elements of some of my favorite stories: recipes that close each chapter, as in Like Water for Chocolate; an "anyone can cook" attitude, as in Ratatouille; an upstairs/downstairs drama in the large manor that employs the main character in its kitchens, as in Downton Abbey; and an eerie, crazy townspeople element that reminds me of The Crucible.  Also, it includes gorgeous illustrations:

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paws for thought: my neighborhood bead dogs

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By Jen White · September 2, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

This week, I'd like to share photos of the Paws on Parade bead dog* sculptures around my neighborhood, the ones I see when I go to work or the grocery store or the gas station. Though there are some awesome dogs I love in other parts of town, these are the ones I'm going to miss seeing on a daily basis when the sculptures are taken down at the end of September.  Since hurricane Isaac just did a number on our fair city, I want to take this opportunity to share one of the reasons why I love where I live, despite the occasional floods, power outages, and swampy humidity.  I just plain like seeing portraits of saints drinking coffee on giant Mardi Gras beads that are part of a dog sculpture. Is that so strange?

These sculptures are ruffly (ha ha) three feet tall and made of something too strong for mean ol' Isaac to mess with.  You can see a slideshow of all the dogs here, but you can't get much detail that way. I tried to get a little closer to my daily dogs to show you a bit more detail. Enjoy! And check out the video about making bead dogs at the bottom of this post!


"Revolution Dog" by American Can Apartments.

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the theology and geometry of Greek lasagna

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By Jen White · August 23, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

If you're back in school, back to work, back in stressland of any sort, you might be craving some sort of soul-fortifying food hug right about now.  One of my personal favorite food hugs is a big ol' pan of lasagna--and not a thin, dainty one, either. It's got to be tall and stacked through with vegetables, meats, and a ton of cheese.  Lasagna is such a childhood classic for many of us who grew up with moms who liked to cook both ground beef and casseroles, yet it's still adaptable to current tastes, or to current needs to clean out the pantry.  It's also just a beautiful, big pan of goodness, a culinary specimen of theology and geometry.  If you like to build things that taste good and heal your soul, you'll like this.

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Tagged with: lasagna, baked, beef, Sausage, Greek, pasta, cheese

in the beantime: red bean huevos rancheros

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By Jen White · August 17, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

The beantime is, I've decided, that stretch of days after making a giant pot of red beans during which this debate is always on your mind: Do I freeze them? Keep eating bowls of beans and rice? Or think of some interesting things to do with them?  Usually, in our house, we freeze a portion and keep eating red beans at every meal, in some form.  Burritos made from red beans, rice, and cheese, or a quesadilla with red beans, cilantro, and pepper jack are two common things we use them for, but huevos rancheros is undoubtedly my favorite. Plus you can eat it any old time of day!  It's a super-easy dish to make, and I've got a couple lil' twists to share.

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sing along with Julia!

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By Jen White · August 16, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Yesterday was Julia Child's 100th birthday, and this video is a really sweet rendering of her voice, enthusiasm, and joie de vivre. I especially love the clips where she's sitting in her green-cabineted Cambridge kitchen. I used to watch those episodes every Saturday morning when I was in high school, long before I ever roasted my first chicken. I guess I was soaking up the knowledge through Julia. Cheers to her.

Tagged with: autotune, julia child, Birthday

cooking lessons: lighter chicken and biscuits

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By Jen White · August 12, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

This recipe, a favorite of ours for years now, comes from the relentlessly delicious kitchen of The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.  I've spent many happy hours of my life curled up with her cookbooks and a cup of coffee, dreaming that I too had a cooking assistant named Barbara by my side, and that I too had a gigantic barn-sized kitchen with two dishwashers and plenty of gorgeous natural light.  If I had those things, couldn't I too whip up some fantastically comforting food for my husband and millions of viewers?  I think I could.

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the summer of love. i mean lunch.

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By Jen White · August 7, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

I've been collecting some lunchtime photos this summer, and I'm trying a new way to lay them out here, in a slideshow-type of gallery. Let me know how you like it!

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a heatwave fruit save: stone fruit caprese

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By Jen White · August 2, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Did someone say heat wave? Can I get a witness sweatband?

Look, it's too hot to cook, but the good thing is, there's plenty of ripe fruit and veggies to gorge on. Take a simple caprese salad, for instance: tomatoes, basil, mozz, vinegar, and oil.  I love it, you love it, we've all eaten plenty of them.  But don't think a caprese has to stop there: use fruit, like peaches, nectarines, and avocados. Use other vegetables, like roasted eggplant, squash, and cukes.  The caprese salad is one of the best Italian inventions ever, and I'm not going to let the traditional recipe stop me from going ca-ra-zay with it.

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Tagged with: caprese, mozzarella, peach, basil, salad, plum


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