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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

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

slurp city: ya ka mein with pho broth

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By Jen White · February 13, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Lately, I've been craving some beefy noodles in a rich broth, something close to ya ka mein.  Don't worry that you're not up on your Cajun or Creole foods if you've never heard of it--it's neither.  Ya ka mein is a soup with these main characters: beef, soy sauce, and spaghetti noodles, topped with green onions and a hard-boiled egg.  You see it at festivals, fundraisers, and Jazz Fest, and rarely anywhere else.  Here's a little background on it, from the Gulf Aid concert in 2010:

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snacking good: natchitoches meat pies

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By Jen White · January 22, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

[Baked or fried? You decide.]

Natchitoches meat pies are one of those special little treats with a name as fun to say as they are to scarf down. Nackadish--that's how you say it--is a small town we drive through on our way north to visit Alexandria or Oklahoma, and it's where Steel Magnolias was filmed, and it's famous for these little pies. It's a beautiful little place, with a picturesque riverfront lined with shops and restaurants that have their own sort of French Quarter-ish wrought-iron balconies (remember the Easter scene where Jackson slapped Ouiser? That's the riverfront!).  But you don't have to go into the actual town to get yourself some meat pies; just stop at any gas station right off I-10. They all fry them up and they're all pretty wonderful.

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grillades and grits: get your brunch on!

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By Jen White · December 30, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

If you've never had or heard of grillades and grits, then I apologize for not mentioning them earlier.  They're one of the two most wonderful things to eat for brunch in New Orleans (shrimp and grits being the other).  I've never been to anyplace in town for brunch that didn't offer one or both of these goodies.  Grillades (gree'-awds) are made of beef, veal, or pork; I haven't encountered a rabbit version yet, but I won't be surprised when I do.  The beef is a thin, flat cut of top round or chuck--something that can withstand a long, slow cooking.  It simmers in a pot with the trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper), garlic, and a little jalapeno--not traditional, but I really like it--until the rich broth thickens and intensifies, so what you get is a powerfully flavored beef "stew" that is perfect over creamy cheese grits.  This is a great Louisiana recipe to try if you're hankering for some thick, rich goodness but you don't feel up to stirring a roux, because you don't have to.  The small amount of flour used in the browning of the beef will produce all the roux you need.

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nap-time bolognese: feed your inner starving artist

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By Jen White · November 3, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Rainy, gray November days beg for something warm and fortifying, and this is certainly both.  You might not be ready to run a marathon afterward, but you'll be ready for a marathon sleep.  Cheers to that!

Sauce Bolognese is perfect on fettucine, penne, or ladled over gnocchi, with lots of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano (that's the real stuff) grated over the top.  One of its traditional uses is as the sauce component of lasagna, as in Lasagna Bolognese--but you could also turn it into a baked ziti, or a soup, or even a very cheeky chili. It's also highly adaptable, so feel free to add veggies or substitute other meats (or non-meats) as you wish.  In other words, you have permission to get artsy with your food.  Just another perk of living in the best restaurant city in the universe: a great tip from a neighbor about using veal, which was spot-on.

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an ode to the lunch counter, and The Company Burger

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By Jen White · October 13, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Between the ages of 3 and 10, my family lived in a place called Weatherford, Oklahoma. It's a small, windy town off I-40, about an hour west of Oklahoma City. Naturally, we all ate a lot of beef, and much of it in the form of burgers. This was the mid-70s, and Weatherford was just small enough to not have a McDonald's (in spite of I-40), but we were big enough to have a Sonic, an A&W Drive-In, a Mr. Burger (local chain), and a great diner called Magill's, on Main Street. It was my favorite place ever, the first eatery I remember loving and wanting to have all to myself. We ate cheeseburgers hot off the griddle, french fries, and thick, dreamy malts. It was the place I made my first "sauce"--mayo & ketchup, mixed. And if I was lucky, I got to sit at the counter.

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