Isn’t it pretty? Our friend Avril was given this paprika by a colleague who had been in Hungary on business and she gave it to me because she doesn’t like cooking. So how lucky am I? It even came with its own little pretty spoon! Of course it didn’t come in this nicely sealed jar – originally it was in a plastic bag envelopped by a cloth one.
And this paprika introduced me to the fact that there is more than one kind of paprika out there – spicy and sweet. My Austrian grandmother never told me this when she showed me how to make goulash.
The Critic was stunned, amazed and thrilled the first time I made goulash with the new paprika. Myself, after consuming five glasses of water, I conceded that it was an interesting departure. It’s very spicy, Avril’s paprika. Since then, we have come to a compromise: I use the traditional paprika for 75% of the spice and spicy paprika for the rest. Then, just before serving (this is a secret) I sprinkle a lot more spicy paprika on the Critic’s bowl. It looks pretty and satisfies his love of fiery food.
So why am I calling this Austro-Hungarian Goulash? Well, I don’t want to offend Ladygoat who has posted on the Foodgoat site that garlic has no place in Chicken paprikash. I don’t know if she extends this moratorium to Goulash, but I must state with-all-courtesy-and-not-willing-to-offend-anyone that garlic is a part of my grandmother’s goulash. When she was born her village (Hasendorf, near Güssing in Burgenland) was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. My grandfather, born some 20k closer to what is now the Hungarian border, spoke Hungarian as a first language. So, there is my claim to authenticity, but then who knows, maybe my grandma was just a rebel.
Enough, you must be thinking. Get on with the recipe!
- 400 g very tender veal cutlets, cut in thin strips
- 2 onions chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic pressed
- 2 tbs flour dash of Lawry's salt (my grandma used this in everything and while I don't suppose it's Austrian or Hungarian one of the main ingredients is paprika, which explains a lot I think!)
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/3 cup of sweet paprika
- 1 tbs hot paprika
- 1 cup chicken or beef broth around a cup of dry white wine
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- 4 large mushrooms sliced (optional)
- butter and olive oil to sauté (a few tablespoons total)
First sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil and butter in a large frying pan with high sides. When the onions are soft and everything smells really good, remove from the pan, leaving as much of the oil/butter mixture as possible. Reserve in a bowl.
Toss the veal with the flour and Lawry's salt and pepper. Add a little more oil and butter to the pan (if necessary), raise the heat and toss the meat in the pan. Allow the meat to brown, even if it means bits stick to the bottom of the pan. When the meat is nice and brown, add the paprika and stir for another few minutes. At this point, it may look like the bottom of the pan is covered with flour sludge that will never come off in a million years. Worry not!
Add the onion and garlic mixture and a few tablespoons of the wine. At this point, you should be able to scrape all the dry bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Be assiduous with the spoon until you have gotten every precious browned bit off the bottom of the pan. As the liquid cooks away, add the broth. If you are adding mushrooms, do so now.
Now comes the difficult part, the part that I did not believe initially (and thus made a lot of mediocre goulash): simmer for the next two hours, stirring occasionally and adding broth or wine as the goulash dries out. When I was young and foolish, I assumed that my grandmother used inferior cuts of meat and therefore the 2-hour simmer was just to tenderize the meat. (This was especially foolish, as my grandmother changed butchers like other people change shoes - frequently. She was a terror to inferior butchers and played them off against each other!) In fact, the longer you simmer the more time the paprika has to mellow and give off its flavour. If you serve too soon, it will taste slightly floury and not at all smooth.
So kick off your shoes, check out whether there's a good episode of the Simpsons on the TV or read a book. You'll have to go back and check the goulash during commercial breaks or at the end of each chapter.
About ten minutes before the goulash is ready to serve, set water boiling for your pasta. It should be wide ribboned, ideally. If you are using sour cream, add a large spoonful of the goulash to the sour cream, mix, and then pour this mixture back into the goulash pan. If you are using crème fraîche, you can add it directly to the pan. (I don't know why, but after many years of using French crème fraîche I can only assure you that it is almost impossible to go wrong. If the liquid you add it to is furiously boiling you might find the crème separating. But I doubt it.)
Taste (yeah, like you haven't been doing so all along? It smells too good to resist) and add salt and pepper as needed.
erve over hot buttered noodles and with some good bread for mopping up the leftover sauce. Also serve with the rest of that good dry white wine!