Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pure Genius

Wolfgang Puck is truly a genius. Last night I made Wolfgang's Beef Goulash for dinner, and it was truly spectacular. I found the recipe in my yet-to-be-used cookbook Food Network Favorites: Recipes from our All-Star Chefs. So even better than a stellar recipe- I managed to check off another one of my cookbooks from the list. But back to the goulash.

This is not My Momma's goulash, that's for certain. Here in the Midwest, goulash typically refers to a dish consisting of ground beef, elbow macaroni, and tomato sauce, all mixed up together, sometimes with bits of vegetables thrown in. This was a sure budget stretcher for my family while I was growing up. A pot of goulash stretched a pound of ground beef easily to feed a family of seven, plus it used up all those little bits of vegetables lurking about in the fridge. I have no doubt that my Mom learned this goulash from her Mom. Last night's goulash didn't resemble that one in the least. This was authentic Austrian-Hungarian goulash.

I began by caramelizing onions for 45 minutes with a bit of sugar. Next, garlic, spices, herbs, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, and chicken stock were added to create the liquid base of the goulash. Chunks of stew beef, salt and pepper made their entrance, and then simmered gently for 1 1/2 hours. I made this earlier in the day so that I could chill it before heating it up for the dinner hour. Stew is always better the next day, and I figured a chilling would help meld the flavors better. Served up with some freshly baked whole wheat bread, some hot buttered green beans, and egg noodles, this dinner was hearty and packed with flavor. While Wolfgang suggested serving this with spaetzle, after last weeks debacle, I wasn't ready to tackle that again just yet- although Wolfgang's recipe for spaetzle does look promising.

I made very few changes to his recipe. The first being that I did not use the caraway called for. Caraway is one of very few things that I just cannot stand. I really don't like it at all, so instead I subbed fennel seed, which is similar, but doesn't have the harshness I get from caraway. The other change I made to the recipe was to eliminate the hot paprika- since the kids were eating with us, I didn't want to add the heat. Instead, I added about 1/4 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper to give it just a tickle. If the changes affected the dish at all, I couldn't tell you, because Andy and I thoroughly enjoyed dinner. The kids not so much- but they are proving more and more that they are not beef eaters, so they managed with sides and freshly baked bread.

Before making the goulash, I had been looking online for reviews of this specific recipe, and the ones I found were all raving. In addition, I also found a menu link for Spago, one of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants and his beef goulash happened to be on the menu... at $35 a plate. The very same goulash that I made tonight costs diners at his restaurants $35 a plate! When I mentioned this to Andy we both agreed that because I cheated and used egg noodles, that should bring the menu price down to about $30 a plate. So the two of us ate our fill, plus there are about 4 more servings in the fridge, all for about $10. The beef was the most pricey thing, as I splurged and bought it from our local butcher. Factor in the fresh herbs and onions, and that brings the total dinner to about $10. Not bad, considering that for two of us at Spago we could have the same thing for $60- not including gratuity, beverages, or dessert. That's of course if we had Spago nearby.

The recipe for Wolfgang's Beef Goulash is definitely in the Recipe Trove. It does take some time, but the execution itself is very simple and totally worth the effort. This dish is completely company worthy, but also excellent for a cozy dinner for two by the fire. Enjoy!


teb said...

that looks amazing... *drool*

Erika said...

It IS amazing! And certainly drool worthy, so it is permitted here. :-)

Thanks for stopping by!