It's a Goulash Party!
OK, so the best laid plans never seem to always happen. I planned on writing this while on vacation, but Zuzana and I were having so much fun that I just lost track of the time, and now we’re home. My apologies to anyone who felt abandoned.
While over in Zuzana’s native Slovakia, I was privileged to take part in the preparation of Kotlíkový Guláš. As explained in the article Anybody Hungary, a goulash (guláš in Slovak) is a soup made much like a stew. The ingredients you can use can vary, but the traditional goulash usually contains many of the same ingredients one would find in your typical beef stew, only the liquid portion isn’t as thick as in a stew.
Even more interesting than the dish itself is the rich tradition associated with it. I’m sure most of the time the Slovaks, Czechs, Hungarians, and others who indulge in goulash would simply make it on the stove with a large stock pot. However, the bigger tradition is in the goulash party. Similar to an American barbecue, an outdoor pot called a kotlík is set up over an open fire, and the goulash is slow cooked to perfection as guests fill their bellies with appetizers and alcohol, awaiting the main course. Our own experience was a feeding frenzy with plenty of beer and homemade brandy to stock a frat party.
The finished product was a thick beefy soup loaded with yummy ingredients that one would eat with a good helping of bread to soak up some of the liquid. Even leftovers a day later were delicious.
The recipe I’m going to share is not the traditional Hungarian goulash (according to Zuzana), but more the kind of goulash her family has made for many years. I did get a chance to sample authentic Hungarian goulash while we were in Europe and I must admit I liked this goulash better. The variation of ingredients and added vegetables and potatoes just made for a wonderful dish that especially would go well over a cold winter.
If you can get your hands on a kotlík, then go all the way. I myself and the rest of the world will have to use the stove. Here we go…
- 4 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp of caraway
- 2 lbs of meat, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup of paprika
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 parsley root, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 ounces of dried mushrooms
- 1 medium-size tomato, sliced into chunks
- 2 bell peppers, chopped
- 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- Salt to taste
- In a large stock pot, heat up the oil on medium heat.
- Add in the onion and cook until translucent.
- Mix in the garlic and caraway and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and add in the meat, paprika, and some salt to your liking.
- Place the pot back on the heat and let it cook on medium heat, stirring frequently. If the mixture is too dry then add a little water.
- When the meat is half-cooked, add in the carrots, celery, parsley root, and bay leaves. Stir.
- Pour in enough water to almost submerge the mixture. Stir again.
- Cover the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add in the mushrooms, tomato, and bell peppers. Stir and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes to the mixture, stir, and continue to simmer until the potatoes are done.
Be sure to taste the liquid as you simmer. Add salt and other seasonings to your personal preference.
If you would like the liquid to be thicker, then remove one cup of the liquid, stir in a tbsp of cornstarch or flour, then slowly stir it back into the mixture.
I put the label “meat” for the initial ingredient because it really comes down to your preference. In Slovakia we used beef, beef liver, and pork all mixed together. Some will just use beef neck or shoulder.
Like any recipe, feel free to variate as you see fit. Change up the vegetables, meat, add pasta if you want, there isn’t any right or wrong way for this variant of goulash.
Best way to serve goulash is in a big bowl with a generous helping of bread. One that can soak up liquid. A good lager or ale also compliments the dish.
A few photos of the occasion:
Zuzana with her stepbrothers Vlado and Jaro.
Zuzana and I. The hat was a gift from Jaro.
I would like to thank Jaro, Vlado, and Zuzana’s families for having me at this occasion and teaching me the art of goulash. I know if I ever get a house with a yard, a kotlík will surely become part of my culinary repertoire.