My soup night guests are in for a real treat tomorrow evening as I am throwing a Hungarian inspired evening. I've written about our soup nights before, initially weekly gatherings for 8 weeks in the fall during which we served soup for friends and family every Tuesday. The idea came out of a desire to create community and a regular gathering when I took a weekend position at work. We have hosted the gatherings for the past 9 years, this year going to a monthly evening over the course of the fall and winter. My love affair with soup began in my early 30's when my mother was dying of lung cancer. My mother had the most amazing friends, women who were strong role models for me. One of them brought homemade soup to our house once a week for nearly 18 months. I learned quickly that soup was a source of comfort and solace and I wanted nothing more than to master the art of making good homemade soup. It is perhaps one of my strongest suits in the kitchen. I love planning and preparing for soup night during the long dark days of fall and winter.
When we are in Budapest we devoure Hungarian Gulyás at almost every meal, savoring every bite. I am not a student of Hungarian cuisine but I have learned a thing or two about this classic dish. For starters, everyone in Hungary has their own idea of how to make Gulyás which is actually pronounced GOO-yash, no L. Some insist that an authentic version never contains flour or tomatoes, others insist that it is a soup, not a stew. It is probably somewhere in between and my standard is that it must have authentic Hungarian paprika. The name comes from the Hungarian word for cattle stockman or herdsmen who cooked the dish in a large cauldron called a Bogrács over an open fire in the countryside
While looking for a recipe to work with I stumbled upon a version from Sue Doeden, a food writer and chief living in Bemidiji, MN with a Hungarian background. I was drawn to her version because of the slowness of cooking she describes. Sue claims that the dish can not be rushed, good results come from patience. It took me more than half a day to make Sue's Gulyás. I must admit, the flavor is remarkably reminiscent of the Guláys in Budapest. Thanks Sue for a great addition to my repertoire, my guests are in for a real treat!
Sue Doeden's Hungarian Gulyás
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, trimmed and cut into bit-sized pieces
1 large green bell pepper, chopped (I used red)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
4 cups beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I cut mine into 1/4-inch)
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
kosher salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large, heavy Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add chopped bacon and fry until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Add chopped onions to the hot bacon grease. Cook until translucent and tender. Increase heat to high, add beef and cook, stirring once or twice until meat is lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add green or red pepper and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in paprika, caraway and marjoram. Add beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for an hour, covered. Add diced tomatoes with juice and carrots, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add cubed potatoes, cover and simmer another 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. An overnight in the refrigerator gives the flavors a chance to mingle and develop, a wait that is worth it.