Hungarian Beef Goulash with Paprika

Bogrács Gulyás
by Stanley, Leon, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel
from Lobel’s Meat and Wine
(Chronicle, 2006)
Serves 4

This Hungarian beef goulash recipe, laced with more than a quarter cup of sweet paprika as befits one with the word “Hungarian” in its title, falls somewhere between a soup and a stew. The goulash contains a relatively small amount of meat and an abundance of intensely flavored liquid made satiny with the abundant collagen in the beef shank. To exploit its juiciness, the dish is completed with dumplings, a classic accompaniment. While the hand-pinched style here may not match your usual idea of a dumpling, they are far better with homemade goulash than any store-bought product such as egg noodles. You can cook the dumplings the day before serving, if you like.

If you want to make and serve the Hungarian goulash the same day, try to allow for some time to let it cool so you can more easily skim the fat from it. Even better, refrigerate the goulash overnight and lift off the congealed fat the next day.

Butcher’s note: Bigger and heavier than veal shanks, beef shanks may be harder to find, but don’t be tempted to substitute veal here. As they are becoming more popular in recent years, beef shanks may be on hand, or you can special order them from the butcher or supermarket meat counter. We prefer beef foreshanks, slightly smaller than hind shanks, because they tend to be a little more flavorful and moist.—Stanley, Leon, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel

convert Ingredients
For the hand-pinched dumplings
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 extra large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus more for coating
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Hungarian beef goulash
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in beef shank meat cut by the butcher as for osso buco, then cut into 1-inch cubes to yield 1 1/2 pounds of meat with marrowbones reserved
2 yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
5 tablespoons best-quality Hungarian sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground caraway seed
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups homemade beef stock or canned low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into pieces about 1/2 inch long by 1/4 inch wide
1 batch Hand-Pinched Dumplings
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh marjoram (optional)
4 tablespoons sour cream (optional)

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Make the dumplings
1. Mound the flour in the middle of a large, clean work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs, 2 teaspoons of the oil, and the salt. Using a fork, begin to incorporate small amounts flour from the inner edge of the well into the eggs.

2. Continue to incorporate flour, whisking with the fork, until the dough begins to come together. This will become messy, but don’t worry. The dough will come together smoothly in no time. When you can no longer whisk, scrape the dough from the fork and return it to the mass.

3. Working with your hands and with the help of a bench scraper or metal spatula, start pushing larger amounts of the remaining flour over the (still eggy) dough and gently work it in. When the mass finely begins to resemble a rough dough, set it aside and clean the work surface. Scrape up the loose flour as well as any separate dried bits of flour and egg, and then sift it all through a coarse-mesh sieve back onto the work surface, discarding the dried bits. Continue to incorporate the sifted flour into the dough mass.

4. Knead the dough until it can’t absorb any more flour without turning dry. Continue to knead the dough until very smooth and still barely moist, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

5. Working in 2 batches if necessary, roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/8-inch thickness (any shape is fine). Cut into 2 or 3 easy-to-handle pieces and, working with your floured thumb and forefinger, pinch off roundish pieces of dough about 3/8-inch in diameter. They will appear irregular and look a little like thick miniature cornflakes. As you work, let each finished dumpling fall onto a lightly floured baking sheet or jelly-roll pan. Repeat to use all the dough. The uncooked dumplings can touch one another, but don’t let them overlap too much or they might stick; use additional pans to hold them as needed. The uncooked dumplings can sit uncovered for a few hours, although the drier they are, the longer they take to cook.

6. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the dumplings just until tender but still firm to the bite and no longer floury tasting, 6 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness and dryness of the dumplings. Do not overcook. Drain and rinse under running water until cool.

7. Toss the dumplings in a large bowl with a few teaspoons of oil to coat and keep them separated. Keep at room temperature for up to a few hours or store, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.

Make the Hungarian beef goulash
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. In a 6-quart flameproof casserole or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Working in batches if necessary, cook the beef until deeply browned on two sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions and garlic. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until softened but without color, about 10 minutes. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the paprika, the cayenne, and the caraway. Add the wine; bring to a simmer, and cook, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits, for 3 minutes. Add the stock, water, salt, marrow-bones, and the browned meat, along with any accumulated juices.

4. Stir well, cover, and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F (120°C) and continue cooking, stirring once or twice, until the beef is tender, about 3 1/2 hours, adjusting the oven temperature as needed to maintain a very low simmer. Remove from goulash the oven and let cool slightly. Use a slotted spoon to remove the marrowbones from the casserole; they will be empty by now. Discard the bones. Let the goulash cool completely, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

5. Skim off most or all of the orange-colored fat and save it for another use (such as frying potatoes). Place the goulash over medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the potatoes, cover, and simmer gently until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 20 minutes.

6. Stir in the bell pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon paprika. Cover and cook for 15 minutes more. At this point the goulash should be richly flavored, with a consistency somewhere between a soup and a stew. Add salt to taste, if necessary, and simmer briefly, uncovered, to concentrate the flavors. If it’s too thick, add a little stock or water.

7. To serve, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, add the dumplings, and cook briefly just to reheat. Drain and divide the dumplings among wide, shallow bowls. Ladle the goulash over the dumplings. Sprinkle with marjoram and top with sour cream (if using) and serve immediately.

Wine Note: For this dish, we tasted both Hungarian and Austrian wines and found in the goulash another beef dish that is friendly to white wine. In fact, white is often the choice in Hungarian homes and restaurants. Because so little dry Hungarian white wine is imported into the United States (most common are the famous Tokaij dessert wines, although this is changing), we only considered Austrian whites. Grüner Veltliner made in a more richly textured style (whether by virtue of vineyard, house style, or a warm vintage) is great with goulash. One favorite is Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner “Steinsetz.”

Reds are excellent, too. An “old-school” choice from Hungary is a medium-weight blended wine called Egri Bikaver, which is usually soft, pleasing, and just right for the goulash when not fancied up excessively by new oak barrels. One of our favorites is Vitavin Egri Bikaver. A more modern-styled Austrian choice (and maybe the most dynamic pairing) was the Glatzer “Riedencuvee,” an addictively gulpable blend of the sappy Zweigelt grape refined with a little St. Laurent. These two increasingly important varieties, along with the their local stablemate, Blaufrankisch, are the source of a number of high-quality, food-friendly wines in a country best known for whites. From California, a mouth-watering Zinfandel is a great choice with the paprika-laced goulash. Always good is the Sausal Winery Zinfandel from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma.