From the food editor: Warm Sweet Paprika and Tomato Stew, plus three things to serve with it

This recipe is inspired by traditional German goulash.
Sweet Paprika and Tomato Stew. [MICHELLE STARK   |   Times]
Sweet Paprika and Tomato Stew. [MICHELLE STARK | Times]
Published December 11 2018
Updated December 11 2018

Last week, I shared a recipe for my German grandma’s spritz cookies, wreath-shaped Christmas cookies that practically every grandchild in my large family has memories of eating each holiday season.

This week, I’m sharing another German dish: goulash.

Goulash originated in Hungary, but it’s a popular dish in my ancestral homeland, too, and elsewhere throughout Europe. I’m sure they valued its hearty, warm qualities on cold nights.

And I do, too.

Goulash is basically beef stew, flavored predominantly with a certain spice: paprika. It is also tomato-based, and loaded with vegetables.

I called my version of this recipe Sweet Paprika and Tomato Stew because those are the flavors that jump out to me. And I didn’t want you to be turned off by the term “goulash,” which can conjure images of monotonous slop. This is actually a veggie-forward dish, and it could be adapted endlessly: chopped chicken thighs instead of beef, no meat at all (maybe chickpeas instead?) to make it vegan, celery or whatever veg you have in your fridge in addition to the ones listed below.

SWEET PAPRIKA AND TOMATO STEW

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 to 2 ½ pounds stew beef

1 small onion, chopped

2 carrots, cut into thin rounds

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

3 tablespoons paprika

½ teaspoon cayenne powder, or more to taste

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

3 cups beef broth

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, browning on all sides. It doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through; it will cook more later in the stew. Remove beef with a slotted spoon to a large pot or Dutch oven.

Return skillet to stovetop over medium heat. If there is a lot of fat from the beef, carefully discard most of it. A tablespoon or two is fine, but you don’t want much more than that. Add remaining canola oil to skillet, then add onions, carrots and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add garlic, caraway seeds, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper and mix well to coat the vegetables with the spices. Transfer mixture to the pot with the steak.

Heat pot over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring well, then pour in beef broth. Bring to a boil, stir, then let bubble for a couple of minutes.

Reduce heat to low to simmer (you still want to mixture to be bubbling slightly) and cover. Let cook for 2 to 3 hours, stirring every half-hour or so.

Stew is ready when it’s nice and thick and a deep red color. Taste it and adjust seasonings if desired.

Serves 4 to 6.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

AND TO GO WITH IT ...

The Germans typically serve it with pasta, or spaetzle, a fresh egg pasta popular in that part of Europe. This stew is solid on its own, but it would indeed make a nice saucy accompaniment to spaetzle or these other carby components.

Fresh spaetzle: This is something I learned to make at culinary school, and it’s one of the easier fresh pastas to get away with for a weeknight meal. It starts with 1 cup of flour mixed with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk 2 eggs with ¼ cup milk. Make a little well in the middle of the flour mixture, then pour in the egg mixture, gradually working the flour into the eggs. Mix well until dough is smooth, then let it rest for about 10 minutes. Get a large colander with holes in it (not a mesh strainer) or a slotted metal spoon and hold the tool over a large pot of boiling water. Grab the dough and push it through the holes of the colander or spoon into the pot. You’re creating strands of spaetzle. Boil for just 3 or 4 minutes, until the noodles float, then drain spaetzle and rinse with cold water. Toss with melted butter and cook in a large skillet for a few minutes, to brown it slightly. Serve immediately.

Knodel: German for “dumpling,” knodel uses leftover bread to create a big doughy ball perfect for dunking into hot stew. To make, tear a couple of rolls or slices of day-old bread into small pieces, then place in a bowl. Pour ⅓ cup milk over the top, then let sit. You want the bread to soften but not be soaked. Meanwhile, melt 2 teaspoons butter in a skillet, then add ¼ cup minced onion, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft. Add 1 egg, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and onion mixture to bread in bowl and mix well. Let rest for 10 minutes, or until dough is firm. Form dumplings (about 4 or 5) out of dough and cook for 15 minutes in a large pot of simmering (not boiling!) water. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and serve.

Popovers: Here is a delicate carb if you want to take things in a slightly lighter direction. Popovers get their name because the tops pop up when baked in the oven. To make, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter 6 cups in a regular-sized muffin tin. Whisk 3 large eggs in a bowl, then mix in ¾ cup whole milk and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour and ½ teaspoon kosher salt and mix until just combined. Divide the batter among the cups; they’ll fill up about halfway. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes more. At this point, check one of the popovers. They should be light and airy, not moist inside. If not done, return to oven and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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