Thursday, January 03, 2013

An homage to my roots: Hungarian Inspired Beef Stew

I am part Hungarian (only 1/4), but when people ask me my background, that's what I usually say. It explains my weird last name (it's been fun to be unique, but I'll ditch it when I get married someday), and growing up, my parents made a few Hungarian dishes that I always loved. One in particular my parents called "Jennie's Famous Stew" because I constantly asked them to make it and licked my bowl clean each time. My parents had a few dishes like that, that they would name for my brother and I, maybe as a trick to get us involved in the preparation and cooking. I remember my famous stew, and I also had "Jennie's Famous Meat", which was a homemade London Broil. My brother on the other hand had "Chris's Famous Noodles" - some kind of Sidekick brand noodles out of a bag. I think it's obvious who turned out to be the culinary star in the family.

We made my famous stew countless times throughout my childhood, but I'm not sure that we ever had a recipe written down. I don't have a recipe for it at my home now that I no longer live with my parents, but the idea is in my memory, so I can usually recreate something similar. For my post today I'm giving you the quick and dirty version. I made this for dinner last night, and I didn't start until 4:30. Usually a stew is slow-cooked for several hours, but you can still achieve amazing depth of flavour and the right texture in the meat and vegetables with about an hour and half, which is what I did last night. Again, I'm an eyeball chef, but I guestimated the amounts for each component of the stew.

Hungarian Inspired Beef Stew

1 tbsp bacon fat
1 tsp butter
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ onion, diced
2 cups stewing beef, cubed
salt, pepper, paprika – enough to season beef so it browns well
2 cup potatoes, cut in small chunks
1 cup carrots, cut in small chunks
1 cup red wine
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp paprika paste
¼ cup strained tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp flour

Melt the bacon fat and butter in a large pan/dutch oven. While melting, season the beef cubes with the salt, pepper, and paprika on all sides. Sauté the garlic and onions for about a minute to soften. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Add the potatoes and carrots to the pan. Season with more salt, pepper, and paprika. Sauté for 5 minutes to brown the potatoes and carrots.
Pour in the wine and balsamic vinegar, and let the mixture come to a boil. Stir in the mustard, paprika paste, strained tomatoes, and sugar. With the flour in a small dish, add 1-2 tbsp of the sauce and stir to create a roux (like a thick paste). Add the roux to the sauce, stir to combine, and let come to a boil once more. Turn down the heat to low and simmer with a lid on for 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Serve with bread for dipping.

This version makes two large or three small servings. You can always adjust the ratios of meat to vegetables depending on your personal tastes. The sauce is rich and dark in colour. You can also adjust the flavour with the amount of paprika paste you add. More gives a smokier, and almost spicier edge to the stew.

This is my container of paprika paste. I realize it's a unique ingredient, so I thought I'd post a picture. I get this at the Hamilton Farmer's Market at one of the ethnic food stalls. It's also available in large grocery stores that have an ethnic section or in specialty shops.

And that's my glorious bowl of hearty beef stew! It's such a wonderful winter meal, especially when it's cold and snowy outside and you just need to nestle in with something warm and satisfying. Comfort food at its best.

My beats choice is also a song I find comforting with its refrain reassuring me that "though the truth may vary, this ship will carry our bodies safe to shore" - Little Talks by of Monsters and Men.

No comments:

Post a Comment