Monday, December 26, 2011

Venison Goulash with Spaetzle (A Christmas Story)

Okay, so it's not that we haven't been, not that at all ! It's just with all the holiday craziness going on there's been no time to update the poor blog. Rest assured, we've been cooking and eating just fine - and now you're going to have to hear all about it.  First up : goulash.

We've been having all sorts of culinary fun with Alex's venison, and goulash seemed like a natural step to go in - but real Hungarian goulash, not the weird American stuff with hamburger and elbow macaroni that is eerily reminiscent of one of my true kitchen nightmares - American Chop Suey (shudder). No, I wanted a real goulash - a thick meaty stew, rich with onions and peppers...and real paprika.

I've been a lover of real Hungarian paprika since I was a teen, mostly courtesy of having a real Hungarian boyfriend :). It was at his house that I found out that paprika was an actual, real, delicious spice and not just something to garnish deviled eggs with. (And I still have a serious craving for paprika paste - minced paprika peppers the consistency of tomato paste, and possibly the best thing to put on toast with cream cheese ever.) Hungarian paprika is generally stronger and richer than Spanish or American varieties...those Hungarians really know their paprika stuff, which is amazing when you consider that peppers are native to the Americas and didn't even make it to Europe until after Columbus.

In any event, when my mother went to Hungary a while ago and asked what I wanted the answer was paprika, of course - that damn paste, and the powdered form.

I love my mother :)
The best way to bring out the flavor of paprika is to heat it in oil, which was one of the early steps in this goulash. Floured cubes of meat were browned in the bottom of the pot, then removed...oil was added to the pan, and then the onions and the lovely, lovely paprika.

Alex prepping the meat
gorgeous !
onions and lovely, lovely paprika
Goulash accomplished !

With our goulash, we decided we wanted spaetzle. Spaetzle (the word means "little sparrow" in German) are small, roughly shaped sort of egg noodles...almost like small gnocchi, and pretty much the same thing as the Hungarian Csipetke, which are traditional with goulash (when made without potatoes, at least). Of course, neither of us had ever actually made spaetzle before - and we didn't have a spaetzle maker - but really, why should that stop us ? All the recipes we consulted said that one could push the dough through a colander or slotted spoon instead, and of course we had plenty of we confidently mixed up dough and started water boiling. And oh, my stars and garters...what an absolute mess. The dough absolutely refused to be pushed through anything - it just sat there all sticky and sullen. Not to be outdone by a mere mess of dough, I just added more flour and we commenced with the hand rolling...took forever, but we got there. And in a repeat of our first Christmas together when we unknowingly got each other the exact same gift (Irish knit sweaters), this year we got each other...spaetzle makers. And now you know why this is also a Christmas story. Merry Christmas, honey :)

rolled and ready to go

finished product
I see a lot of spaetzle in my future...

Hungarian Venison Goulash with Spaetzle

Yes, you can make this with beef...but if you can get your hands on some venison, by all means try it. You won't be sorry !


4 lbs venison or beef, cut into cubes
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
4 cups onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup (yes, a quarter cup) good Hungarian paprika
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 tsp caraway seeds, ground or finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
3 oz tomato paste (half a small can)
2 cups red peppers, finely chopped

Heat 1 tablespoon of the of the oil in a large heavy soup pot. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a large bag and toss the meat cubes in the mixture. Brown the cubes in batches and remove to a bowl , adding another tablespoon of oil to the pot as needed.

Once the meat is browned, add the remaining oil to the pot and heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until onions are starting to get a bit soft. Add the paprika, thyme and caraway and cook another 10 minutes or so, until the onions are translucent. Add the wine, beef stock and reserved meat, and stir well. Let simmer on low heat for about an hour. Add the peppers and the tomato paste and simmer another 45 minutes or so, until everything is done to your liking. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over egg noodles or spaetzle


This is basically the Frugal Gourmet's recipe, with a lot more flour added and hand rolled instead of pressed. Once we learn how to use the spaetzle makers, expect an update :)

2 eggs
2 Tbsp freshly rendered lard or oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 quarts water

Using an electric mixer, blend the eggs, lard or oil, water and milk. Stir the flour together with 1/2 tsp of the salt and the baking powder in a dry bowl. Blend this mixture into the liquid. Mix well and let rest about 15 minutes . 

Pinch off pieces of the dough, and roll into cylinders about the size of a pencil. Cut the "pencils" into thirds, and lay out on a large board or platter to dry a bit.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tsp of salt. Add about 1/4  of your spaetzle - do not crowd the pan. The dumplings will float to the surface...let them cook about 4 - 5 minutes, or until done (taste testing is the best way to know - when then stop tasting like raw dough, they are done.) Rinse with cold water, and toss with oil to prevent sticking.

1 comment:

  1. Weird serendipity that we both made "authentic" Hungarian goulash - with venison and homemade dumplings - at just about the same time. I thought about adding wine, but held off.