I’m deviating slightly from the Maine theme this week to feature a menu of delicious Hungarian dishes. Not that there aren’t Hungarians in Maine, but Connecticut, where I used to live, is home to lots of Hungarian-Americans, and I learned early on to love their food.
There are a good number of Hungarian recipes in “The New England Cookbook” (now reissued as “New England Home Cooking”), including this simple savory beef goulash; plump, light potato dumplings; and three piquant salads to balance it all out.
HUNGARIAN BEEF GOULASH
Goulash is a simple shepherd’s stew – beef simmered slowly with aromatics and enlivened by a good dose of sweet paprika, Hungary’s signature seasoning. You can use the ordinary paprika you have on your spice shelf, but I think you’ll find that investing in a can of the sweet-pungent imported variety (found in most well-stocked supermarkets) is worthwhile.
Servings: Six to eight
4 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
3 pounds beef rump or round, cut into 1½-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped
5 cups beef broth
In a large, heavy deep skillet with a lid or Dutch oven, heat the butter. Add onions, celery and garlic, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Season beef with salt and pepper. Add to the pot and cook, stirring, until meat is lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add chopped tomato and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook covered for 1½ to 2 hours or until meat is tender. Uncover and simmer over medium heat until liquid is slightly reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes.
(Can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated or frozen.)
When ready to serve, heat through and adjust seasonings. Serve on rimmed plates or in shallow soup bowls.
DYNAMITE POTATO DUMPLINGS
These dumplings – full of deeply earthy potato flavor – are the traditional accompaniment to Hungarian goulashes and stews. I have known a few guests to mow away more than their “fair” share, so you might want to consider increasing the recipe
Servings: About 18 dumplings, four servings
1½ pounds all-purpose or russet potatoes (about 4 medium-sized potatoes)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional for the water
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or more if necessary
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Cut potatoes into 2-inch pieces, and cook in a pot of boiling salted water until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well. Peel potatoes while still warm and put them through a ricer, or mash in a large bowl using a large fork or potato masher. Stir in the egg and salt, and beat in the flour by tablespoons to make a smooth, soft and only slightly sticky dough.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water. Flour your hands and roll dough into 2-inch balls. Drop dumplings into the water, reduce heat to medium, and cook at a gentle boil (in two batches if necessary) for about 8 minutes, until they rise to the surface.
Taste one for doneness, and if there is no raw flour taste, dumplings are sufficiently cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon to a buttered dish. (If not served immediately, the dumplings can be made several hours ahead, held covered at cool room temperature and reheated in a microwave.) Sprinkle the dumplings with chopped parsley before serving.
A TRIO OF HUNGARIAN SALADS
These salads – one cucumber, one tomato, one green pepper – are the absolutely perfect accompaniments to this goulash and dumpling dinner.
1 cup very thinly sliced sweet onion, such as Spanish
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 large cucumber
1 teaspoon salt
3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 large green bell pepper (or other color)
2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil
For the dressing/marinade, in a small bowl, combine onion with the sugar, paprika, vinegar, water and salt, stirring to dissolve sugar.
For cucumber salad, peel cucumber, halve lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and cut into thin crosswise slices. Toss with the salt and let stand at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Lift cucumbers out of their salty liquid and toss in a bowl with one-third of the dressing/marinade.
For tomato salad, core tomatoes, seed if desired and cut into wedges. Toss with about one-third of the dressing/marinade and the parsley. Season with salt to taste.
For pepper salad, seed pepper and cut into thin slices. Toss with about one-third of the dressing/marinade and the oil. Season with salt to taste.
Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at: facebook.com/brookedojny