Thursday, February 10, 2005

Close Your Eyes and Take a Bite!

This is for Jennifer's Fond Food Memories .

One of the church elders' inlaws had come to town and I wanted to have them all over for dinner, as I also knew them. This particular elder had raved about my cooking from the pulpit and I was out to impress. My favorite food at the time was Hungarian Goulash served on a bed of sauerkraut and potatoes--I could eat it seven days a week and cold for breakfast. My teenage children liked it too, but they are not good judges, because unlike most children today, my kids would eat all kinds of vegetables and were always willing to try my new cooking experiments. They usually found that when I told them to "close your eyes and take a bite" they were in for a taste treat that most mothers didn't even dare to proffer.

My recipe for goulash takes about 6 hours to prepare, and may indeed look a little strange if ethnic food is not one's choice, but I was pleased with the taste and aroma and proudly bore the tureens to the table. When the elder removed the lids from the goulash and the kraut and took a deep breath and said, "Carolyn, I thought you always cooked something good when you had company," I was crushed. I told him, "Fred, you know I would never serve a guest something that was not scrumptious--close your eyes and take a bite--I promise you won't be disappointed." He steeled himself to take a tiny bite of each onto his plate and then into his mouth--and he did close his eyes! And he wasn't disappointed, he even told his teenage kids that they had to eat some. But I learned a valuable lesson--when you're out to impress--it has to look as good as it tastes!

Hungarian Goulash with Sauerkraut from McCall's Cooking School Magazine

For the Goulash:
3 lb boneless beef chuck cut into 1 1/2" cubes
1 lb onions sliced
1/4 cup salad oil
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 can (10 1/2 oz) condensed beef broth, undiluted

For the Sauerkraut:
2 cans (14-oz size) or 1 quart bag sauerkraut
1 large potato
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Boiling water

For the Finish:
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup sour cream

In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat and sauté beef cubes until brown on all sides. Remove to a Dutch oven as it browns. It will take 30 minutes or so. Add sliced onions to drippings, cooking and stirring until golden, about 10 minutes. Spoon over beef. Add paprika, salt and pepper. Stir 3/4 cup beef broth into skillet to deglaze pan and bring to boiling. Scrape all into Dutch oven over meat and onions. Place into 300ºF oven and cook, covered about 4-5 hours. When it is done, it will look brown and soft, and the onions will be melted away. Just before beef is done, prepare sauerkraut.

Drain sauerkraut well. Pare potato or not, and grate enough to measure 3/4 cup. In hot butter in a large skillet, sauté chopped onion until golden. Add sauerkraut, potato, caraway seed, brown sugar and 2 cups boiling water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

To finish, stir remaining beef broth into flour until smooth and then stir into beef goulash, stirring constantly. Simmer on the stove, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Just before serving, slowly stir 1/2 cup hot gravy into sour cream in a small bowl. Mix and add slowly back to beef mixture. Stir well to blend, reheat, but do not boil. Serve goulash over sauerkraut. Makes 8 servings.

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