A note from the author:"My mother is Hungarian, so you would think that I would learn how to cook goulash from her, but it didn't work that way. I was headed off to law school and I had rented my first apartment, a dump in Somerville. My father was a little worried that I didn't know how to cook. His view was that if I could cook goulash, I could cook most anything. I have found that useful advice. He wasn't especially discriminating in his recipe and I am following the spirit, if not the exact letter of his cooking lesson."
Take a lot of onions. (I have always interpreted this to mean, cover the bottom of whatever pan you are using with half an inch or more of chopped onions. More is usually better.) Saute them slowly in olive oil until soft, translucent or vaguely brown. When the onions are nearly done, add lots of chopped garlic and saute till brown. (I use a tablespoon to two, but this is highly personal. It depends on how much you like garlic.)
Add pepper,salt and paprika to suit. (This part is completely personal also. I tend to overdo the paprika, which I find is highly acceptable even to Anglo-Saxons or Cubans. Make sure you are using ordinary "sweet," not "hot" paprika. The stuff on the regular grocery shelf is always "sweet." You have to go to some specialty shelf to find the distinction. That said, a large dose of hot would be a problem.)
Saute small chunks of beef. (Could be pork or chicken too. Goulash, at least in this definition, is very flexible.) Dose the beef heavily with more paprika at this stage. (You can also try sausage and pork as a combination. Very different dish.)
If you like cooked green peppers, saute a few and add to the mix. I can't stand them. Most people then add some bits of vegetables, carrots or potatoes. I often skip this part, but it depends on what's in the frige.
Add tomato sauce. Some kind of a can will do, small can, small pot, large can, large pot and so forth.
Add old red wine. This is my personal variation. I keep dead bottles of red wine, half drunk, in a closet just for this purpose. Think of it as recycling. Very affirming on all counts.
If you haven't got enough old red wine and you want this to be soupy (most of the traditional stuff is soupy-- but I prefer stew) then add anything you've got, water, broth- with appropriate bullion cubes, white wine, whatever. A little balsamic vinegar can have quite an effect, but go easy on the balsamic.
Let simmer as long as you can stand. If you are hungry, eat the stuff, ten minutes will give you a fine, chewy goulash. If you've got an hour or more, that' s the usual idea.
Accompany with a red wine, preferably Egri Bikaver, well known as Hungarian "bulls blood."
Whilst eating, think Hungarian and say something outrageous to a lover, or a Hapsburg.
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