Perfectly Paprika

It’s really hard to plan a menu for a week when the temps have been fluctuating like ours have been. We’ll have a few days of bundle-me-up cold mixed with a few days of walk-in-the-park warm. I do my best however and we usually enjoy every meal regardless. (And on the rare occasion there’s a dud, I always keep pasta and sauce as backup in the pantry.)

I’ve always really liked a more traditional “Pörkölt”, so when I saw a recipe in Saveur magazine, I had to make this Eastern European stew known to many (except Hungarians) as “goulash.” No noodles, potatoes, or even rice accompanied this warm and rustic stew; but it’s complex flavor far outstripped any need for anything “extra” as a base. I’m not sure where this hamburger-tomato-macaroni-noodle mess came from here in America, but it’s time to send it back and turn our attention to more authentic, far more satisfying fare. Yes, shade thrown. I’m all for good old-fashioned American comfort food, but many in my circle well know my disdain for American goulash.

On one such in-between evening this week, I threw some Hungarian Braised Beef with Paprika (Pörkölt) on the stove in the hopes it wouldn’t be too heavy for the mild temps. I generally plan my weeknight meals in advance and shop weekly so when the weather is iffy, I just have to roll with it. Even though we didn’t eat this on the coldest of late-winter-early-spring evenings, it was so good that it barely engendered any leftovers!

As for my usual modifications, I was having trouble getting ahold of Hungarian wax peppers at my local market, so I swapped them out with Melissa’s Yellow Chile Peppers. The heat factor wasn’t much different and the dish still came out aromatic and delicious. Banana peppers would also work if you can’t find either of the aforementioned. This braise calls for red wine which adds a different dimension of flavor, but also a slight acidity to the end result. If you’d prefer not to use even cooking wine, you can simply swap it out with beef broth/stock (we like Better Than Bouillon) and stir in a splash of apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s is really good) to the pot before dishing it out.

If you aren’t crazy about paprika, you could easily use chili powder. Your results will have a different flavor profile than mine, but your dish will be delicious nonetheless. Finally, can we just talk about how good oxtail is and is for you? Please don’t skip this ingredient! If you think it’s hard to find, guess again! I found mine at Walmart! Oxtail is incredibly gelatin-rich and releases all of it’s goodness into your braise as it cooks! C’mon! Bone broth is a thing now! It was so easy to work with, tasted wonderful, is great for your skin & joints, and rich in iron as well. Trust me, don’t substitute this ingredient. You won’t be sorry!

A final generous dollop of Daisy made this meal complete and we completely enjoyed it. What are some of the different ways you would make this meal your own?

Currently Reading: The Flipside of Feminism by Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly


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