Halloween may be the holiday known for candy, but it also ranks as one of my favorite holidays to invite folks over for a casual supper. Something hot and spicy ladled from a big cauldron on the stove is just too fitting, especially when accompanied by something carby, like a handheld chunk of cornbread or focaccia.
Goulash, a classic stew, richly flavored with beef and paprika, is a pillar of Hungarian cooking and integral to my family’s food culture. My grandparents on both sides served it regularly as family fare, using beef or chicken as budgets allowed. Potatoes stretch the dish and balance the meatiness while buttered egg noodles soak up the rich gravy-like sauce. Many middle European restaurants serve goulash as a side in small bowls or as a main with spaetzle and pumpernickel.
Fresh paprika, intensely flavored and deeply red, is essential. I start with a new container every fall. Fresh paprika is sweet and rich, unlike the pale orange powder in bottles on many home spice racks. Look for the red can of Hungarian sweet paprika from Pride of Szeged for reliably delicious paprika.
This fall, I’m employing a chef-style trick that my grandmothers never even considered: Browning the beef over the direct heat of a smoky grill. This is less messy than browning batches of meat in hot fat, which tends to splatter. Sure, it’s a bit of trouble to heat the grill, but you can brown the beef in advance after grilling something else and refrigerate it for up to two days. Be sure to cool the meat so you can handle it to cut it into pieces; refrigerated meat is easier to cut than warm.
For a ghoulish version, cut red bell peppers into “fingers” and stir in black-eyed peas at the end of the simmering. Place cooked orecchiette or egg noodles into serving bowls before ladling the goulash on top. Purchase thick tomato-topped focaccia or crusty ciabatta to mop up all the goodness in the ghoulish goulash bowl.
For a meatless main that is reminiscent of a bowl of goulash, make a red pepper and tomato pasta sauce spiked with dried mushrooms and beer to replace the umami flavor from the meat. Stir cooked pasta into the sauce and bake before serving with or without a melty cheesy top.
Dessert should be cool and refreshing after the sweet heartiness of paprika. Using leftover Halloween candy, stir chopped candy bars into softened vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Or you can try scoops of lemon sorbet sprinkled with crumbled butter cookies, sweet paprika and coarse salt.
Smoky Beef Goulash With Black-Eyed Peas and Red Peppers
Prep 30 minutes
Cook 3 hours
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Note: You can omit the browning of the meat on the grill and instead brown the meat on a broiler pan six inches from the heat source. Alternatively, heat some bacon fat or oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven and brown the meat cubes in batches in the hot fat.
If you wish, you can use a slow cooker at step 5, but reduce the broth used to 1 ½ cups. Set the cooker on low for 6-8 hours.
- 3 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck roast
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 red bell peppers (12 ounces), cored
- 4 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
- 2 medium (12 ounces total) sweet onions, halved, sliced
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet or hot smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne, optional
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
- ½ cup pilsner-style beer
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 8 ounces frozen OR two drained 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- Cooked orecchiette or egg noodles, for serving
Step 1: If desired, cut roast in half or thirds for easier handling. Mix 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small dish. Sprinkle beef pieces on all sides with salt mixture and place in a covered baking dish or bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour or up to 1 day.
Step 2: Prepare a charcoal grill until coals are covered with gray ash or heat a gas grill to medium-hot, about 400 degrees. Place beef on grill. Cover and cook until deeply browned, about 10 minutes. Flip meat to brown the other side, 5-10 more minutes. Let cool on a cutting board until you can handle it. Cut into 1 ½ inch pieces. (For alternative cooking methods, see note.)
Step 3: Cut 2 cored red bell peppers into ¼-inch wide strips about 2 inches long. Heat a heavy 6-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Add 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat or oil and onions. Cook, stirring, until onions are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add red pepper pieces and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl.
Step 4: Add another 1 tablespoon of fat to the Dutch oven. Add beef cubes and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes.
Step 5: Sprinkle ¼ cup sweet Hungarian paprika and 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet or hot smoked paprika and ¼ teaspoon cayenne over beef. Add onion mixture, 2 1/2 cups broth, ½ cup beer, 2 tablespoons tomato paste and 1 teaspoon salt. Heat to a simmer. Reduce heat to very low. Cover pan tightly and simmer over very low heat until beef is fork-tender, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Refrigerate covered up to 3 days.
Step 6: Reheat mixture if necessary. Add 8 ounces frozen or two drained 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas. Simmer uncovered, stirring often to reduce pan juices slightly, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Step 7: Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with noodles.
Paprika and Red Pepper Pasta Casserole
Prep 25 minutes
Cook 1 ¼ hours
Makes 8 servings
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium (8 ounces) onion, chopped
- 1 small bulb fresh fennel (8 ounces), thinly sliced, then chopped
- 2 red bell peppers (total 12 ounces), cored, seeded, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ cup (1 ounce) sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons sweet or hot smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 can (14-15 ounces): crushed tomatoes
- 1 can (14-15 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- ½ cup pilsner style beer
- ¼ ounce dried mushrooms, such as sliced porcini, about ¼ cup loosely packed
- 2 cups water
- 1 box (16 ounces) rigatoni pasta
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella
Step 1: Heat a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add 3 tablespoons oil, 1 medium chopped onion and 1 small bulb of sliced fennel. Saute until onion is tender, about 10 minutes.
Step 2: Stir in 2 chopped bell peppers and saute 5 minutes. Stir in 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Step 3: Stir in ¼ cup sweet Hungarian paprika and 1 ½ teaspoons sweet or hot smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, then tomatoes with their juices, ½ cup beer, ¼ ounce dried mushrooms, 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer uncovered, stirring often, 20-30 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Use warm.
Step 4: Heat oven to 350F. Oil a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Heat a large kettle of salted water to a boil. Cook 16 ounces rigatoni until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain pasta.
Step 5: Put warm pasta into the prepared dish. Top with the warm sauce and half of the 2 tablespoons parsley. Stir to distribute sauce evenly. Bake until piping hot, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix ½ cup breadcrumbs and 2 more tablespoons parsley. Sprinkle crumb mixture and 2 cups cheese over the pasta and bake until golden, about 10 minutes.