Tiburón -Shark- Žralok

Tiburón -Shark- Žralok: Writing Cooking Traveling

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Puerto Rican Goulash

Goulash is a Hungarian meat stew popular in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, and the US. Many, many variations exist, this is mine.

I must make a confession, and with it I ask to be excused for my actions further on, even if they seem unforgivable from a purist stand point: I originally thought Goulash was Czech. Bearing this in mind, and also considering my limited, repetitive (albeit very delicious) spice cabinet, you will hopefully understand why I've taken a classic HUNGARIAN recipe and turned it into something similar, but at the core very different. In fact, what I have simmering on the stove at this very moment is closer to a ragu than it will ever be to a goulash. 

But I wasn't looking to make a classic Goulash to begin with. 

The inspiration is Czech, the ingredients Puerto Rican, but most importantly: it smells amazing.

After looking up what makes a Goulash (that is after I already set my Goulash to cook and wrote the recipe for it), I learned something about widely recognized dishes like this one: though the variations reach far and wide, the flavor palette and technique is the same. I violated one of those rules by substituting certain key flavors and adding some new ones but I followed the same technique and kept the base of the recipe the same. Necessity and convenience are the parents of Re-Invention. 

To make a simple, straight forward Goulash the combination is as follows: beef, onions, peppers, water or stock, and lots of paprika. Beyond that, caraway seeds, marjoram, and garlic are classic innovations, as is adding dry wine or beer for flavor, and as a thickening agent either potatoes or a roux made with flour and either sour cream or water. Sometimes they add tomatoes (I added diced tomatoes and tomato paste, the latter was too much). 

Since I'm still working my way through our 10 lbs of kosher lamb, I looked for a lamb goulash recipe specifically and based it on that. My variations reflect my own personal flavor palette. (If I'd had sofrito you can bet that would've made it in there.) By the end of this experiment I had a redish, thick, sweet Goulash. 

You've heard of Hungarian Goulash, you've heard of Czech Goulash, you may even have had American Goulash, I give you Puerto Rican Goulash Ragu. Ideal to make with lamb or veal or whatever cute dead baby animal you may have on hand.

Puerto Rican Goulash 


1.5 lbs. stewing lamb or veal, cubed 

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green pepper, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can diced tomatos, with juice

1 cup beer (pilsner ideally, lager otherwise, Medalla if possible)

1.5 tbls. Paprika (the sweet kind, not the spicy kind)

½ tsp. oregano or marjoram

1 tsp fresh chopped parsley

½ tsp. cumin seeds or caraway seeds

Salt and pepper

Olive or vegetable oil


If possible prepare the lamb the night before. Trim excess fat, cut into cubes, and season with salt and pepper, leave sitting overnight (lamb will have a better flavor, see Food & Wine article). It’s fine if you only have time to season it a few hours earlier (which I did).

In a crock pot or dutch over, coat bottom with oil. When hot (but not smoking), add lamb and cook until browned. Toss in onions and green peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic, let cook for about a minute then stir in paprika. Mix in cumin seeds, oregano, and parsley and stir in with diced tomatoes. Finally, add beer, season goulash with salt and pepper, stir and bring to a low boil. Leave simmering, partially covered, for an hour or until lamb is fork tender. Stir frequently! (The beer makes the sauce thicken and it can stick to the bottom of the pot.)

Let the goulash sit for 10 minutes, partially covered, before serving.

Serve with potatoes, rice, egg noodles, or bread dumplings.

**After having this for dinner, I have a few adjustments I would make. I already eliminated the tomato paste. I would stick with the classic goulash flavors of caraway and marjoram since they make it darker, more savory, and would work much better with veal or beef. BUT if you make it with the Puerto Rican flavors then I recommend adding either some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes and sofrito if possible for a more savory edge. I would also substitute the beer with stock and add beer near the end of cooking to round out the flavors and thicken the stew. But aside from that, this was really good.

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