Monday, October 8, 2012

a recipe to share

Have you ever had an experience that totally turned you upside down, that reminded you what's important? Of course you have; everyone has. (So I hope.) I visited my friend Cara in Austin last week for my fall break, and it helped me remember what matters, what brings meaning to our lives: human connection. That may sound trite or overly sentimental, but I don't mind so much. It's still true.

After 72 waking hours in Austin (but who's counting?), on Saturday I came home to Nashville, back to the realities of school, work, and a routine. It felt a bit like a crash back into normal life, but at least I can hold on to a few things: memories, a lesson or two, new sources of hope. It also helped that I came home to friends, and even better, shared three dinners in a row with them.

I wish I could share everything about my trip with you all (or most of it, anyway). For now, though, I can only offer a great recipe to enjoy with others. This recipe for Hungarian goulash, a beef stew, is a childhood favorite of mine. No, I'm not Hungarian, but when I was growing up my mom made it all the time. It's easy, humble, comforting, and delicious. This recipe makes way more than one person could eat alone, so share it with people you love.

hungarian goulash
adapted from williams-sonoma essentials of slow cooking
serves 4-6

1 tbsp vegetable oil
it photographs humbly as well.
1 1/2 - 2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 quart reduced-sodium beef broth
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 medium red potatoes, diced
3 medium carrots, chopped
Sour cream (optional)

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil.  Meanwhile, season the beef with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pan and brown on all sides, 5-7 minutes (you may have to work in batches to ensure that the beef browns rather than steams). Remove the beef from the pan and place in a large slow cooker.

Add the onions to the pan and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the paprika, caraway seeds, oregano, tomato paste, and broth, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour into the slow cooker over the beef. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice and stir to combine.

Cover and cook until the beef is tender, about 6 hours on the low-heat setting. Uncover and stir in the bell pepper, potatoes, and carrots, and re-cover. Turn the slow cooker to high and cook until the potatoes are tender, 2 1/2 - 3 hours longer.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with sour cream, if desired. Crusty bread is a nice addition as well.

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