Peppers peppers peppers. The combination of so many varieties of peppers with a fall cold snap makes us long for the comfort food, even though we’re still harvesting corn and tomatoes. Stews are the epitome of comfort food in our house, whether vegetarian or containing meat, poultry or fish. Having gone to school in Vienna, I have wonderful memories of eastern European cooking, the prevalence of paprika, the spark of vinegar, the addition of certain seeds like caraway. This is my own version of goulash, probably not authentic, but featuring the fresh peppers and tomatoes of late fall and wonderful beef from local organically raised grass-fed cattle.
This is a pretty standard stew, but I have a few tricks. Paprika, with natural oils, tends to make the stew rich. I lighten it up, not with salt, which would be a normal first reaction, but with a tiny bit of cider vinegar. I also add caraway seeds, but only as a garnish since cooking them creates a bitter taste. Finally, after all of those peppers have cooked down into an unctuous sauce, I sprinkle the stew with lightly sautéed fresh peppers, providing a crunchy counterpoint. This stew tastes better the second day and freezes well.
Pepper and Beef Goulash
I lb well-marbled beef stew meat in 1-inch (or smaller) pieces
1 medium onion, cut in half horizontally and slivered vertically
1 red bell pepper, core removed, cut in half horizontally and slivered vertically
1 green bell pepper, core removed, cut in half horizontally and slivered vertically
1 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
Pinch of hot Hungarian paprika
8 fresh plum tomatoes, diced (or used canned)
1-2 tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp caraway seeds
½ red pepper, diced and sautéed
Optional: sour cream
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Trim and dry the beef, cutting it into the desired size. Brown the beef in medium hot oil and remove it to a heavy pot (I use a Le Creuset covered cast iron pot.)
Add more oil to the sauté pan if necessary and add the onions and peppers. Cook relatively slowly until wilted. Add paprika and salt, cooking over low heat to combine well. Add tomatoes and cook to break them down slightly. Transfer the pepper-tomato mixture to the pot containing the beef, stir to combine, cover and place in the oven. After 30 minutes, check to see if the stew is bubbling and if so, turn the heat down to 250 degrees and cook for another hour.
Let the stew cool, refrigerate it and remove any excess grease from the top before heating to serve.
Taste the reheated stew and adjust the seasonings, adding a little vinegar before adding salt, if salt is needed at all. Sprinkle with caraway seeds and sautéed fresh peppers.
Serve on top of noodles.
Makes 4-6 servings depending on your habits and appetite.