Batch Game

So, I think (I hope) that this morning I had my last foray out of the house for a while.

Yesterday The Kid and I went around to a couple of stores to round out our pantry and get a couple things to help us while away the time during our social distancing and self-imposed isolation.

I really wanted to get a couple packs of ground beef for two dishes that we all love and gives us leftovers—a hamburger/rice patty and a pot of American goulash, a noodle dish full of mushrooms and pasta also known as American chop suey and slumgullion (?).

Yesterday we went to Lowes Foods.  As you might expect, the meat aisle was pretty bare.  They had ground bison, wild boar, veal, and lamb.  They also had wagyu beef, at ten bucks a pound; no thanks.  But, there was no 80/20 hamburger meat.

Wagyu cow at photo op.

So this morning I ran to my local Carlie C’s where they butcher their own meat.  I thought my chances might be better to find what I needed.

I was right.

My mom made goulash when I was a kid, and I always loved it with a dollop of sour cream.

As I learned to cook, I refined the recipe with herbs, mushrooms, and lastly, roasted garlic. 

So, I think I’m done going out until we need to restock supplies.  Petey and The Kid don’t think I can stay home.  I really, really want to prove them wrong.  There’s nothing left that we need.

Although a couple pints of ice cream would be great…

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Roasted Garlic American Goulash

1 lb. 80/20 hamburger

12 ounces mushrooms

1 onion

2 heads garlic

1/2 teaspoon bacon fat or vegetable oil

2-14 ounce can tomatoes

1 1/2 cups beef stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup sherry

1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons dry thyme + 1/2 teaspoon

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary finely chopped + 2 sprigs

2 teaspoons kosher salt + pinch

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper + pinch

1 pound cavatappi pasta, uncooked

Roast garlic:

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut heads of garlic on half horizontally.  Lay in piece of foil about 9 inches square. Place on top, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, rosemary sprigs, pinch of salt and pepper.  Wrap, and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool a bit.  Extract all the garlic meat and set aside.

Put hamburger into large heavy pot with a cover.  When it’s just about cooked through, add onions, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and remmaining herbs.  Cook until the veg have released and then cooked out all their liquid.

Add garlic and stir to combine.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add tomato paste and mix in.  Cook until the paste has darkened, and started to stick to the bottom of the pot.  Add sherry, stir to pull up all the stuff on the bottom of th pot.  Cook until the sherry cooks in.

Pour in tomatoes and juice.  Add beef stock.  Stir in pasta. 

At this point you can bring to a boil and either take off heat to sit covered for 60 minutes, to eat later or finish now.

If you’ve let it sit, 15 minutes before service, put it on a medium burner, gently stirring frequently, so that all the pasta cooks to opaque.

To finish right away, cook covered on medium for 10 minutes, then uncover and cook for 10-15 minutes more when the pasta is fully cooked, and the sauce has thickened and is coating the pasta.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or Mexican crema.  Serves 8.

…And This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Chain Bridge

This is an actual photo of Budapest, not an artist’s idealized rendering.  It looks like it’s made of daydreams and spun sugar.

The Kid is on vacation this week—in Budapest.

In a phone call home, we discussed goulash.

Our version of goulash.

In our family, goulash is a stew-like dish made with hamburger, roasted garlic, mushrooms, tomato, and pasta of some sort.  It’s filling, tasty, reheats like a dream, and with a dollop of sour cream is practically perfect comfort food.  In other areas of the US, various iterations of this dish are known as American chop suey, beefaroni, and curiously, Johnny Marzetti.

A plate of the real thing, from a restaurant in Budapest.

The Kid informed me that our goulash has nothing in common with true Hungarian goulash (which I knew) and it’s the national dish, served mainly on special occasions (which I didn’t know).

But the US/Hungarian dinner dichotomy got me to thinking.

What is wrong with us as a nation that we take a perfectly good ethnic dish and pervert it into something the citizens of the dish’s birth country wouldn’t recognize it if a pan of it was dumped over their heads?And goulash is the tippiest tip top of the culinary iceberg.  If a national dish can be changed so profoundly that the only thing left in common with the original is the moniker, we, the people have probably done it.

Take, for example, spaghetti and meatballs.  It is true that Italians eat both spaghetti and meatballs, but never together, and certainly not like we do.  Meatballs are neither the size of cantaloupes, nor served on pasta.  And they sure as heck never break spaghetti in half before it goes into the pot.  Serving or consuming cheese from a green can in Italy will get you serious prison time, where they never, ever serve spaghetti and meatballs.

Authentic street tacos of carnitas, white onion, and cilantro.  Like a dog, I could eat these until they kill me.  But what a way to go.

Mexican food in general, and tacos in particular.  Nowhere in Mexico does anyone serve shredded lettuce and cheddar cheese on a traditional taco.  Or ground beef.  Or seasoning from a glossy envelop manufactured in a Scottish company in Maryland.  Taco shells are not even a thing.  And those u-shaped, bland, crispy shells from a cardboard box would just make a Mexican abuela (grandmother) cry and pray for our very souls.

Why ya gotta make Gramma cry?

In elementary school they made something they called chicken chow mein.  It was a glue-y, stew-y dish of chicken and celery served over rice.  A handful of noodle-shaped cracker things were thrown over the top for crunch. I, and many of my classmates loved it.  We were little kids though, so what did we know from international cuisine?

Chicken chow mein ala Central Elementary school.

But the only thing that lunch tray ambrosia truly had in common with the authentic Chinese dish was the chicken.

This is the real thing.  Check out the crispy noodles.

It’s not even a rice dish.  Traditional chow mein is made with egg noodles.  They are fried so they’re crispy and crunchy in spots.  This, I imagine are where those canned crunchy noodle things came in.

This product alone made him a hero to generations of schoolchildren and stoners everywhere.

The one man that arguably put more chow mein in more American bellies than any other single person is Jeno Paulucci, a second-generation Italian who founded the canned Chinese food company, Chun King, in the 1940s.  He seasoned the food with Italian flavors, in an effort to make the taste more familiar to the European palate.This mania to morph traditional recipes has almost become a national joke, a kind of twisted point of pride.  At a bicentennial dinner attended by Paulucci, President Gerald Ford summed it up by asking, “What could be more American than a business built on a good Italian recipe for chop suey?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, President Ford.

Many of these Americanized, sanitized dishes are favorites from our childhood.  So, eat them to your heart’s content.  But would it kill you to at least sample the authentic food that inspired them?

C’mon, you know you wanna…

Thanks for your time.

 

Dinner as the reward of virtue

First, let me admit that I am most definitely no goody-two-shoes, uber-organized, Martha Stewart-wannabe.

I once overheard a woman say that she tries to retrieve her laundry from the dryer before the clothes go cold.  I try to retrieve my laundry from the dryer before the clothes go out of style.

There is, however, one exception.

Growing up, my father was in the Coast Guard.  Their motto is Semper Paratus – Always Ready.   My mother’s personal motto is Clean as you go along.  The result of being raised with these two philosophies is that when cooking, I am a cleaning, prepping machine.

There are few things I love more than getting into the kitchen and knocking out every step of a meal up to the final cooking.

Which is exactly what I was doing the other day when I was putting together a pot of goulash.

I grew up eating goulash.  It consists of hamburger, pasta, tomatoes, and loads of garlic.  It’s also known as American chop suey or beefy mac.

This time I did all the prep, and after adding the pasta, covered it, and took it off the heat.  An hour later I discovered that the residual heat had almost cooked the pasta.  But they were still opaque, and tasted a little doughy.  So later, when we were ready to eat, I cooked it briefly, stirring frequently, until the cavatappi was translucent and tasted cooked.

If you want to cook it right away, instead of taking it off the heat cook it on medium covered for 10 minutes, and uncovered for 10 more, or until the noodles are cooked and the sauce is thickened and clinging to the pasta.

Now-R-Later Goulash

goulash

1 lb. 80/20 hamburger

12 ounces mushrooms

1 onion

2 heads garlic

½ teaspoon bacon fat or vegetable oil

2-14 ounce can tomatoes

1 ½ cups beef stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ cup sherry

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

1 ½ teaspoons dry thyme + ½ teaspoon

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary finely chopped + 2 sprigs

2 teaspoons kosher salt + pinch

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper + pinch

1 pound cavatappi pasta

Roast garlic:

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut heads of garlic in half horizontally.  Lay in piece of foil about 9 inches square. Place ½ teaspoon thyme, rosemary sprigs, pinch of salt, pepper, and oil.  Wrap, and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Extract garlic cloves from skins and set aside.

Put hamburger into large heavy pot with a cover.  When it’s just about cooked through, add onions, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and remaining herbs.  Cook until the veg have released and cooked out all their liquid.

Add garlic and stir.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomato paste and mix in.  Cook until the paste has darkened, and started to stick to the bottom of the pot.  Add sherry, stir to pull up all the stuff on the bottom of the pot.  Cook until the sherry’s cook in.

Pour in tomatoes and juice.  Add beef stock.  Stir in pasta. 

Cover, take off the heat and let sit covered for 60 minutes.

10 minutes before service, put it on a medium burner, gently stirring frequently, so that all the pasta cooks to opaque.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream of Mexican crema.  Serves 8.

So, practicing the virtues taught to me by my parents, I was rewarded with a dinner that virtually cooked itself.

It’s like we dined on instant karma.

Thanks for your time.