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"The hoopla is over -- Time for comfort foodWell, thats over, and what a tempest in a teapot it turned out to be. If ever there was proof that media hype can make or break even the smallest event, December 31, 1999, was it. After all the great expectations, fears, trepidation and predictions, it turned out to be, after all, just another New Years Eve, followed by New Years Day. From what Ive read, everyone stayed home to avoid crowds, panic and loonies. To paraphrase funnyman Groucho Marx, No one went there because it was too crowded.No bites from the Y2K bug, no comets flashing across the skies, no aliens landing in Times Square (well, there were some strange beings there, but presumably not aliens), no apocalypse, no worldwide computer crashes, electricity stayed on and cash machines worked. And here we are, firmly launched into the year 2000 with our stashes of water, food and toilet paper untouched and our new millennium resolutions already beginning to crumble.Dont get me wrong; Im not upset that none of the scary stuff that was predicted actually happened, but lets face it, this had to be the biggest anti-climax event of the entire millennium, except for one major death that occurred sometime during that night. Im referring, of course, to the death of public confidence in media reporting. Actually, I think it was suicide, slow death by suffocation, the Y2K kiss-of-death, if you will. I know that I, for one, lost the little bit of faith I had left and will find it extremely difficult to take seriously most of what I read or hear from the talking heads of TV or the editorialists and prognosticators of the big headline newspapers, and for sure never again the marketing/supersellers who try to tell us how, when, where and why we should buy a life now, quickly, before you miss out on the opportunity.Of course, we still have to face the true millennium rollover next December 31, so I suppose those who were disappointed in the non-events this year could already be plotting for something more than mere fireworks on December 31, 2000. I absolutely refuse, however, to purchase anything that has the word Millennium on it, or Y2K+1 or Year 2001. No champagne glasses, T-shirts, paper plates or napkins; no commemorative plates, mugs or silly hats; no jockey shorts or underpants with Year 2001 printed across the derriere and no cute stuffed animals with little shirts and hats bearing the date. Enough already! May all the millennium schlock suddenly turn to dust and never, ever turn up on the Antiques Roadshow.Now, finally, perhaps we can just get on with it.RECIPESSo here we are, already in the midst of the January blahs, with all the millennium excitement a thing of the past and grey skies and lousy weather predicted for the foreseeable future. This means, of course, that its soup time, time for comfort foods and dishes that make us feel safe, secure and homey. A short time before Christmas, Clarice Powers of Clinton (hope I spelled your name correctly, Clarice) called with a request for a recipe for Goulash Soup, and in all the holiday hubbub, I havent yet answered her request. Im doing it now, because this fits all the requirements for a perfect winter meal. It is a regular feature on Austrian menus, from the local corner cafe to the elegant Viennese hotels, and there are actually several different versions. This one is most typical and is excellent if youre having company; Im also giving you a version that was very popular when crockpots first came out; if you still have yours, this is a great way to throw dinner on in the morning and have it ready when you come from work. Hope these arent too late for your needs, Clarice.Hungarian Goulash Soup3 lbs. boneless beef (chuck, round, sirloin) trimmed and cut into small cubes3-4 slices bacon, chopped2 T. vegetable oil3-4 onions (or about 1-1/2 lbs.), finely chopped4 cloves garlic, minced (more if you really like garlic; I use 6)4 T. paprika (preferably Hungarian sweet paprika)1 1/2 t. caraway seeds1/3 cup flour1/4 cup dry red wine (inexpensive Burgundy works well)1/4 cup tomato paste1/4 cup red wine vinegar6 cups beef broth3 cups waterSalt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste2 red bell peppers, finely chopped4 large (or about 2 lbs.) potatoes (russets or other baking potatoes)1. In a large heavy pan or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring, until crisp; transfer with slotted spoon to a large bowl. In the bacon fat, brown the beef in small amounts over high heat, transferring as browned to a bowl.2. Reduce heat to medium and add oil; add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden. Stir in paprika, caraway seeds and flour and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Whisk in red wine, vinegar and tomato paste and cook, whisking 1 minute or until mixture is very thick. Stir in broth, water, salt, pepper, bell pepper, cooked bacon and meat and bring to a boil, stirring. Cover and simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until meat is almost tender.3. Peel potatoes and cut into small cubes. Add to soup and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, about 1/2 hour or until potatoes are just done. Adjust seasonings if necessary and serve in warmed bowls with either rice or noodles and a green salad. Serves 12.Note: Eliminate the bacon if you wish and use olive oil to brown the beef. This goulash can be made ahead as much as 3 days ahead (allow to cool, uncovered, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use); reheat, thinning with water or red wine if desired.Crockpot Goulash1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork, cut into small cubes (about 1-inch)1 lb. small new red potatoes, cut in half2 onions, thinly sliced1/4 dry red wine (or 1/4 cup beef broth or water)3 T. ketchup2 T. sweet Hungarian paprika2 cloves garlic, mincedFreshly ground black pepper, to taste2-3 cups shredded red cabbage2 T. flour1/2 cup sour cream1/2 t. caraway seedChopped parsley, for garnish1. Place pork cubes, potatoes, onion, wine (or broth, water) ketchup, paprika, garlic, pepper and cabbage in a 3-4 qt. crockpot. Cover and cook on low heat setting 7-8 hours, or until pork and potatoes are tender.2. Whisk flour into sour cream; add caraway seed and stir into the pork mixture, blending thoroughly. Serve hot, in warmed bowls, garnished with a small dollop of sour cream and chopped parsley on top. Serves 6."