Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A meal worth crying over

I looked in the fridge last weekend and found beer, condiments, and leftover dipping sauce that I made for an appetizer and swore I was going to the leftovers as a salad dressing (hindsight is 20/20. not good on lettuce. excellent on chicken meatballs.) As I've tried to do so many times, I decided to make a shopping list specific to some recipes that I wanted to try. So this week we've been able to try the sort-of-carbonara recipe (not because I bought those items specifically to make that...bacon was bogo and pasta was on sale...can't pass up those deals!), an Americanized version of shepherd's pie:

Chili on the bottom, cornbread on the top, done in the microwave for the eternally busy American family, yummm all the way through.

Apparently I've been a morning person this weekend or maybe just a hungry-in-the-morning person, since our Saturday began with pumpkin pancakes and bacon (again, bacon was 2 for 1. don't judge.):
And Sunday morning, I put my dinner plans into action before breakfast!

Let me start at the beginning (ie-scroll down if you don't want the boring version). In April, 2 coworkers and I were lucky enough represent our department at an international convention taking place in Vienna, Austria. We made all kinds of plans to soak it all in in the 5 days we were there, including a bike tour of the city, palaces to ogle, a train ride to Prague, and a few cocktail hours at the courtesy of those who ultimately determine our job security. So here's how it actually panned out:
A bike tour that was awesome, minus the damp, freezing weather the day we had scheduled the trip. A trip to Budapest instead of Prague, since the train fare to Prague was double what we had seen online, and the travel time and fare to Budapest was half that to Prague. A volcano in Iceland that decided to spew ash and ground all air travel in, around, and out of Europe for days. In all, it was an incredible trip, and although it was stressful not knowing when we were going to be able to get home, we came away with countless memories, many of the edible kind...if only we could recreate them.

Enter my choice out of my slow cooker cookbook....Sweet Beef Goulash with Smoked Paprika. If you're looking for a "chop a few items, toss it together and forget about it" crock pot meal, this recipe isn't for you. But if you're willing to put just a little additional work in the morning before you plan to enjoy this for dinner, it's totally worth it. As the title of the recipe states, this called for smoked paprika, but noted that if you can't find smoked, sweet paprika is fine and actually, more authentic. I wanted to re-live the goulash we had for lunch in Hungary, so I didn't even bother looking for the smoked variety. Here's the entire collection of what went into this recipe:

The legwork in the beginning involves browning the meat and roasting the onions. But before you roast the onions, you need to slice them. Now, give me credit. I warned Hubby that I was slicing onions and he may want to stay upstairs for a bit. Poor guy cries at the saute' of a shallot. But he stood strong and remained downstairs. I pride myself on my ability to cut and cook onions without shedding a tear. My first attempt at homemade French Onion Soup involved 5 pounds onions and I didn't need a tissue! Well. Either those days are over, or these onions were sent by the devil! I was slicing away, and felt a tear coming on. Before I knew it, I had to abandon my knife and cutting board and head for the other room (which technically, is the same room, only several feet away from where I was already standing). Several tissues, nose blows, and hand washings later, the onions were put into the oven to learn their lesson. Never make a girl cry. She'll roast ya for it.
Yep. 6 onions. That's what I got.

Anywho....moving on, tears won't get in the way of my reminiscing. Those onions, the browned beef, and the pan sauce I made to get the yummies on the bottom of the pan went into the crock pot, and I went to meet some people and sign them up for Pampered Chef shopping sprees.
After (I promise these are both my goulash. I don't know what's up with the changing color of the crock pot in the 2 photos.)
So when I say I wanted to go for the authentic, I wasn't kidding. I wanted my goulash with spaetzle. I don't know what they call spaetzle in Hungary, but what they served our goulash with was as close as it gets if not the same thing. I've made spaetzle before, but obviously I forgot how much elbow grease goes into actually making the dumplings. It was totally worth it though. Check out this progression:
Batter: a little thicker than pancake batter

Plain spaetzle

Butter makes everything better!

Goulash over spaetzle.
SUCCESS! Although I'm not willing to make spaetzle again until I have a spaetzle maker or a colander with large holes spread far apart (according to Hubby, it was illogical to register for 4 colanders), this meal was completely worth it. The whole time I was eating it, I was picturing the restaurant (and the ginormous beers they served in Europe) where I first enjoyed authentic Goulash.

This meal doesn't require much skill, but it does take time and planning ahead. Worth every minute!

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