Tag Archives: potato

Simple goulash

goulash 2

Yesterday I gave you a beet stew. Today, it’s a beef stew!

I should start out by saying that as a child, this was not my favorite meal. It was, and remains, humble. But now, as a very busy mother, I can completely understand why this dish was in my mother’s arsenal. It’s cheap (relative to other fall-apart beef dishes like short ribs, at least), beyond easy, no fussy ingredients (bay leaves is the most exotic), and now with the help of a slow cooker (something my mother only discovered after we all left home), it’s a ‘fix it and forget it.’

A couple of months ago, I had a big piece of meat that was less than tender. The only thing I could think of doing without having to research tenderizing options was to throw it in the slow cooker, the appliance that could probably make leather into something smooth and delicious. Then I though I might as well replicate the old goulash. If anything, I knew Adam would enjoy it because it certainly falls into the hearty man food category. For Otto, I chopped it up into bits and he was all over it. And to my surprise, I found it to be quite comforting. And now it’s something we make every few weeks.

My mother’s goulash always had just peeled and diced potatoes, and thick carrot slices. I decided to fancy it up just a teensy bit. I also include quartered mushrooms, and parsnips. And because I’m picky about the texture of potatoes, I go for small Yukon Gold potatoes, which I find to be smoother and a bit more flavorful. It’s a bit odd that you don’t need anything other than salt, pepper, and a few bay leaves to season this, but what I realized was that if you make sure you have the best, freshest ingredients, that’s really all you need for this. But by all means, experiment with spices/wine/stock/etc. and make it your own. I, however, will be sticking with this one. It works for us–and I’m sure it will for the next 18 years or so. Continue reading

Varenyky / Perogies …finally.

I have been procrastinating in a major way with this post. For well over a year, to be exact, I’ve kept putting it off. This was mostly the case because two of the three times that I’ve attempted making perogies (or varenyky, but I’m just more used to calling them perogies now) in the last decade–on my own, that is, and not in the company of my baba or mother or my skilled sisters–have been a messy, sticky mess that resulted in just a couple dozen perogies. The filling and assembly were the easy parts. It was the dough that got me. It was either too sticky or too heavy, and rolling it out was such a chore. I would quit and end up throwing away a good half of the dough, and whatever filling remained was eaten on its own. And really, there was no need to make my own. I had a steady supply from my baba, and if I was out of those and had a real hankering, the East Village was very close by, and my thirty-minute perogies suited me just fine, too.

Well my avoiding perogy-making had to end. I’m a mama after all and it’s time that I master this skill! So a few weeks ago I had my friend Stephanie over to teach her how to make them. By pretending to be the expert, perhaps I would get better results, right? It sort of worked! I had my baba’s recipe and the tip my mother always gives: you want the dough to be soft–which sometimes means straying from the recipe with the amount of flour and never, ever, overworking the dough. And Stephanie, who is an all-around genius in the kitchen, ended up teaching me a valuable tip. She was also a much more patient dough roller. I think rolling dough really isn’t my thing. I’m actually contemplating using my pasta machine to roll out this dough next time.

Before I start with the recipe, I should note a couple of things. First, don’t attempt this on a weeknight. Set aside a weekend afternoon to make, oh, 12 dozen, and freeze them for a quick meatless dinner (unless you go for the bacon bits topping, of course). I share tips on freezing below. The second thing: this isn’t a one-person job. Take a cue from all of the Ukrainian ladies that have been making these in church basements for decades: it’s much more fun with a group. I just realized this now as I put this post together. The other two times I attempted perogy making I was alone and cursing a lot. But whenever I make these with my family and friends, arduous tasks are divided and conquered, and there’s drinks and chatter and it’s all fun. I’m convinced that makes for a better result. That’s when you end up with perogies made with love–something my nephew, Nikolai, says he can detect.

Allright, assuming you’re still with me and without any further ado, the recipe for basic varenyky / perogy dough, and a potato filling. As time goes on and perogy parties are had, I’ll be sharing recipes for other, more creative fillings (lobster&potato, peas&mint, etc.) in future posts. In the meantime, a few other fillings can be found here. Continue reading

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