Beef Cheek Goulash
In a meal in which every course was superb, this dish in particular elicited “oohs” and “ahhs” when Lohninger cooked at the Beard House for our Summer Brewer’s Banquet. Goulash wasn’t on the programmed menu, but neither were a number of other courses that he served that evening, what Beard program director Izabela Wojcik called “mystery” additions. “He was so excited to be cooking,” she said, “that he just kept cooking.” The recipe is reprinted from East of Paris: The New Cuisines of Austria and the Danube (Ecco, 2003), by David Bouley, Lohninger, and Melissa Clark. If you can’t find beef cheeks, we suggest you substitute short ribs, although we should tell you that Bouley writes that after much experimentation with different cuts, he determined beef cheeks were best.
- 1/3 cup rendered duck fat or canola oil
- 5 large onions (2 pounds), sliced
- 5 red bell peppers, trimmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 teaspoons toasted caraway seeds, freshly ground
- 1/8 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh marjoram, plus additional for garnish
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 1/2 pounds beef cheeks, trimmed and halved, or boned short ribs, trimmed and cubed
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons cornichon juice
Melt the duck fat in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat, and add the onions. Cook them very slowly and evenly, stirring occasionally, until they are very dark brown, about 2 hours. Meanwhile, place the bell peppers in a steamer set over boiling water and steam until very soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a food mill or blender, and purée (straining after, if you use the blender). You should have 3/4 cup red pepper purée.
Add the tomato paste to the onions and cook until it darkens, about 5 minutes. Add the sweet and hot paprikas, and mix well. Add 7 cups water, the red pepper purée, vinegar, dried marjoram, garlic, ground caraway seeds, and lemon zest. Add half of the fresh marjoram, thyme, and rosemary.
Season the beef cheeks (or the short ribs) with salt and pepper, and add them to the pot. Bring the liquid to a bare simmer and keep it there, stirring only three or four times, for 3 hours. Add the rest of the fresh herbs and begin to check the tenderness of the cheeks with a fork. They are done when they fall easily from the fork, after about 4 hours. They should be meltingly tender, but not so soft as to fall apart. Some pieces of meat will take longer than others; pull them from the liquid as they are done. Spread the cooked beef cheeks in a single layer in a pan.
When all the cheeks are cooked, the cooking liquid through a colander. (Don’t use a sieve, as you want to push the tiny bits of onion through to make a slightly chunky sauce.) Pour the sauce over the cheeks and season to taste with salt, pepper, additional fresh marjoram, and the cornichon juice. Serve very hot.
6 to 8 servings