When my buddy Bo Spencer returned from a family vacation to the Czech Republic, he talked about the people, the history, the architecture and the beautiful natural settings. But his descriptions of the food really grabbed my attention. He talked of open-air markets full dried and cured meats and sausages; restaurants that served the best goulash and bread dumplings, and some of the tastiest beer he'd ever had.
Bo asked a few locals for their favorite recipes so that he and his family could replicate some of the meals they enjoyed on their trip. This version of Czech Beef Goulash was one of his favorites, and we adapted it for use with venison this week at Timber2Table.
Most of the goulash and other soups or stews in the Czech Republic are served with traditional boiled bread dumplings. Since I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like, I have included a recipe for Czech-style bread dumplings with the recipe.
You can cut the finished dumplings with a knife, but the traditional way of slicing them is with a length of stout thread. Simply slide the center of the thread under the dumpling, cross the tag ends over the top, and pull the ends away from each other to draw the thread through the dumpling, slicing as it goes.
Since I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like, I have included a recipe for Czech-style bread dumplings with the recipe.
2 pounds venison cut into 1” cubes
2 large onions, diced
1/3 cup lard
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
4 minced garlic cloves
3 ounces tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
Dash of pepper
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons marjoram
2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 packet dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm milk
2 slices of white bread cut in small cubes and dried
Start the goulash by adding the lard to a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 7 to 9 minutes until it is lightly caramelized and soft. Remove the pot from the heat and add the garlic and tomato paste, stirring until well combined. Return the pot to the heat and add the venison, caraway seeds, paprika, sugar, salt and pepper, stirring as you go.
Pour in 8 cups of water and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 1 hour, 45 minutes with the pot covered and the lid slightly askew to allow the steam to vent.
Pour in the breadcrumbs and marjoram a few minutes before serving. Stir, with the pot uncovered, until the goulash thickens.
For the dumplings, add both flours, yeast, salt, and the egg to the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour in the warm milk. Increase the speed of the mixer and beat until the mixture forms a soft, sticky dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and use the palm of your hand to flatten it into a disc. Tip:Oil or flour your hands lightly if the dough wants to stick to them. Spread the bread cubes onto the center of the dough, and fold the dough around them into a ball so that the dry bread is contained inside.
Use the base of your palm to roll and knead the dough for five minutes or so. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and set in a warm, draft-free area. Allow the dough to rise until it doubles in size, about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on air temperature.
Turn the doubled dough out onto a floured work surface and use your palm to roll and knead the dough a few more minutes. Cut the dough into three equal portions, and roll each portion on the floured surface to form a small loaf shape. Roll from the center out and tuck the ends back in to make the loaves a uniform diameter from one end to the other. Move the loaves to a floured cutting board or baking sheet, and cover with a towel. Allow the loaves to rise a second time until, again, they're nearly doubled in size, 20 to 30 minutes.
While the dumplings rise the second time, bring to boil a large pot of water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Gently lower each dumpling into the boiling water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. You might need to cook two, then cook the last one by itself if your pot isn’t big enough for all three.
Cover the pot with a lid and boil the dumplings for 20 to 25 minutes. Scoop the dumplings from the pot and transfer to a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife or a piece of thread, slice each dumpling into thin rounds. Serve the dumplings in your bowl of goulash and pair the meal with a Czechoslovakian beer.
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