Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Bograč (Slovenian Goulash Soup), An Extra-tasty Tenth Anniversary Update


Yes, it has been a long time since my last post. And an even longer time since I have shared one of my Tenth Anniversary Updates, although I have continued to revisit my Year of Slovenian Cooking (which by now is eleven years ago!)

I'll skip the excuses and move on to my newest version of an old favorite: Bograč, sometimes known as Slovenian goulash soup. It was the featured dish for my Week 32 dinner in September of 2012. I wanted to make something special, since our younger son, who was working as a journalist in Kosovo, would be home for a family visit. We all liked the dish so much that I made it again four weeks later, with a few variations. 

Two days ago, my brother was scheduled to join us for a belated birthday dinner. I wanted to make something good but a little unusual, so I thought about bograč. I hadn't made it in awhile so i was eager to revisit it.

I had a busy day ahead of me and was feeling some time pressure. I knew bograč could be prepared in advance, or at least early in the day, so there would be no last minute rushing. That got me wondering about another way to make preparation easier: What if I put it in the oven to finish cooking? 

I turned to the Internet and got some surprises. A number of cooking authorities believe oven-cooking is always preferred for stews and similar dishes, because the flavor is better and the cooking time is shorter. In fact, that was the method used in one of the bograč recipes I had consulted (and cited) in my earlier post. I had completely forgotten about that detail. So I was on solid ground with the oven method.

I made just a few other other changes to my original recipe, as you'll see below.  I used all beef stew meat, instead of the traditional mix of meats. I added a pinch of cayenne and a couple of carrots--and on the second day, some sauteed mushrooms. And we added quite a bit of red wine.  (I say "we" because my husband had a hand in that part!) 

The result:  This was the best version of bograč I have made. The beef was tender and the sauce was particularly rich and luscious. And it required an easy and relatively fast one-day preparation to get to that point, instead of waiting till the second day, when stews and similar dishes always seem to taste their best. 

We served the bograč (which was more like a stew than a soup) with polenta and a green salad. And for dessert, my latest experiment:  sourdough potica! Watch for an upcoming post about that. 

Bograč (Slovenian Goulash Soup), A Tasty Update

1.5 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
1 large onion, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 green or yellow pepper, sliced  
1 t. caraway seed
1 T. paprika (half hot, half smoked)
½ t. marjoram
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper 
½ c. crushed tomatoes
1 lb. potatoes, cut in chunks
2 carrots, sliced 
mushrooms, sliced and sauteed before adding (optional)
water to cover
red wine (1/2 cup or so, optional)
olive oil 

If you plan to use the oven method (which I now recommend): Preheat oven to 350 degrees F before you begin the first part of the preparation on the stove, as described below. 

Brown onion in olive oil, using a large pot or Dutch oven. Add garlic and continue to brown. Remove to another bowl. Add meat to oil left in pot and brown. Add green pepper and spices and continue to brown. Return onion and garlic to the pot. Add crushed tomatoes and enough water (with some red wine if using) to cover and bring to a simmer. 

If you are using the oven method, cover the pot and place in the oven. If you are continuing on the stove, cover the pot and adjust heat so the mixture continues to simmer. 

Simmer until meat is tender and almost done. If you are using the oven method, start checking after an hour of cooking, although it may take longer. Add potatoes and mushrooms if using and simmer another hour. 

Note that the oven method may be faster. For me, it took about 3 hours.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with parsley, accompanied by polenta (my favorite) or noodles. Enjoy! 


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