Serves 8 to 12
You can use sweet Hungarian paprika or spicy Spanish smoked paprika in this recipe. The difference in flavor is just what’s in the name: one is mild and sweet, the other spicy with a smoky flavor. The goulash can be fully prepared a day or two ahead of time, just reheat gently before serving. If you’re making it ahead, slightly undercook the potatoes and onions so they don’t overcook when you reheat. This is a great recipe for family gatherings; it can be doubled easily. Just make sure you have a wide enough Dutch oven so the ingredients are not overcrowded and the potatoes break. The dish is also welcome on a buffet table, and any leftovers freeze well. For casual affairs, I like to put the pot in the middle of the table on a trivet and let people help themselves.
- 4 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 4 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- Zest of 1 lemon, grated
- 2½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 3 medium onions, cut into 6 wedges each, through the root end
Bring 8 cups water to a bare simmer in a saucepan, and keep it simmering. Season the beef with 2 teaspoons salt. Spread some flour on a rimmed sheet pan, and toss the beef to coat it lightly, tapping off the excess.
In a mini–food processor, pulse the pancetta and garlic to make a smooth paste or pestata. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the beef in two batches, and brown all over, about 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Remove the beef to a plate as it browns.
Once all of the beef is out, scrape the garlic and pancetta pestata into the pot. Cook and stir until the fat is rendered, about 4 minutes. Clear a space in the pan, and add the tomato paste. Cook and stir the tomato paste in that spot until it is toasted and darkens a shade or two, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Put the beef back in the pot. Sprinkle with the paprika and cumin, and season with the remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir to distribute the tomato paste, and add 4 cups of the hot water. Drop in the bay leaves and lemon zest, cover, and simmer until the beef just begins to become tender, about 1 hour, adding 2 cups more water after 30 minutes.
After 1 hour, add the potatoes and onions and the remaining 2 cups of hot water. Cover, and simmer until the beef and vegetables are very tender, about 45 to 50 minutes more; uncover during the last 20 minutes or so, to thicken and reduce the sauce. Remove the bay leaves, season with salt, and serve.