GHOULash for goblins
Halloween. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love your costumes, your treats, your weird and creepiness, and I love your food.
I love remembering eating warm bowls of stew at my mother's table before trick-or-treating our very Mayberry-ish childhood neighborhood.
I love turning regular food items into grotesque-but-still-edible concoctions.
I look forward to our little Halloween gathering every year, and while I make the same meal every year on Halloween night (ribs and cheesy taters) for our friends and their little hobgoblins, I put a lot of effort into creating Halloween-esque meals for days, even weeks, before the big event.
I am doing my best to create a little Halloween lover out of Johnny, my 4-year-old. Early in October, he and I set to decorating the house. He's got cobwebs and props in his bedroom, and we make much ado about carving pumpkins and reading nightly "scary" stories -- most of which come to us courtesy of the Brothers Grimm and have nothing particular to do with Halloween, except the occasional witch and some babes lost in a creepy wood.
He's risen to the occasion and changed his mind about his costume no less than six times. We won't discuss the anxiety I'm suffering for not yet having started on it, but I know the minute I do he'll change his mind again, and I can't bear for him to be disappointed while getting dressed on Halloween night, so in true Flying Fork Fashion, I'll whip something together two days before, and probably be sewing him into it right before the trick-or-treat begins. But it's all good because it means his focus is right where it needs to be: on Halloween, and getting it JUST RIGHT.
I've made creature crackers for him for his daily snack most of the past week. Easy, semi-healthy and super festive. Smear some peanut butter atop a Ritz cracker, stick a few pretzels out the sides, top with another cracker and glue some raisin eyes on top with another dab of PB.
We've eaten pumpkin breads and cakes, and I'm not gonna lie: My new favorite is the super-simple pumpkin muffin you make with just a yellow cake mix and a can of pumpkin.
But our favorite so far was Sunday's GHOULash. This meal doesn't "look" like Halloween, except that it is drenched in blood-red sauce and just sort of gives off a creepy vibe. But otherwise, it's just a regular dinner. No mummified hot dogs or meatloaf shaped like a hand, just a delicious stew over noodles. But the name is perfection and my kiddo thought it was HILARIOUS to eat GHOOUUUULash for dinner.
We all had a chuckle about the goulash dinners of our youth: macaroni noodles, ground beef, tomato sauce. Those meals, while likely to invoke some sense memory fondness, are not goulash. That is macaroni and ground beef.
Real goulash has loads of paprika, and if you're doing it right, it's Hungarian paprika. Don't think about substituting because it won't be the same. It's basically a stew that you serve over a bed of egg noodles. A smoky, sweet Hungarian stew that is a great October meal, whether it's actually Halloween or not.
GHOULash for Goblins
5 strips of bacon
1 lb sirloin or top round steak, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 red bell pepper
1/3 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic
1 beer (something flavorful - I used a Shocktop Belgian White)
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon salt, divided
black pepper, to taste
Cut your bacon into fourths and pop them in a hot frying pan with high sides. Before they're completely crispy, add in the diced onion, minced garlic, and diced bell pepper. Saute for two or three minutes. Raise the heat in the pan and add in the beef. Add half the salt, and brown it on all sides, then pour in the can of beer.
While that comes to a low boil, mix together the flour and water, and set aside. Add in the beef broth, tomato paste, vinegar, paprika, the rest of the salt, and the pepper. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then add in your flour mixture to thicken. Let it simmer for 30 minutes at least, an hour if possible. (This is why I make this on Sunday afternoon, so I can be nice and lazy about it.)
Serve over hot egg noodles, with a dollop of sour cream for good measure. Maybe toss a plastic spider in just for funsies.
Happy Halloween month, everyone. Try to get in the spirit. You won't regret it. Or, maybe you will... heh heh heh.