From America's Test Kitchen Season 1: Beef Stew
In America, beef goulash is perhaps the best-known and most frequently made of all Hungarian dishes—and for good reason. This intensely rich concoction combines the flavors of stewed meat with onions and a generous dose of paprika.
We began by testing 12 different cuts of meat. Chuck proved to be the most flavorful, tender, and juicy. The intramuscular fat and connective tissue in chuck are well suited to long, slow, and moist cooking. As the meat stews, the connective tissue melts into gelatin, making the beef tender and infusing the liquid with meaty flavor. Although prepackaged stewing beef is widely available, we recommend buying a steak or roast from the chuck and cubing it yourself. This guarantees consistency in the size, shape, texture, and flavor of the meat. However, for a twist on the traditional stew, lamb and pork shoulder can also be used. As with the beef, we recommend doing the cubing yourself.
Once we settled on our cut of meat, we tested a variety of methods for thickening the stew. Ultimately, we found that stew thickened with flour maintained its rich color and had no off-flavors. We stirred it into the sautéing onions and garlic, removing the need for last-minute thickening. Next, we focused on stewing liquids. We quickly dismissed homemade stocks as too time-consuming and water as too bland. A combination of chicken broth or stock and white wine offers the right balance of meatiness and acidity. It is essential to keep the liquid at a simmer (rather than a boil) because this allows the temperature of the meat to rise slowly. By the time the meat becomes fork-tender, much of the collagen will have turned to gelatin and thickened the stew. A Dutch oven in a 250-degree oven is ideal for this purpose, since the stew will remain below the boiling point (about 200 degrees).
Serves 6 to 8
The sour cream is optional but adds a nice color and richness to this stew. Serve over egg noodles.