Transylvanian Goulash – Slow Cooking at Its Best

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From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite…Transylvania is a province in central Romania that’s surrounded by the Transylvanian Alps and the Carpathian Mountains. If we are to believe the likes of Bram Stoker and Anne Rice, this plateau is also the ancestral home of vampires. While imagination should be allowed to soar, I wish the two of them, in the midst of all that Gothic angst, could have given a nod to Romanian cooking. I’ve held on to this recipe for quite a while now. It first appeared in “The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire” by Joseph Wechsberg and it was featured in The New York Times in 2006. I didn’t give the recipe a try until last week. My bad! This is absolutely delicious and I hope those of you who trust my opinion and recipes will give this a try. A bit of back ground will help here. We’ve had unseasonably cold weather in Oregon this past week. I had a taste for choucroute garni but my pantry and freezer did not have all I needed to make it. I decided that this would be a perfect time to give this recipe a test run. I’m so glad I did! This is perfect winter fare and the recipe adapts beautifully to crock-pot or low-slow oven cooking. I’m giving directions for both. Here’s the recipe.

Transylvanian Goulash

1 pound (drained weight) sauerkraut
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, miced
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
3 cups chicken broth
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut in 2-inch cubes
1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/4 cup tomato puree or plain tomato sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons flour

1) Wash sauerkraut under cold running water then soak in cold water for 20 minutes to reduce sourness. Strain well, pressing out excess water.
2) Melt butter in a 5-quart casserole; add onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until lightly colored, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, season with salt and cook a minute or two longer. Stir in paprika, pour in 1/2 cup of broth and bring to boil. Add pork cubes. Spread sauerkraut over pork sprinkle with caraway seeds. Combine tomato puree and reserved broth in a small bowl. Mix well and pour over sauerkraut. Bring to a boil.
3) If using a crock-pot, transfer contents of casserole to crock-pot insert. Cover, and cook on high, for 3 to 3-1/2 hours, or until pork is fork tender but still retains its shape.
4) If using a conventional oven, preheat to 250 degrees F. Cover casserole and transfer to oven. Cook, covered, for 3 to 3-1/2 hours, or until pork cubes are tender but still retain their shape.
5) When pork is tender, transfer meat and sauerkraut to a serving platter with high sides. Tent with foil to keep warm.
6) Transfer sauce to a 2-quart pan. Set over medium heat. Combine flour, heavy cream and sour cream in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Stir mixture into sauce and simmer for 10 minutes longer. Do not boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over meat and serve. Pass additional sour cream as a side. Yield: 6 servings.

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