The word goulash is derived from the Hungarian word for herdsman, gulyás, providing a pretty clear indication of its origin as a peasant dish and its principal ingredient. I suspect that it was originally made with lamb or mutton but today beef or pork are usual. This version incorporates ideas from several online recipes that all claim to be authentically Hungarian. Of course, as with most such traditional dishes, there are as many recipes for goulash as there are cooks making it, each insisting that it is the only true version. Many recipes, especially those made with pork, call for sour cream but I decided to stick with a kosher-style approach. For the liquid I used beer but you could substitute water or wine. Whatever you do, though, do not cut short the browning of the meat. A good caramelization is essential to a rich sauce.
Canola or other neutral cooking oil
1½ pounds beef, preferably chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 Hungarian wax peppers, seeded and chopped
3 -4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large tomato or several smaller ones, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sweet or hot Hungarian paprika or a mixture of both
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
Beer, about one 12-ounce bottle
1 pound firm potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and black pepper
Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven or deep pan with a lid. Working in batches, add the beef cubes in a single layer, browning well on all sides. Remove meat to a bowl and set aside.
Adjust the amount of fat in the pot then sauté the onion and garlic until softened, about three minutes. Add the pepper and tomatoes and cook for another two minutes.
Return the meat to the pan and sprinkle with the caraway and paprika, stirring to evenly coat the meat. Pour in enough beer to just cover the meat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to very low and cook 1½ hours or until meat is almost fork tender. Remove the lid for the last half hour to let the sauce concentrate.
Add potatoes, cover, and cook gently for another 30 minutes or until potatoes are done. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot by itself or with noodles.