I'm going to say right up front that this is a project, and while it can absolutely be assembled in a single session, it wouldn't hurt to consider dividing the labor over two days, or between morning and late-afternoon/early evening (i.e., around dinnertime). Not because it's particularly complicated--don't be intimidated by length of the ingredient list; it's mostly the contents of your spice rack--but because after the initial busywork, it's mostly waiting around for the meat to slow-cook at low heat over an extended period. And don't stews always taste better the next day?
Anyway, the back story: I was home sick (read: hungover) from work one day about five years ago, trying in vain to find a Law & Order marathon on the tube, when I came across Good Eats on Food Network. The episode was "Beef Stew," and Alton Brown was preparing a goulash in a way I had never seen before. He took several pounds of English-cut short ribs and seared them on a griddle pan. Then he blended tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, paprika, and herbs, and coated the browned meat in it. Then he sealed it in foil and cooked it in the oven for 4 hours at 250. The meat was then separated from its juices, which were refrigerated until a fat cap formed and could be easily removed (and saved). He then cooked onions and potatoes in a little of the reserved fat before returning the meat and de-fatted sauce to the mixture and stewing them together briefly to complete the dish.
I became fascinated with this technique and decided to try adapting it to the classic Hungarian Szekely Gulyas, which is a pork and sauerkraut stew, usually seasoned with paprika and caraway, sometimes cooked with tomatoes and banana peppers, and always finished with sour cream. I've tried this method several times now, with varied cuts of pork including cheek, butt, shoulder, neck, belly, and sparerib. A combination of belly, butt, and neck has yielded the best results so far, so that is what I call for here.
Some notes about esoteric ingredients:
Lecso is like a Hungarian version of ratatouille. It's a stew of tomatoes, peppers, and onion, usually seasoned with garlic and paprika, and if you're into canning, it's a great way to preserve the late-summer bounty. (In the colder months, many Hungarian cooks substitute lecso for the out-of-season fresh tomatoes and peppers in their recipes.) It's admittedly not the easiest ingredient to source, but there are two varieties I have seen: the one by Bende is like a chunky sauce and has a sweeter, more tomato-y flavor than the Gossari brand, which is slightly more bitter and emphasizes the pepper flavor, while also having a higher oil content, which gives it good body when pureed. If you can't find either of these, stewed tomatoes make an acceptable substitute. But if you want to be really DIY about it (and have the basis for another meal altogether--lecso is really good cooked with smoked sausage and/or eggs), it's super-easy to make. These are good recipes:
http://homepage.interaccess.com/~june4/lesco.html OR http://zsuzsaisinthekitchen.blogspot.com/2010/10/hungarian-ratatouille-lecso.html OR http://www.thehungarydish.com/lecso-recipe-guest-post-by-peter-pawinski/. The basic rule of thumb is a 2:1:1 (by weight) ratio of peppers:tomatoes:onions. Cook the onions (and garlic, if using) in a little lard or bacon fat until soft, then add some paprika to taste (do this off heat so as not to burn the paprika), then throw in the peppers and cook a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and simmering until a saucy consistency has been achieved. As for which peppers to use, traditionally you'd use Hungarian wax, a mixture of sweet and hot to taste, but you can use banana, bell, cubanelle, green Italian frying peppers, whatever is available, basically. If you do make your own, you can omit the stewed tomatoes and banana peppers when finishing the goulash and substitute an equivalent amount of lecso.
Dill seed is, yes, the seed of the dill plant, and it has a flavor reminiscent of caraway, but lighter. Information here: http://www.seriouseats...
As mentioned above, this is an adaptation of Alton Brown's "Good Eats Beef Stew" recipe, which can be found here: http://www.foodnetwork... —Chris Hagan