When I think back to some of the most memorably cozy dishes from my childhood, two dishes in particular come to mind for me. The first is the richly fragrant and deeply flavored from-scratch chicken soup that my mom (or even my dad on occasion) would prepare on a cold day for us to have to dip into for a few days, one that contained a whole chicken and a bountiful amount of aromatic vegetables, herbs and seasoning. That soul-warming “golden elixir” would sit simmering and oh-so-gently bubbling and sputtering on the stove over a very low flame for hours and hours, until we could no longer take it and our appetites got the best of us. And since very little was ever wasted with my parents, the chicken from that soup would also serve as a bonus meal, though since it had been simmered down for so long and was pretty much falling apart with much of its original juiciness and richness now expelled into our soup, it needed something to accompany it that would be savory and saucy. And that brings me to my second most memorably cozy dish — saucy Hungarian Red Potatoes. Hungarian Red Potatoes would always be what my mother would prepare, without fail, while our beloved soup simmered; they were a deliciously savory accompaniment to the chicken, just like a perfectly comforting blanky that provides safety and sheer bliss, only for the belly and for the soul. And now, those very potatoes are my inspiration for a truly cozy one-pan meal — a simple yet rustic and rich dinner — utterly perfect for this cool-weather season that nudges us to reach for those precious blankies to wrap ourselves in, indeed.
For my family and I, the perfect kind of meal for this time of year when the evening light begins to grow dim earlier and earlier, and for when the breeze takes on a chilliness that makes our souls long for softness and warmth, is one that can be eaten with a spoon and even sopped up with a little piece of bread, ideally. Smoky flavors and slightly peppery tastes are what sound so very appealing during this chilly season, especially when easily put together with just a few ingredients. A side like Hungarian Red Potatoes becomes a complete one-pan meal, a saucy and savory Hungarian Red Potato Goulash, when combined with deliciously caramelized onions sauteed with a touch of freshly cracked black pepper, and succulently rich smoked sausage that’s been seared in the pan leaving behind all of its best juices to infuse what is yet to come; it becomes a meal that comforts from within and envelopes completely just like a favorite blanky from childhood, and nothing sounds more soothing to me than that as these fall evenings become cold, crisp and clear.
It’s nice to look back sometimes to what comforted me during my childhood, give it a little update, and bring it back for a visit. Our lives require that we bring in some cozy elements once in a while, and use our limited time preparing meals that will connect us to one another and nurture us, while being as simple as possible. Saucy Hungarian Red Potato Goulash with Smoked Sausage and Caramelized Onions is the perfect one-pan meal for this; it’s the perfect food “comforter”, one wonderfully enjoyed wrapped in that favorite blanky, even. And that’s got to be the absolute perfect way to spend a fall or winter evening, if you ask me.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Saucy Hungarian Red Potato Goulash with Smoked Sausage and Savory Caramelized Onions
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(Serves about 4)
• Olive oil
1 (14 ounce) smoked sausage, sliced on the bias into thin medallions
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, pressed through garlic press
¾ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
10 medium-size red skin potatoes, peeled and sliced into ½” thick circles (about 2 ¾ lbs)
1 ½ cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
-Place a large, deep, non-stick pan (or even medium non-stick pot) over medium-high heat, and add in about 1 tablespoon of oil; once the oil is hot, add in the smoked sausage medallions, and caramelize them for a few minutes until they become a deep brown color; remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon, and set aside.
-To the same pan or pot, add in the butter, and allow it to melt; add in the sliced onions, and caramelize those in the butter and sausage drippings until a rich, golden-brown, about 5-7 minutes; next, add in the garlic, plus a couple of pinches of salt, the freshly cracked black pepper and the paprika, and stir to combine with the onions; saute just until the garlic becomes aromatic.
-Next, add in the sliced potatoes, and fold them into the caramelized onions/garlic to coat them well; add in the chicken stock and stir to combine, then push the sliced potatoes down into the stock/onion mixture as much as possible to allow them to cook evenly; cover the pan/pot with a lid that is askew to allow some steam to escape, and simmer on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring gently once or twice during this time; then, uncover the pan/pot and allow the potatoes to continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until they are tender and the sauce a bit thickened, stirring once or twice during that time. (It’s perfectly fine for some of the potatoes to break up in the sauce as it helps to thicken it, just take care not to break them too much.)
-Finish the Goulash by adding the caramelized smoked sausage back into the pan/pot, as well as the parsley, and gently fold those in to incorporate; add a little drizzle of olive oil in, and add a couple more pinches of salt and pepper, if necessary; serve hot with bread, if desired.