When I got my first apartment in college, my relatives in Pittsburgh (a dozen of my mother’s brothers and sisters) got together and sent me a careful of food. The Russians, the Czechs, the Polish will never let anyone go hungry if they can help it. My mother sent me handwritten recipes of my favorite home meals that she figured I could afford – her stew, spaghetti sauce, and goulash, I don’t think the dish has any special ethnic pedigree, but it came from her family somewhere in Eastern Europe. I’ve always just called it Pittsburgh goulash. Maybe it’s not the food we find so comforting about comfort food, maybe it’s everything else – the closeness, the family, the memories.
1 ½ pounds lean-stewing beef, cut to 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes whole, peeled tomatoes
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
½ cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
⅓ cup whole black peppercorns
⅔-¾ cup sour cream
- Season the meat with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven or deep pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat and brown the cubes on all sides.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to break apart the past and combine the ingredients.
- Place the peppercorns in a cheesecloth spice bag and add to the pot. You can add the peppercorns directly to the mixture (stir them in well), as long as you don’t mind picking them out later.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a slow simmer. Cook until the meat is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pan from the heat, and just before serving, gently stir in ½ to ¾ cup of the sour cream. Serve immediately over wide egg noodles.