Hungarian Goulash and Why Crockpot Cooking During the Summer is a Good Idea

It's the dog days of summer and the temperature is rising. Around these parts that 90 degree heat comes with a good dose of humidity which makes cooking or spending time in a hot kitchen unbearable. While we could make salads and no-cook recipes all summer, why should we deprive ourselves of a decent hot meal when it's hot outside? And why should we stay out of the kitchen when it doesn't even need to be that hot in there in the first place?

Crockpot cooking on a hot summer day is a god-send. You prepare some already cold ingredients, add it to a cold Crockpot and let it cook while you enjoy a dip in a pool, window shopping in an air-conditioned mall or reading a book outside in the shade. The Crockpot is self-contained and doesn't emit any heat into the surrounding area. So unlike an oven or a stovetop, the Crockpot won't heat up your kitchen!

Last Sunday, while I was making Strawberry-Banana Pancakes, I made a Crockpot full of Hungarian Goulash. It cooked all day while Carlos and I were away having Engagement Photos taken and while we were visiting some potential wedding venues. Sunday was super hot (mid-90s, full sun, plenty of humidity) and when we came back home we we were suffering from heat exhaustion. While all this was happening the Goulash was cooking in the Crockpot and the kitchen was still cool. We went off for a swim in the local pool and the Crockpot kept the food warm even after the cooking time was up. When we came back, I cooked up a pot of egg noodles in no time and voila! dinner is served. And I barely had to break a sweat.

The recipe I made was a variation of the one from All Recipes.. Their version called for the thickening of the sauce with flour. I just didn't feel like it so I skipped it.

1/2 cup of ketchup
3-4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp of brown sugar
2 tsps paprika (use Hungarian if you have it)
2 tsps of dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of water
2 packages of Stew Beef (not too lean - about 2 pounds)
1 chopped onion
chopped parsley

egg noodles

In your Crockpot, add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, spices and water and stir. Add the chopped onions and Stew Beef (or Beef Chuck Roast cubed). Stir to coat the Beef in the onions and the liquid. Set Crockpot to cook for 8 hours.

Once the meal is ready, cook the egg noodles to package directions. Drain the noodles and add them to a serving platter. Top with the beef and onion and some of the juices. Top with chopped parsley. This is good with a small side of fresh salad. Enjoy!

If you want to thicken the sauce, add a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch to 1/4 cup of water. Stir until well mixed then add the mixture to the goulash. Cook on high in the Crockpot for 10-15 minutes.

Central Grill - Woburn, MA

Central Grill is a new restaurant in Woburn. I recently wrote an article about them on my Restaurant Review column Bites Nearby on the Woburn Patch. It's a quaint little restaurant that serves mostly Brazilian fare. I felt kind of bad for them. Although they are on Main Street in the center of town, their location is not all that conducive for getting lots of customers. Parking is a bit limited on the street and it competes with all the other local restaurants that are situated closer to the main municipal parking lot. Plus Woburn already has tons of Brazilian food. I'm rooting for this place though. Carlos and I had a wonderful dinner there. The portions were enormous on the Central Grill Steak which came with two fried eggs on top, a salad underneath a side of fries, rice and Brazilian stuffing. Two plates was enough for 4 hungry people! Have  you ever had Brazilian stuffing? It's a strange mix of beans, bacon, sausage, shredded collards and bread crumbs. Eating a side of that is enough to get you full! 

Do you have a local restaurant that you feel has a fight ahead of them to thrive?

Seaport Grille in Gloucester

Carlos and I took a small roadtrip Friday evening to go look at potential wedding venues. One of the places we looked at was CruisePort in Gloucester, MA which happens to have a restaurant named SeaPort Grille. We decided to have dinner there while checking out the place.

You can't see it but behind Carlos there was some sort of Oyster bar with Oysters, large shrimp and lots of sauces. But there was no Oysters on the menu. Very strange! Trust me I looked.

Carlos had a plain Bloody Mary (they have a Shrimp Bloody Mary too). He didn't think it was spicy enough and I thought it tasted like it had a bit of clam juice in it. Once the ice melted enough, he abandoned the drink.

I had this drink: the SeaPort Swizzle. Dang this thing is potent. Mt. Gay Rum, lots of fruit juices, Grenadine and Rum Bitters. It packs a wallop and after one drink I left the restaurant a bit woozy.

I don't think I've ever had a stuffed lobster. When the waiter told me their regular sized stuffed lobster was only $22.95 (market price for that time), I went for it. That's a pretty good deal for a whole lobster which is stuffed with fish, scallops and shrimp! The breadcrumb topping was good but very crumbly. It could have been more moist so you could eat it with a fork. The rest of it was delicious and I guarantee you that I made short work of that lobster. Delicious!

My sides were asparagus and rice pilaf which were pretty good.

Carlos, who is not a seafood lover, had steak tacos. He didn't like them very much. 

We ordered a flourless chocolate cake and got this thing. Not very pleasing to the eye. I would have rather had a hot flourless chocolate cake, with a scoop of ice cream and only a little bit of sauce on top. This was a wedge of fudge drowning is a sea of more fudge. Blech.

Overall, our experience was so-so. Carlos hated the service, I thought it was okay. They forgot our order of calamari as an appetizer which is why we got dessert. Forgetting an order is NOT COOL. Bad SeaPort, bad!

If you are in the Gloucester area, take advantage of the restaurants. This is the place to get good quality and inexpensive seafood. But you may just want to skip SeaPort Grille.

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