Reading the post’s title a question may come up: why beef shank and not another beef part? Beef shank comes from the leg of a bull or a cow. Though it’s known for its tough texture, in this case it’s a perfect choice since stew (or pörkölt in Hungarian) is a slowly cooked dish that is suitable to allow beef shank to be sufficiently softened and tenderized.
Beef shank contains a lot of collagen that dissolves during the cooking and the sauce becomes soft and silky. Beside the quality of the meat another secret of a perfect stew in my opinion is onion. To get a thick sauce, lot of onions needed that melt completely while you’re simmering the stew on low heat.
There are a few optional ingredients that can be added depending on habits and on individual preferences, such as red wine, smoked bacon, caraway seeds, green pepper and tomato. Supermarket tomatoes and bell peppers are out of the question, they don’t have taste. If you can’t obtain high quality tomato and green pepper, leave out these ingredients.
The following ingredients would never ever be added to an authentic Hungarian pörkölt: butter, flour and canned tomato.
- 2 kg (~4 1/2 lbs) beef shank, boneless and cut into 4×4 cubes
- 80 g (~2 3/4 oz) lard
- 400 g (~3/4 lb) onion (shallot if available), finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 tsps. Hungarian sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp. Hungarian hot paprika
- 300 ml (~1 1/4 cups) dry red wine
- 1 fresh tomato
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 4 level tsps. salt
Heat lard in a bigger pot. Add the finely chopped onions, then a few minutes later the garlic and cook until translucent. Remove the pot from the heat and add paprika; this needs in order to avoid that the paprika burns and gets bitter.
Put it back, add beef shank cubes and stir to get the meat covered evenly with the paprika-onion mixture. Cover with the red wine so that the liquied doesn’t completely cover the meat. Add the whole tomato, the sliced green pepper and salt. Cover with a lid and start to simmer on low heat for about 2-2,5 hours.
Stir it frequently and add a little more water if the liquid boiled away, so the stew doesn’t burn.
For the last 10-15 minutes uncover the meat to reduce the liquid and get a thick sauce.
Cook until the meat gets completely soft.
Serve with bite size dumplings (nokedli), plain pasta or boiled potatoes.