Guláš and Garnets

Mark Hopkins teaches Czech I, Czech II and a Czech literature course at UT Austin and hosts the weekly conversation group with the tongue-in-cheek name, Czechs Mix. Once a semester, he treats his students to a homemade Czech dish and, in exchange, they role play being either wait staff or customers at a restaurant to practice speaking the language. (I must try this with my sons.) Lori Najvar and I got to photograph the class for our Texas Czechs exhibit when he served guláš with bread dumplings to his Czech I students. (Photo of Mark's guláš below.)

Mark Hopkins (far left) and his Czech I and II students at UT Austin.

And - yummy! - we got to sample Mark's guláš and also Czech Garnet Cookies made by his student, Mary Cernoch (second from right, front row in the photo above.) Mary is a Texas-Czech from La Grange who grew up hearing the Czech language, but not speaking it. She inherited some food traditions, though - the cookie recipe came from her mother. The only place I'd seen these cookies (more like bars, really) before was at the roadside gas station-bakery Wiekel's in La Grange. On Wiekel's website, they offer… "The Czech Shortbread Bars have a crumbly texture and are lightly sweetened with a layer of either apricot or cherry filling." Mary's cookies were filled with raspberry jam (supporting the "Garnet" in the name) and they were indeed flaky and buttery and delicious. Do these cookies have a history that links them back to the homeland? I don't know, but I like the name and they are delicious.

The Czech Republic certainly has its own version of guláš, but so does Hungary, Poland, Croatia and probably other places as well. My father and I have a theory that guláš is the ancestor of Texas Czech church picnic stew, which I'll explore in a post later this year.

The recipe below is from the classic cookbook Generation to Generation, by the Historical Society of the Czech Club of Dallas (1980). I've not yet experimented with making dumplings, so I served the guláš just as the recipe recommends. A fantastic cold weather dish. Dobrou chut'!

"Goulash" by Pauline Blazek

1 lb. boneless meat
2 tsp. lard or bacon drippings
1 onion, chopped
clove of garlic
1/2 tsp caraway seed
2 heaping Tbsp. flour
dash paprika
salt to taste

Fry onion in lard until golden brown. Add meat, salt, garlic and caraway. Cook slowly until the grease from the meat evaporates out, 10-15 minutes. Add flour and brown. Add enough warm water to cover meat. Cook about 1 hour. Add as many potatoes as you like and cook until they are done. Sprinkle with paprika. Serves 4-5 according to amount of potatoes.


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