Make-Ahead Monday: Southwestern Goulash

I know, I know, it’s been a bit of time since my last post. Quite frankly, I needed a break from the kitchen (and blogging too) over the weekend. My family had a nice, long weekend that was everything a long weekend should be. We spent a day splashing in the pool and enjoying the weather, we went to one of the GINORMOUS malls and shopped then had a nice lunch, we took a trip down to the souq and came back with lots of goodies; and we ordered from my favorite kabob delivery place every night for dinner. It was a great weekend.

But alas, the weekend has come to an end and now we are thrown back into our weekly routines, rushing from lessons and playdates, barely having a moment to catch our breath until the children are in bed for the night. But I love to stay busy, so it’s ok by me.

This week’s make-ahead meal is somewhat of a throw back. I saw this casserole while perusing foodandwine.com and I knew immediately that this “goulash” so to speak would be a great Monday meal for my family (well, that is if “C” would eat a noodle!) When I read the recipe, it seemed like a chili-mac of sorts, but as it came together and I tasted it, something about it beckoned my childhood. Then, as I lifted the casserole into the oven, it hit me: this is the goulash I remember having as a kid from the school cafeteria, but SOOOO much better. You remember, the one that always looked good as you went through the lunch line, with the little bit of melted cheese on top (the lunch ladies always seemed to be stingy with the melty cheese.) Then you eat it and the tomato sauce is bland, the macaroni has been way over cooked and is mushy, and that coveted bit of melted cheese on top tastes like rubber. So disappointing.

Well my adapted recipe adds a kick to the cafeteria version with pepper jack cheese, a bit of chipotle hot sauce, and cumin. Now, if only I can get “C” to try it…..

Southwestern Goulash Recipe

Adapted from foodandwine.com’s Beef and Macaroni Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro base (you can find this in the Mexican/International isle)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 8z can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce (or more/less depending on your heat preference)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preparation

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni noodles and cook until shy of al-dente. Drain and set aside.
  • While the macaroni cooks, sauté the onions over medium high heat. Once the onions are soft, add the beef and brown and crumble. Once the beef has browned, add the cilantro base and cook one additional minute. Add the flour to the beef mixture and sauté until the flour has cooked, about 2 more minutes. Add the cumin, stock, hot sauce, and tomatoes and bring sauce to a boil. Once the sauce boils, add half of the pepper jack and the cheddar cheeses. Stir until melted and remove from the heat
  • Temper the egg by adding a bit of the sauce to the beaten egg. Add the egg mixture to the large pot of sauce. Stir in the macaroni noodles and broccoli and then transfer to a prepared casserole dish.* Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes or until the noodles and sauce is set.
  • Combine the panko and remaining pepper jack cheese. Evenly distribute the mixture on the casserole and broil for 3-5 minutes until the cheese and breadcrumbs brown evenly.
  • Allow casserole to cool 15 minutes before serving.

Casserole can be prepared up to the point of baking, then refrigerated or frozen. To bake, bring the casserole to room temperature than follow directions, adding an additional 5 minutes to the baking time.