You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 4:57 a.m.

Transylvania Beef Stew with Pumpkin Polenta a festive dish for Halloween

By Peggy Lampman


Peggy Lampman | Contributor

Peggy Lampman's Friday dinnerFeed.

I make beef stew for Halloween most every year. The following recipe is a repeat from last year; or here's another beef stew recipe, which I served in a pumpkin shell.

Whatever beef stew you prefer, on Halloween change the name to goulash — it sounds more ghoulish.

Yield: Approx. 5 cups stew and 5 cups polenta
Active time: 25 minutes
Simmer time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Cost (with polenta): Approx. $22

Yield: 2-3 main course servings
Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients for Stew

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2-2 pounds beef stewing meat (cut into 1-inch pieces)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large green bell pepper, stem end and membranes removed, sliced (2 cups)
1/4 cup sour cream, optional
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra sprigs for garnish
1 recipe for Pumpkin Polenta (recipe follows)

Directions for Stew

1. Melt butter and heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot, Dutch oven or cauldron over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of kosher salt and cook, stirring, 6 minutes or until onions are beginning to become limp.
2. Season beef with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and toss with flour to coat on all sides. Stir paprika and caraway seeds into onions and simmer, stirring, 30 seconds. Then add the beef to the onion mixture, cooking and stirring for 2 minutes.
3. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot as the broth thickens with the floured beef. Gradually stir in the remaining broth. Stir in tomato paste and peppers and bring to a slow simmer. Cover and cook, occasionally stirring, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until beef is very tender. (Note: If stew if watery after 1 1/2 hours, remove cover and let reduce until desired thickness; if it is too thick, add additional stock in 1/4 cup increments.) Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper; stir in dill.
4. Serve in individual bowls over Pumpkin Polenta (recipe follows), topped with dollops of sour cream, if using.

Ingredients for Polenta

3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
1 1/4 cup cornmeal*
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin purée (1 1/2 cups)

*I used Quaker Yellow Cornmeal as it's easy to find. Traditionally, polenta is made with stone ground cornmeal and it has a wonderful flavor and toothsome texture. There are boxed polentas in stores which are essentially cornmeal, as well. Keep in mind that liquid to cornmeal mixtures may vary slightly if you use a different cornmeal than what is specified in this recipe.

Directions for Polenta

Pour stock and butter, if using, into heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium-low heat. When bubbles subside, slowly whisk cornmeal into the hot stock. (Do not get distracted or your polenta will be lumpy.) Whisk in the pumpkin purée, constantly whisking until smooth. Season to taste with kosher salt and cayenne.


My new web site (packed with holiday recipes) is coming soon! But in the meantime, If you're looking for a specific recipe, click here for dinnerFeed's recipe search engine; type the recipe or ingredient into the search box. I am a real-time food writer and photographer posting daily feeds on my website and in the Food & Drink section of You may also e-mail me at