No doubt this has happened to you. You’ve made plans with friends to go somewhere special in the afternoon and everyone will come back to your house for dinner. This means that at dinner time, a group of people will walk through your door, happy, tired,…and hungry. No one, especially you, will want to start preparing a large meal to feed a large, hungry crowd. And this time you don’t want to order in pizza because you don’t often see these friends and ordering-in just doesn’t feel hospitable enough. (Besides, you and the kids ate pizza the previous night.)

So what will you prepare ahead of time that allows you to waltz in, wave your hands about the kitchen while animatedly engaging in the party conversation all the while delivering a deliciously hearty meal to the table within 30 minutes? Remember, in addition to cooking, you’ll be getting people beverages, putting out an appetizer, cajoling the kids into washing up and not squabbling, etc., etc.. Well, yesterday morning I was wondering what this magical dinner dish was this too.

I scoured my cookbooks looking for the right meal to prepare. Most of the recipes, if they advertised themselves as “make-ahead-of-time”, were actually recipes that had you busy cooking up to 50-90 minutes before you intended to serve the meal. I normally like these recipes because I prepare them, the guests come, we have happy hour together, I take the dinner from the oven, then we eat. But what dinner could hang out in an oven for HOURS before serving? I thought of brisket. Yes, some brisket recipes do this, but you might be surprised at how many won’t. And no, I didn’t want to make a crock-pot something or other. I’ve made few crock-pot recipes that were worthy of company. Family? – always, but special company? I’m just not that good a cook.

All right, so what is a recipe that you can fix two two to three hours ahead of time, – even the night before if you want to, – come home, stir in some sour cream while boiling noodles, serve it all together with a green salad and bread, and then everyone will thank you for providing a fall comfort food dinner supreme? Well, this truly, make-ahead recipe comes from the king of leisure himself, Jerry Minnich. Jerry wrote a cookbook for people who are so busy having a good time elsewhere that by the time they get to the kitchen after a few beers the dinner had better be easy…and it had better be a lot because the party is continuing into the night.

Jerry’s book is called the North Woods Cottage Cookbook. As you know, a northwoods Wisconsin cottage is all about having fun, and not about fuss. And since the northwoods puts everyone in the vacation spirit, everybody want delicious, satisfying food. That’s what Jerry’s recipes deliver. No surprise, it was in Jerry’s cookbook that I found a terrific recipe for Hungarian goulash. I don’t recall ever making Hungarian Goulash before, but this recipe is going into my short-list of recipes to make again. Click on “Continue reading…” for Jerry Minnich’s recipe for Hungarian goulash. And don’t think that this goulash is overly heavy. Keep reading and I’ll explain.

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