SHARON ONA (this article was first published December 2o12)
For years I thought midnight soup was a term coined on the spot by my New Year’s cohorts as we enjoyed the night’s festivities over bowls of rich, hearty, satisfying, soul-warming soup. Later, I learned that midnight soup, or mitternachtssuppe, is traditionally served on New Year’s Eve in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to fuel hungry partygoers through the evening. Its restorative properties satiate guests on a cold winter’s night and counter the effects of the generous flow of alcohol that comes with the territory at such events.
In many parts of Germany, particularly Bavaria, midnight soup is a beef-based goulasch generously spiced with paprika. Set to simmer over low heat for several hours, midnight soup can be prepared well in advance, as the flavors will only improve over time. The addition of bread to the recipe below creates a velvety, rich broth.
The variations of midnight soup are endless and can be made to accommodate anywhere from small get-togethers to large crowds. Variation ideas include the addition of a pureed red bell pepper instead of diced, assorted mushrooms, caraway seeds in place of cumin, chopped carrots and celery, or an assortment of diced potatoes. Just keep in mind that the ingredients should be able to withstand the lengthy cooking process and try to find ingredients that are typically used in beef stews.
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 5 ounces speck, small dice (bacon will do if you cannot find speck)
- ¾ pound rump roast or chuck roast, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon canola oil or other flavorless oil
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
- ½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- ½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 ½ tablespoons sweet paprika
- Scant 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 4-ounce can tomato paste
- Salt and pepper
- Crust of 2 slices of schwartz brot or other hearty, dark German bread, chopped
- 1 package goulasch beef stew recipe mix (like Knorr or Maggi)
- 6 cups water
Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the diced speck and beef and allow to brown, about 20-30 minutes. Add chopped onions. Cook 5 minutes or until softened. Add red and green bell peppers, goulasch mix, sweet paprika, cumin seeds, tomato paste, bread, and water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 3 hours. Add the potatoes and simmer another 45 minutes to 1 hour. I know it’s a long time but it’s worth it!