CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Cousin Tom’s ‘Goulash’

Talk to just about anyone who hunts, and they’ll probably tell you hunting is much more than shooting something. It’s about the camaraderie, about being outdoors. And in my case, it’s about watching how much fun my dogs have in the field when hunting upland game.

But there is another part that’s not easily dismissible: the food that’s prepared — and eaten — at hunting camp.

Over the years, I’ve had some memorable culinary adventures at hunting camp. Here are just a few:

  • Baby back pork ribs and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes. When I was part-owner of a house on the North Dakota-Montana border, we used to fix this on opening pheasant weekend. It was always a hit, and there never were any leftovers.
  • Earl Seeba’s Bayou Boil. This “dump meal,” which Earl called it, also was a staple on the first week of pheasant season at my Westby, Mont., hunting shack. It featured potatoes, onions, peppers, corn on the cob, hot sausage, seafood (crawfish and shrimp or prawns) and a seasoning bag (Old Bay Shrimp and Crab boil) that was cooked together in a big pot and was served on a newspaper-covered kitchen table. Sounds funky but was out of this world.
  • Ten-Alarm Chili. Deer hunting in North Dakota in the 1990s through the first decade of the new millennium with my old friend, Jim Durkin, and his brothers, this was always on the menu in the early years. Jim’s dad, R.P. (Ray), used to join us for a meal and would alway says the chili wasn’t hot enough all the while wiping beads of sweat from his brow. R.P. was quite the teaser.
  • Terry Young’s Southwestern Pheasant Soup: This has become a fixture on our most recent pheasant hunting trips. Besides the pheasant, the soup contains chicken broth, egg noodles, Rotel Mexican Lime and Cilantro, salsa and cream of mushroom soup. Delish!

I now have a new dish to add the the aforementioned list: Cousin Tom Menard’s “Goulash.”

I’ve been deer hunting the past three years with Tom and his brothers, Kim and Joe, along with some of their kids (Matt, Josh and Sean). While the hunting is what brings us together, it’s the meals that stick in my memory.

Kim usually makes a killer knephla soup as well as chili for the deer camp, while Joe’s specialty has been appetizers, specifically shrimp scampi and venison morsels.

However, it’s Tom’s Goulash that made an impression on me this year. The dish is similar to a casserole that Therese and I make but with a few changes. I knew it would be something to try at home, especially since our grandson, Rakeem, loves “Grandma’s Hotdish.”

I threw together the goulash last night, and just as we suspected, Rakeem didn’t waste any time having seconds or taking some leftovers home.

Thanks, Tom, for the recipe and the memories!

Cousin Tom’s ‘Goulash’
1 pound ground beef or bison
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 14¾-ounce can cream-style corn
1 15-ounce can Veg-All
1 10½-ounce can Campbell’s Vegetarian Alphabet Soup
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown ground meat in large frying pan and drain if too much fat. While meat is cooking, prepare pasta according to package directions. Add noodle to meat along with remaining ingredients. Place in 2- to 2 ½-quart casserole and bake in oven preheated to 350 degree for 1 to 1½ hours. Serve with hard rolls or bread.

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