Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

Word has it, Beef Stroganoff was invented in the 1890's but gained real popularity in the U.S.A. in the 1950's. This may explain why you remember it as something you've only had at Grandma's house. But you should not stop reading. Here's why:
I understand that sometimes the meals at Grandma's house consisted of jello salad and other...nightmares. (Grandma, if you're reading, that isn't a reference to you personally. I promise.) This dish, however, is a classic and it deserves some real attention. It has been created from gourmet, imported ingredients in one rendition and from a Campbell's soup can in others. This is a meal that has stood the test of time, surviving through varying tastes and budgets. There has got to be a reason.
There is. It has survived all this time because it tastes really, really good. Earthy baby bella mushrooms compliment each bite of good quality beef, and a slightly tangy sauce is balanced by the creaminess of the overall dish. When combined with fettuccine pasta, or better yet, homemade fettuccine, the results are seriously mouth watering. Even if you are not a meat lover, this dish will please you and your crowd. The fact that it seems an impressive, gourmet feat, but actually takes only a little planning and effort...well, that is just an added bonus. 

Beef Stroganoff
Adapted from Simply Recipes Beef Stroganoff

Pam Canola Oil
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound of 1-inch thick top sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 2 1/2" long strips (freeze for 1-2 hours prior to cutting for ease in slicing thin), bring to room temperature prior to searing meat
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced (these are also known as baby bella mushrooms)
salt & pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dry tarragon or 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup dry white wine (can substitute with shot of cognac, brandy, or vermouth)
1 1/2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup creme fraiche (at room temperature, can substitute sour cream)
1/4 cup sour cream (at room temperature)

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Spray the cast iron pan with canola oil and melt 2 Tbsp. of butter. Increase the heat to high/med-high and add the strips of beef--they should sizzle (loudly) as they hit the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan here. The beef strips should have adequate space to cook, for optimal cooking--see the photo above for a visual cue. Immediately salt and pepper the beef in the pan. Once the first side of the meat has browned, flip and season and cook evenly on the second side. Be careful not to overcook the meat, and remember that the meat will carry-over cook a bit after you take it out of the pan. As this recipe calls for a large amount of beef, you should work in batches. Place cooked beef in a bowl (covered with aluminum foil) and set aside.

Keeping the cast iron skillet on the stove, reduce the heat to medium. Add your minced shallots and cook for a minute or two. Add the softened shallots to your reserved meat bowl and set aside.

Now, melt another 1 Tbsp. of butter in your cast iron skillet. Increase the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms and do not add salt. Cook the mushrooms for about 4 minutes, to until they soften a bit and become fragrant. Add the nutmeg and tarragon to the mushrooms during this step, sprinkling evenly over the whole pan. 

Reduce the heat to low and add the beef bouillon and then the wine. Add the creme fraiche and sour cream (or sour cream, if that is all you are using), and mix everything together well. Careful, here, not to let the mixture come to a simmer or a boil, as you are now working with milk products. We all know what happens when we bring milk to a boil, right? (The answer is, generally, bad things. Things like curdling.) Stir in the reserved shallots and beef and add salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve your beef stroganoff immediately, over fettuccine noodles. Serves 4. 

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