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Friday, July 25, 2014

Real beef stroganoff has no mushrooms

So this one is for my good friend Jon who has a great fondness for meat, but despises mushrooms and as such never orders beef stroganoff at a restaurant.

This recipe investigation is not part of Helen's breadbox, but I wanted to share it with you nonetheless.

Anyhow, beef stroganoff, defined as "sauteed pieces of beef served in a sour cream sauce"...plain and simple.  According to Wikipedia the first printed version of the recipe was in "A Gift to Young Housewives" by Elena Ivanovna Molokhovets first published in 1861 which calls for floured beef cubes cooked with bouillon and finished with a sour cream and mustard sauce.  So, I figured, "I can do that".  Here are the results of my research.

The Beef:
I used eye of round, particularly because I like the taste of it and it's a great cut of beef for stewing.  One could just as easily purchase pre-cut stew meat for a less labor intensive version.  Which ever way you go is fine.

Here is my roast before cutting:

And here it is after cutting into cubes: 

I had about 2 pounds of beef cubes when all was said and done.  Unseasoned beef really doesn't have much flavor so I seasoned it with sea salt and black pepper and put the cubes in the fridge for a couple hours to let the flavors develop.

About 30 minutes before dinner I started cooking.  The recipe calls for floured beef, but I had to stop and think about that for a minute.  Knowing my flour history (I'm a bread baker and kind of a foody) I figured that back in the 1860's white flour, specifically all-purpose flour, was probably not as readily available as it is today.  European flour (I know Russia isn't 100% European) is also rated completely differently than flour in the U.S. so even today what American's would call all-purpose flour really doesn't exist over there.  At any rate, I figured the flour that was used for the original recipe was probably some sort of whole meal flour, either whole wheat or rye or something like that.  So, I dug deeper and found the Russia produces a lot of rye.  In fact Russia produced 3.6 million metric tons of rye in 2005 [Wikipedia page on Rye] more than any other nation.  That was good enough reason for me to use rye flour.  For 2 pounds of beef I used about 1/4 cup of rye and mixed it until combined.

Looks nice and rustic to me.  Now on to cooking.  I sprayed our largest nonstick skillet with some olive oil, heated it to medium heat (that's number 5 on my fancy induction stove for those playing along at home), and began cooking the beef cubes.

After 10 min or so of cooking the meat was nice and browned.
On a side note, I don't know if it was the meat or the rye cooking or what, but this smell reminded me of the smell of a McDonald's.  You can take that as you will, but it was a pleasant smell to me.

Anyway, next comes the broth.  I used 1 cup of beef broth made from 1 cup of boiling water and our powdered beef base that we had in our pantry.  When I added it to the mix it immediately started to thicken from the cooked rye flour that was still in the pan.  Here is the meat with the broth next too the sour cream and mustard mix (more on that in a minute).

Once the broth thickened a bit and the beef was cooked through, I added the sour cream and mustard mix which consisted of 1/2 cup of sour cream and about 2 teaspoons of mustard.

A side note on mustard, make sure you use good quality mustard.  While I'm sure a cheap mustard would still work (the world isn't going to end because you used cheap mustard), you can really taste the difference of a good quality mustard.  Here I used Hengstenberg medium hot which we got at a small specialty meat market.  It's also available on Amazon and I know you can get it at Meijer too if you have those in your area.

Ok so add sour cream and mustard mixture and cook for 5 min or so until a nice thick sauce forms.
And there you have it, beef stroganoff with no mushrooms.  I have to say it tastes pretty awesome.  Not too spicy, but has a little kick from the mustard.  You could also add some horseradish to the mix if you wanted it to have more of a kick.  Here is the final recipe:

2 lbs. Beef cut into cubes
1 tsp. Salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 tsp. Black pepper (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup Rye flour
1/2 tbsp. Oil
1 cup Beef broth
1/2 cup Sour Cream
2 tsp. Mustard (good mustard)

1) Season the beef with salt and pepper and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
2) Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
3) Mix the rye flour and the beef cubes together and cook in the skillet until browned.
4) Add the beef broth and cook until it has started to thicken and the beef is cooked through.
5) Mix the sour cream and mustard together and add to the skillet.
6) Cook for 5 minutes until the sauce is thick.
7) Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with rice, noodles, or by itself.

Makes about 4-6 servings.

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