Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Beef Stroganoff

Even if I lived in Montreal my whole life, I never seem to get used to winter. If I had my way, I would hibernate or spend 4 months soaking my frozen bones in a hot bath. Instead, I take out a warm coat and sturdy boots, grind my teeth and make comfort food.

Thanks to globalization, we can still eat almost anything we want all year 'round, but cold weather such as what we have been experiencing lately will inevitably make me crave rich and filling dishes. Since they also get pretty brutal winters, the Russians have devised some truly delicious wintery comfort meals. I set on to explore some of those, out of curiosity, and to please my very own cute Russian.

I originally doubted the authenticity of beef Stroganoff, wondering if it wasn't to Russians what General Tao is to the Chinese, i.e. a complete bastardization of their traditional cuisine. But after a bit of research, I accepted it as real Russian cuisine, since the first recorded recipes for it date back from Imperial Russia (most likely named after some member of the aristocracy who liked to serve it to his guests in his huge winter palace...). It became massively popular in America, France, China and everywhere Russian exiles fled to after the Revolution. That makes quite a bit of sense, and the regional variations are relatively minimal.

1 pound of beef, cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (8 ounce) package cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups red wine
1 (5,5 ounce) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the beef until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, and set aside. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the beef, wine, tomato paste, mustard, paprika, dill, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 60-90 minutes. Mix the flour in. Bring to a boil and cook while stirring until it has thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and dill.

As you can see, it is a pretty simple recipe to make, so even with frost bitten fingers, anyone can whip this up. My boyfriend likes it better with rice (because all the yummy sauce gets soaked up by the rice) and I dig it over some egg noodles (because it's fun and messy), but either way works. You could even serve it over a couple of baked potatoes, if you fancy.

Sirloin is the preferred cut of beef to work with, but any cut will work, really, as long as it can be prepared into strips. Stewing cubes may be a bit too rough (they are generally from a rougher part of the animal, and take a longer stewing time to cook to the proper texture); if that's what you have at hand, try cutting them in half to make them a bit thinner.

It took me a couple of attempts to balance out the seasoning, so I feel like I can make the following Captain Obvious-statement: this dish isn't supposed to be spicy, but it shouldn't be bland either. Season subtly with garlic, paprika and dill to highlight the mushrooms and beef.

You can also substitute the red wine for beef stock (most of the recipes I've read actually call for beef stock specifically), but I love cooking with wine and find the taste much richer. I tried both ways and the wine version was a million times better. Besides, a Russian dish without booze: that doesn't make sense, does it? You should still taste the tartness of the sour cream, so once you add it, taste and adjust very carefully before serving. Your sauce should have a silky and pleasantly pink creamy texture.

No comments:

Post a Comment