by Cat, Feb 2008 (Photo, right, from Red Standard.org (4))
See also: 1. Beef, Buffalo, Venison, Yak Menu; 2. Classic Beef Stroganoff (Fine Cooking.com (3))
I first heard of Beef Stroganoff back in the time of the great Cold War; eating something Russian seemed very daring, taking a stand for international friendship. Friends who had tried the dish said that it was very rich and I should make it with yogurt instead of sour cream. “Bah!” said I. “I love sour cream, and I’ll only make this once in a great while, so it will be a treat.”
But where to find a recipe. I had an old Weight Watcher’s cookbook that had a Turkey Stroganoff recipe, so I thought I could try that, but using good beef sirloin instead of turkey, and sour cream instead of yogurt. Hungarian paprika? Where will I find that? I was in luck. They had some in bulk at my local food co-op. It’s darker in color and more flavorful than regular paprika.
My experiment was a great success. A friend had given me some wild chanterelle mushrooms, which I sliced into thin strips and sauteed with the beef strips.
About ingredients for Stroganoff
It’s best to use better cuts of beef, such as sirloin for this dish, as it cooks fairly quickly and cheaper cuts would be too tough unless cooked for a long time. However, if you want to use a crock-pot, you could use a tougher cut such as round steak. In this case, do not add the paprika until near the end of the cooking; if you add it from the beginning, all the flavor will have cooked out of the dish.
While the recipe calls for beef, you could also use buffalo or yak, or a gamey meat such as venison or elk. This is best if you use the better, tender cuts of meat, but round steak can also be good; it just takes longer to cook it tender.
Turkey or chicken can also be used instead of beef; in this case, use chicken stock, and the cooking time will be shorter. The poultry version is really good served with steamed wild rice. Check out the Chicken Stroganoff (2) recipe on FineCooking.com.
If you don’t want to make your own beef stock, try one of my veggie broths. You could use a commercial beef broth but be sure to choose an Organic variety, and read the label to avoid harmful additives; be especially wary of “natural flavors” and “yeast extract” (another name for MSG). Another option is to dissolve gelled and concentrated beef bouillon in hot water, but I do not recommend bouillon cubes as they are highly processed and contain many harmful additives.
For a change of pace, try some wild mushrooms like crimini, chanterelles or shitake. If you don’t have them fresh, try dehydrated versions and reconstitute them (see Mushrooms (About)). A variety of mushrooms in the diet provides many health and immune-boosting benefits.
Herbs, Spices and other Flavorings
The original recipe calls for Worcestershire sauce (1 – 2 tsp); go light, as it can overshadow the paprika flavor. Paprika is best added to the pot when browning the meat, as its flavor is released when warmed with oil.
Chervil can be hard to find unless you grow your own. I substitute tarragon and parsley in this recipe.
Some recipes use dried or dijon mustard instead of paprika, which gives it a different but delicious flavor; just don’t overdo the mustard or it will overwhelm. Another option is fresh dill weed, which is stirred into the sour cream before it is added to the cooked meat.
The addition of the liquid from soaked caraway seeds (in the Premier Systems.com (1) recipe) is ingenious, but you can certainly omit that if you don’t like caraway. I don’t care for tomato paste in my stroganoff, and I don’t think it is authentically Russian, so I’ve omitted it.
Cat’s Beef Stroganoff
I’ve lost my original recipe, but this slow-cooked version, adapted from Premier Systems.com (1) is very close.
Since the days of that first experiment, I have learned more about long, slow, moist cooking of meats and have become an adherent; that’s the way I like to make my stroganoff. I do this in my saucier on stove-top, but a crockpot also works great: start it in the morning before heading off to work, and it will be done when you get home.
Serves 4 – 6, with steamed brown rice, fettucini, or homemade egg noodles. Or potato gnocchi.
- 3 cups rich homemade rich homemade Beef Stock, Potato Peel Broth, or Vegetable Broth
- 2 Tbsp whole caraway seeds (optional)
- boiling water (optional with caraway)
- 2 pounds top sirloin or other good steak
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced (or more, to taste)
- ½ pound mushrooms, sliced (or reconstituted dried mushrooms, enough to make ½ pound after reconstituted)
- ½ tsp dried chervil (or substitute with tarragon and/or parsley)
- 1 – 2 Tbsp lard or lard & olive oil combination
- 1 – 2 Tbsp paprika or dry mustard
- ¼ cup dry white or red wine, sherry, or 2 Tbsp brandy
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Unrefined sea salt to taste
- fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
- 1 Tbsp fresh dill weed (or dried, in a pinch) (optional)
- cooked fettuccini or other pasta, homemade egg noodles, or steamed brown rice
- a cup (to soak the seeds)
- small mesh strainer (to strain the seeds)
- small bowl
- 3-quart saucier or cast iron dutch oven, with lid
- kettle for boiling water
- wooden spoon
- Prep: Prepare broth/stock, if you don’t have any put away.
- Soak caraway seeds in ¼ cup boiling water, if using; set aside.
- Cut steak into thin strips, about ½ inch by ¼ inch, by 3″ long; set aside
- Chop onion, mince garlic, slice fresh mushrooms (if using); add chervil; set aside in same bowl.
- Cook: Warm broth to a simmer. If using, add dried mushrooms and simmer 30 minutes or until reconstituted; strain and reserve broth, keeping it warm. Add reconstituted mushrooms to bowl of onion mixture.
- Melt butter/heat oil in 3-quart saucier. Add strips of steak and paprika (if using), and brown on all sides. Add bowl of onion mixture and saute until onions are transparent.
- Add mustard (if using) and worcestershire (if using); mix well. Add wine or brandy; cook until most of liquid has evaporated.
- Stir in warm broth and heat just to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer, cover saucier, and simmer until meat is very tender, 1 – 3 hours, depending on cut of meat (or cook in preheated 300°F oven).
- Near the end of the simmering, bring creme fraiche or sour cream to room temperature. Stir in the dill weed, if using.
- Add chopped parsley to meat mix. Pour caraway seeds through a strainer so that only the liquid goes into the pan (skip if not using caraway). Season to taste.
- At the last minute, right before serving, stir a bit of the hot broth into the creme fraiche or sour cream, then stir that mixture into the meat mixture (this prevents the sauce from curdling). Heat gently, just until the cream is warmed. Do not boil.
- Adjust seasoning; if it needs more paprika, sprinkle a bit into a half teaspoon of olive oil to release the flavor before stirring into the stroganoff. Pour into attractive serving bowl.
- Garnish with a light sprinkling of paprika and chopped fresh parsley.
- Spoon stroganoff over cooked pasta, noodles, or steamed rice.
- Serve with buttered green peas, braised green beans and/or cauliflower; and pickled beets as a garnish.
- Premier Systems.com (premiersystems.com/recipes/stroganoff.html)
- Fine Cooking.com: Chicken Stroganoff (finecooking.com/recipe/chicken-stroganoff-mushrooms-sherry-sage.aspx).
- Fine Cooking.com: Classic Beef Stroganoff (finecooking.com/recipes/classic-beef-stroganoff.aspx)
- Red Standard.org (redstandard.org/editrix/strog.jpg)