Sometimes, you come across a dish, and it just sounds so….archaic. You can’t help but think that this is what people used to eat before they had things like spice, taste, or technique. This, of course, is based on nothing in particular, and you know this, but the stigma remains. But then you think of the dish again. And again. And somehow, through sheer repetition, you become intrigued, until soon, you can’t help but want a taste yourself. For me, that was beef stroganoff, and let’s just say I’m glad I came around.
Beef Stroganoff really did not interest me at first. I mean, beef in bland noodles with sour cream being the bulk of the sauce? Doesn’t sound super exciting. Kind of like cafeteria food really (maybe that’s a part of the stigma for me?). Of course, I like beef, pasta, and creamy things, so eventually, after seeing a few tempting preparations of the dish, it got stuck in my head until I really wanted it (funny how that works). And so this is my take on that classic dish.
Firstly, this was my breaking-in-the-new-pasta-maker dish, so with noodles being a big part of stroganoff, I made my own egg noodles (if you’re not up for the task, you could just buy the pasta noodles. But hey, where’s the fun in that?). I cooked a nice piece of steak, mushrooms for some nice, earthy, nutty flavors, both garlic and shallots for their obvious awesomeness, and some briefly fried capers for that briney, lemony, sweetness they bring. This was all simmered in a saucy combination of broth (for body), marsala (for more nutty, complex flavors), and herbs (thyme and tarragon for sweet, anisey flavors) with tomato and paprika adding that final touch of flavor, all tempered with the creamy tang of sour cream. All combined, this certainly blew my pre-conceived notion of this crotchety old dish right out of the water–it was elegant, complex, hearty, and fun to make and I’d definitely do it again. This is also my entry for this week’s Presto Pasta Nights.
- 1-1.25 lbs Linguine/Egg noodles (I made my own)
- 1.25 lbs top sirloin
- 8 oz chanterelle mushrooms (I used 1 oz dried)
- few sprigs thyme
- 2 shallots
- 4-6 cloves garlic
- 1 cup marsala wine
- 1 cup broth
- 1/4 cup tarragon leaves
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 Tbsp capers
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2-4 tsp sweet paprika
- 2-4 tsp smoked paprika
Once you’ve decided on making/buying the pasta, the next thing to do is to prepare all of the ingredients for the stroganoff. I went with dried mushrooms, so that requires 30 minutes of soaking in warm water to reconstitute them, but if you went with fresh, simply rinse and brush them off. Whichever way you go with, once the mushrooms are ready, dice them up somewhat finely (or thin slices–whatever style you prefer. I have to hide the mushrooms in the sauce–I cook for a picky eater! ). Also mince the shallot and garlic finely.
Another easy prep step: cook the steak. Many stroganoffs call for an expensive cut of meat, such as filet mignon, however, given how small the slices of meat will be and the presence of so many other flavors, to me, the tenderness of filet mignon is a wasted investment for a dish such as this. I instead went with a larger, cheaper cut of meat (top sirloin) that goes perfectly with this dish, has more fat surrounding the meat (which means juicier meat), and packs more beefy flavor which nobody can complain about (well, except vegetarians, I suppose).
So whatever cut of beef you decide on, cook it to medium rare using whatever technique suits your fancy (some pan fry, some use the broiler, I threw it on the grill for a little over 10 minutes, flipping once and getting that nice grill flavor on the meat). Even if you’re not a medium-rare kind of meat eater, don’t cook it any further (although feel free to cook it less!)–the meat will still be cooked a little more in the rest of this recipe, so overcooking upfront means really overcooking it by the end, and that’s the kind of thing that can sadden even the happiest of cows.
Once the steak is cooked, get it off of the heat and give it 5 or 10 minutes to cool off so that it can reabsorb those delicious juices. Then, slice the meat into thin, bite-sized strips and trim any excess fat that remains. Set this aside in a small bowl.
While all of the steak cooking/cooling is going on, finely mince the garlic and shallots. Sauté them both in some melted butter, shallots for 2-3 minutes and then the garlic for another minute or two. Set this aside in the sliced beef bowl, and once cool enough to safely handle, toss the beef and garlic/shallots to mix them up a bit.
This is also a good time to start boiling some water so that you can cook the pasta soon.
Now, melt down some more butter and sauté your diced mushrooms. Sprinkle some salt and pepper in there to help draw out the moisture and let this go for somewhere around 10 minutes. While you wait, finely dice the tarragon and thyme leaves. Towards the end of sautéing, toss in the tarragon and thyme, stir it up, throw in a handful of capers to cook them just a bit, and after two minutes or so, take this off of the heat and set it aside (but not in the beef bowl!).
Now we are approaching the end of cooking, so this is a good time to cook the pasta in the water you started boiling earlier (and throw in some salt). If you’re using home-made noodles, this should take about 6 minutes or so, store-bought, just follow the package directions (probably ~10 minutes). Then, let it drain until you’re ready for it.
So now that your pan is empty again, melt down a knob of butter, and very briefly (about 2 minutes) fry the contents of the beef bowl. Then, deglaze any brown bits using the wine.
Mix in the broth, tomato paste, and paprika(s). I opted to use two kinds of paprika because I love both of their flavors–sweet and smokey, could you pick just one? Let this simmer and reduce the sauce a bit for five minutes or so. Then, add in the mushroom/herb/caper mixture (you don’t want it absorbing all of that sauce right up front!). Finally, drop the heat down to low and mix in the sour cream, being sure not to overheat it so that you don’t separate the sour cream and make it ugly. Toss the beef in this well to coat everything nicely and then mix this into the pasta noodles, tossing and coating those nicely as well.
Now dish out a hearty serving and enjoy!