After two vegetarian columns, beef makes a return
by Alan Reed
Aug 22, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Despite two columns of vegetarian recipes, I haven’t sworn off beef. Though I must say, a vegetarian diet has seen me shed a few pounds around my midsection, so maybe there is something to being a vegetarian.

This week, we go back to the joys of beef by presenting something decidedly non non-fat and non-vegetarian with creamy beef Stroganoff. Stroganoff, a dish popular around the world, traces its roots to Tsarist Russia. Legend has it that a chef prepared the dish for a general named Stroganoff in the 19th Century. Wikipedia says that regional variations exist. In Brazil, chefs prepare the meal using tomato sauce. In Russia, it seems to be traditional to serve the dish over fries. Scandinavian countries prefer sausage to beef, apparently. Wikipedia adds that the modern American form came to our nation from American servicemen serving in China, and immigrants from Russia.

Despite extensive research, and finding several delectable-sounding recipes, I opted for the traditional American beef Stroganoff with mushrooms and onions. The recipe is simple and not time consuming at all.

Melt three tablespoons of butter into a large skillet on medium-to-medium-low heat. Butter tends to burn if the fire is too hot. We want to cook our beef quickly, but not burn the butter.

For the beef, I took a pound-and-a-quarter piece of bottom sirloin, and cut it, across the grain, into two inch strips, about an eighth of an inch thick. Season the beef strips with a quarter teaspoon of salt and pepper, and a few dashes of paprika, and brown on both sides. When done, drain the fat from the skillet, and reserve the beef strips to add later.

Melt another two tablespoons of butter into the skillet, and add a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic, and a small, diced yellow onion. Sauté the onion until it gets soft, and add a half-pound of sliced white mushrooms. Again, we want to sweat the flavorful juice from the mushrooms, so add a quarter teaspoon of salt over the vegetables, stir well, and cover, cooking on medium low heat, until the mushrooms cook. After sweating the mushrooms, add a quarter-teaspoon of tarragon and the same amount of paprika. Most of the Stroganoffs I’ve enjoyed went heavy on the parsley, so without reservation, I dumped in a tablespoon-and-a-half. Add pepper to taste, though, for my palate, I added maybe a half teaspoon. Add more or less depending on just how you like things.

Lastly, add a cup of sour cream. Piqued with guilt for using ample butter, I used fat-free sour cream, and noted no ill results. Stir in the sour cream, and thin the sauce with a quarter cup of dry white wine. Once blended, heat, but do not allow the Stroganoff to reach a boil as it will curdle the cream.

I’ve read about many things to serve Stroganoff over. I’ve mentioned fries, but have read about mashed potatoes and rice as well. Again, this is the American version, so I used the popular American side-dish, egg noodles. Boil the noodles according to the package directions. When done, drain the noodles, and then add a tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of garlic powder and a tablespoon of parsley. Mix the noodles well. Prepare the plate with a bed of the noodles topped with a generous helping of Stroganoff. I would have liked to have served the meal with some pumpernickel, but couldn’t find any on short notice. It’s something to look for in the future.

The fat-free sour cream did not diminish the flavor in the slightest, as Hawkins said that he loved how it came through loud and clear and made for a tangy taste. Thin cuts of the beef made for tender mouthfuls, despite being from a wonderfully inexpensive cut. The mushrooms and onions balanced the meal, offering flavor and texture alike. The verdict, Stroganoff is a keeper.

Hawkins recently upgraded his satellite TV package to include a DVR. He records the old Rod Serling classic “The Twilight Zone” every night. We watch a few episodes now and again. I told him that Serling had a second program a bit later in his career called “Night Gallery.” This program takes art as its theme, and the bizarre and macabre circumstances surrounding a particular painting. “Night Gallery” offers more modern acting and cinematography than “Zone” and is guaranteed to give anyone the creeps. Hawkins being Hawkins had to check into this. As we ate our Stroganoff, we watched “Little Black Bag” with Burgess Meredith and Chill Wills dealing with the consequences of advanced technology among less-than-advanced minds. Rich creamy Stroganoff and classic spooky television made sure that a good time was had by all last Wednesday evening. Good eating.
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