Thursday, August 07, 2008

'Chopped' Beef Stroganoff: Dining for Cash-strapped Aristocrats

The original Beef Stroganoff, with thin strips of fine beef such as sirloin or fillet sautéed with wine and mushrooms, then finished with sour cream, is elegant. It was created, apparently, by a chef in the employ of one Count Stroganoff, a 19th Century aristocrat and diplomat in Imperial Russia. Modern recipes variously add tomato paste or mustard, but I think the simpler form, enhanced only by a little dill, is wonderful.

But how often do I sauté sirloin or fillet of beef? Pretty rarely. Especially these days. What I've discovered is that the dish can be excellent even using good ground beef. By that I mean ground sirloin. 'Lean' ground beef I don't care for the taste and dryness of. Ground round is too dry and tough. Ground chuck, while tasty, is usually too greasy. Ground beef, 80% lean, forget it. The mushrooms in this are the usual 'champignon' mushrooms that are typical in American groceries. You just need many of them, in weight equal to the beef. Any dry white wine will do for the cooking. Dairy sour cream, 'natural' without all the guar gum, flavorings, and stabilizers, is what the cream should be. Fresh dill only, if you are using dill. The dry dill weed is pretty dull. Bacon, smoked if used, is optional (but for my Jewish friends, the beef with cream already violated Mosaic Law).

The recipe serves six generously. This accompanies buttered noodles or buttered steamed potatoes well. But it also goes well with lightly salted brown rice. Imperial Russian food, even if it's the poor man's version, needs a wine. Given the richness of the beef-mushroom-cream dish, a refined dry red, such as a good Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot would be right.

'Chopped' Beef Stroganoff Tim

2 pounds ground sirloin (not round)
1 strip smoked bacon, optional
1 medium onion
2 pounds mushrooms
1 medium-large clove garlic
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Large pinch of cayenne
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon minced or snipped fresh dill or parsley

Place the ground sirloin in a heavy pan over medium heat and start to fry it, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Mince the bacon, if used, and add it to the beef. Chop the onion and add it to the meat. Rinse the mushrooms and slice them lengthwise 1/2-inch thick and add them to the meat. Mince the garlic, and add it plus the bay leaves. Fry this mixture gently, breaking up the meat, until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have shrunken.

Stir in the salt, seasonings, wine, and water. Simmer 5 minutes.

Add the sour cream and bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove from the heat. Taste, and add salt, if needed. Stir in the dill or parsley

Let rest, covered, a few minutes before serving (or it can be refrigerated and reheated later to serve). Taste one final time, and add salt if needed,

Serve, sprinkled with a little more minced dill or parsley, accompanied with hot buttered noodles, potatoes, or salted brown rice.


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