Wednesday, September 28, 2011

English-style Mushroom Sauce for Beef

My wife Christina's Uncle Fritz, the surviving family member of that generation, has wide culinary tastes.

They include much-maligned British cuisine, a result of his 50 years in England.

Since he was born in Eastern Pennsylvania and once again resides there, you may wonder at the substantive English sojourn.

A teenager during World War II, when Fritz turned 18 he left college -- and his college sweetheart -- to join the Marines.

He was aboard a ship headed for the dreaded invasion of the Japanese homeland when, following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan precipitously surrendered, sparing countless Allied and Japanese lives.

Mustered out of military service and supported by the G.I. Bill, Fritz finished his university studies at the Sorbonne in recently liberated Paris. He then drifted to England, began working for an international firm, married and raised a family. After being widowed 10 years ago, and with his children grown, he returned to the U.S., tracked down his old college sweetheart and married her.

We met with them for lunch this past summer during our vacation up North.

Several days before that lunch with Fritz and Margie, we had enjoyed one of Fritz's specialty dishes, though prepared by my wife's brother in Virginia.

A mushroom-and-cream sauce touched with sherry, the condiment is intended for topping grilled beef -- in this case a marinated London broil. Fritz's recipe now is "company food" at my brother-in-law's. It does pair well with seared beef.

The sauce seems archetypically British.

However, Fritz told us the actual recipe came from an American grilling cookbook. Clearly, though, a sauce of mushrooms, cream and sherry intended for grilled beef fit with the classic English cooking Fritz had come to appreciate.

The sour cream should have been the giveaway. That is much more typical of American than British cooking, which would more likely employ heavy cream.

Learning that the recipe is only virtually, not purely, English, I had few qualms taking minor liberties with it to intensify several flavors.

The recipe will serve six when spooned over a suitable amount of steak or good-quality burgers. "English" peas or peas and carrots, or alternatively asparagus, along with hearty mashed potatoes might round out the meal.

To accompany a British-style dinner of beef topped with a mushroom-and-cream sauce, I would probably choose a lager beer (chilled is my preference, unlike the style in England) or even a fairly dry hard cider. Otherwise a full-bodied red wine is in order, but the cream and sherry in the sauce make pairing a little tricky. I'd go with a Zinfandel or Merlot.


1 small onion, shredded lengthwise

1 pound fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/4-inch wide

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons dry sherry

3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon lemon juice at the end

Prepare the vegetables.

Heat large frying pan to medium hot. Fry onions in butter, stirring frequently, until limp. Add mushrooms. Cover and simmer, stirring frequently, 5 minutes.

Stir in sherry, salt and pepper. After 1 minute, add sour cream. Stir until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice.

Taste, and add salt if desired. Keep warm, but not hot, to serve over grilled beef.


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