I used to think that I didn’t like Beef Stroganoff. It wasn’t a meal that was served in my home growing up and, if it was, it was usually a ground beef-based boxed mix that was mostly salt and mushy noodles, combined with rubbery mushrooms. No wonder I thought Stroganoff was awful stuff!
As I have learned to cook over the years, I wanted to try some of the “recipes” my mother fed us as kids and see if they could be fixed and made, not only edible, but delicious. I discovered that Beef Stroganoff is really good, if cooked correctly.
There are three main elements to good Beef Stroganoff: mushrooms, sauce, and beef. The first is the mushrooms. You can make good Stroganoff and leave out the beef completely…if you cook the mushrooms correctly. Rubbery, gray, slimy mushrooms were the bane of my childhood and are the reason that many people believe that they don’t like them. The important thing to remember about mushrooms is that you have to cook them, and then cook them some more. I usually use about a pound of Cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/8 inch thick slices.
Place two tablespoons oil and two tablespoons butter into a large skillet (I use my cast iron). Heat your pan over medium until your oil starts to shimmer and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and start cooking over medium heat. There’s nothing wrong with adding some of the dried mushroom dust left over from making mushroom ketchup if you have some on hand.
You have to cook those mushrooms until all the water comes out of them and pools in the pan and the mushrooms are swimming in liquid.
Unfortunately, this is when many people stop cooking the mushrooms! Don’t stop! Keep cooking them until all of that liquid is evaporated and the bottom of the pan is almost dry. Now the mushrooms can develop some delicious browning, and acquire the rich, meaty flavor that they are destined to deliver to your dish!
Now that the mushrooms have browned, it’s time to add a medium diced onion and a sprinkle more salt and pepper (or mushroom dust). Push the mushrooms into a ring around the side of the pan and let that onion sweat in the middle for at least 5 minutes. The mushrooms will continue to brown and add even more flavor to the bottom of your pan.
Then add four tablespoons flour and stir it around for at least a minute, until every morsel of mushroom and onion is coated with that buttery flour mixture. Pour in two to three cups of beef broth, stirring constantly, until you have a silky sauce. A tablespoon of mushroom ketchup is another delightful addition at this point but make sure to adjust your salt accordingly.
Now for the meat. A sirloin steak is good for this. The pictures that accompany this show a leftover steak that I had cooked to medium rare and sliced up to stir into the mushrooms and sauce.
I usually let the beef simmer in the sauce just long enough to heat it through and let it share some flavor with the sauce. An alternative is to cook a steak in the cast iron pan before cooking the mushrooms, which adds some lovely flavor to the fat that the mushrooms cook in! Remember, mushrooms are little sponges and will absorb flavors and then release them into the sauce you serve them with.
Stroganoff wouldn’t be stroganoff without sour cream. My lactose intolerance makes this an issue. However, the lovely company, Lactaid, now makes sour cream! This makes me happy because now I can make this delicious dish once again.
After the meat has simmered for about 5 minutes, turn off the heat and add one half to one cup of sour cream to your sauce, depending on your taste. Do this off heat or the sour cream will curdle. You now have a lovely, creamy, mushroom-y Stroganoff to delight your taste buds.
Now all you have left to do is boil up some egg noodles and plate your delicious dinner!