Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beef Stroganoff

The DDH doesn't make requests often. He's usually pretty content to just eat whatever I make, and will admit that he has discovered he loves lots of foods and flavors he had never tried before I made them for him.

However, I always ask him if he has any requests when I'm making my meal plan for the week, and this week he had one: beef stroganoff. Apparently he was feeling nostalgic for his mom's beef stroganoff.

The problem is, I really don't care for beef stroganoff. For one, it's usually served on egg noodles, of which I am not a fan. I'm not a fan of "cream of whatever"-type foods in general. Maybe it makes me a bad Lutheran, but I skip all those casseroles consisting mostly of different canned "cream of" soups. Blech.

But the DDH so rarely makes requests, and he clearly wanted beef stroganoff with egg noodles like his mom used to make. So I agreed to try it if he could get his mom's recipe.

A call to his mom led to the discovery of an old church cookbook containing her beef stroganoff recipe.

While the stroganoffs of my youth involved flank steak or some other sort of chopped beef, this recipe gave ground beef as an option and the DDH agreed that that would be fine.

The rest of the ingredients seemed fairly innocuous, other than the condensed cream of mushroom soup (and the strange specification that the sour cream be "dairy sour cream," which makes me wonder what other sorts of sour cream they ate in the eighties).

If I could figure out how to replace the soup, then I had all the ingredients except egg noodles. I picked some of those up and also bought some fresh mushrooms, since they were on sale at Aldi (I do often use canned mushrooms, but I'm not sure how this recipe will work with them).

I consulted Katie Kimball's cookbook Better Than a Box* to figure out how to replace the soup. Turns out, condensed cream of whatever soup is essentially a thick bechamel sauce with your vegetable or meat of choice for the base. Excellent.

I adjusted the procedures in Katie's book, added the seasonings from my mother-in-law's recipe, and went to work while T-Rex took an obligingly long nap.

Well, guess what? I still don't really like beef stroganoff. Or egg noodles. But I did find a way to make a dish that apparently people who do like beef stroganoff think is super tasty, and it didn't involve a single can of anything. The DDH declared it tasted just like he remembered, which means that clearly the flavor of the dish comes from something other than the cream of mushroom soup, and also that the addition of Worcestershire sauce to his mom's recipe didn't change much.

I don't have any pictures of this because a) I was trying to work quickly while the baby napped and b) beef stroganoff looks like barf. Not appetizing.

Real Food Beef Stroganoff

In a large skillet or dutch oven, brown 1 pound ground beef or beef cut of your choice. Set aside.

While the meat browns, roughly chop up 1 package mushrooms (8 oz) and 1 medium onion.

Heat about 2 Tablespoons oil or butter in the  skillet in which you cooked the beef. Add your onions and mushrooms. Cook down for about twenty minutes (stirring every five minutes or so) or until onions caramelize some and everything is soft.

While your mushrooms and onions cook, mix in a small bowl: 2 Tablespoons ketchup, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1-5 cloves minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.

When the mushrooms and onions have cooked down, gradually add up to 1/2 cup flour, stirring until well incorporated.

Add 1 cup beef broth and 1 cup milk, whisking constantly.

Bring to a low boil and boil for one to two minutes, whisking frequently.

Add ketchup mixture. Stir to incorporate.

Add beef. Mix well.

Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened and warmed through. Just before serving, stir in 8 oz. sour cream. Serve over egg noodles.

I made the stroganoff (sans sour cream) while T-Rex took his afternoon nap, then left it on the stove (heat off) until just before dinnertime. Then I turned the heat on the stroganoff to medium low and stirred it occasionally while I cooked the egg noodles, and it was warm and ready to go by the time the noodles were done.

I forgot to add the sour cream. The DDH thought it still tasted fine, but I could tell it was missing something and I'm pretty sure the sour cream would have fixed that. However, I'm limiting my dairy intake because it doesn't seem to agree with the baby's digestion, so, having forgotten it, I just left it out.

Like I said, I didn't think it was that fantastic, but it did indeed taste like beef stroganoff. The DDH was super happy. He made me write down what I did and even texted his mother to tell her how well it turned out. It was definitely not as terrible as some stroganoffs I've had, and I promised the DDH I'll make it again. Overall, a success.

Best of all: no cans required! :-)

*I bought this book on sale; $17 seems a lot to pay for an ebook. But it is a very interesting and educational read, going into the process behind adapting recipes to use less-processed ingredients, as well as including a number of recipes for real food versions of precisely those potluck-type foods that I don't actually like but everybody else does. ^_^

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