Simple Beef Stroganoff

Simple Beef Stroganoff

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    When you think about beef stroganoff, do you fantasize about people in fur hats dancing in a squat around sabers to balalaika music, kicking madly in apparent defiance of gravity, taking occasional breaks to chug vodka and stroke their excessively long and pointy mustaches as if imitating Snidely Whiplash from the old Dudley Do-Right cartoons?  No?

    Maybe that’s just me.

    I’ve been a huge fan of beef stroganoff all of my life.  Well, I doubt that Mom served it to me when I was still bottle-feeding, but knowing my mom, I wouldn’t rule it out completely.  The one thing I couldn’t handle was the mushrooms, to which I am allergic.  I don’t break out in hives, develop watery eyes or experience bouts of uncontrollable sneezing when I eat mushrooms; if that was all that happened I would gladly chow them down on a regular basis and put up with the mild discomfort.  Instead, when I eat mushrooms, I get violently ill, which is no fun for me, but even worse for those around me, as I have the selfish habit of spreading my misery around with horrendous consequences.

    Interestingly (well, I think it’s interesting; you can call it filler if you like), the first printed version of the recipe created by the large, powerful and reputedly oddly acrobatic Stroganoff family was in Elena Molokhovets’ cookbook (not surprisingly, it was a Russian publication) and contained no mushrooms or onions, which leads me to believe that the Stroganoff family might like my version of their famous dish more than that served in most restaurants. Maybe eating mushrooms made them hurl, too. I can only hope.

    Classic stroganoff is only mildly complicated to make, but it takes quite a while, mostly because of the preparation and cooking of the beef.  To simplify the process, I use ground beef, which I admit is not as good, but it ain’t bad, either.  Try it once before you dismiss it.

    For this, you will need:

    • 1 bag egg noodles (1 lb.)
    • 1-1½ lb. ground beef
    • 1 cup beef stock (or 1 cube of beef bouillon in a cup of hot water is fine, though I usually use more bouillon in the same amount of water)
    • ½ stick butter, sliced into several pieces
    • 4 Tbs. sour cream
    • 1 Tbs. olive oil
    • 4 tsp. all-purpose flour
    • 1½ tsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp. Penzey’s Turkish seasoning (optional, but it’s better with it)
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    The procedure:

    1. Fill a large pot ¾ full with water; bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the noodles, olive oil and 1-2 tsp. salt; cover and return to boiling. 
    2. While the noodles cook, add 2 Tbs. Butter (half of the total) to a small saucepan and melt over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the flour a little at a time until smooth (over about 30 seconds).  Add the beef stock to the saucepan very slowly, over a couple minutes; whisk constantly.  Simmer, whisking often, until it thickens.  Cover and remove from heat.
    3. Check the noodles.
    4. Add 2 Tbs. butter (the other half of the total) to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until melted.  Do Not Burn the Butter!  Add the ground beef to the skillet along with the Turkish seasoning; break up the larger chunks and stir almost constantly until the beef is lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Using a strainer, drain the meat juices into the saucepan; reheat the sauce over medium heat; add sour cream, mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Check the noodles.  If they are tender, drain them into a colander, and then return them to the pot.  Add the beef to the noodles; toss the noodles to mix.  Pour the sauce over the noodles; toss to blend, and then serve.

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