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As a child of early frozen dinners, I was surprised to find a recipe for Beef Stroganoff in Saveur 45 a few years ago. I recalled a college specialty, Hamburger Stroganoff, made with ground beef instead of tenderloin. Without really giving the matter any thought, I concluded that these concoctions were based very loosely upon some wildly complicated and expensive Russian original than no one would dream of making at home (Veal Orlov is the classic example of this). In short, I never had a proper Beef Stroganoff until I made it myself. Now I think it's one of the great dinners for four.
There's nothing to it - as I was about to say. As usual, however, there's some heavy equipment involved, at least in my kitchen, and the dish would be more laborious without it. First, there's the Chef's Choice meat slicer.* Second, there's the DeLonghi deep fat fryer.** Neither appliance is indispensable, but each contributes mightily to my airily pronouncing that "there is nothing to the making of Beef Stroganoff."
The dish is cooked in an instant - after some, but not a great deal of prep. If your stove's burners can run really low, warming rather than cooking, then you can finish the beef before sitting down to a soup, so that there will be no time at all between courses. Basically, you sauté thin slices of tenderloin with softened onions until the meat is almost cooked - three minutes tops - and then pour in a lovely sauce that's easy to make and that will sit over low heat for quite a while. The dish is topped with parsley and French fries - that's right: no noodles, but frites! The fries will be elegance itself if you use the slicer to julienne them.
The following recipe, which serves four, is adapted from Taste of Russia, by Darra Goldstein (Russian Life Books, 1999), as adapted by the editors of Saveur.
First, the ingredients, and some prep notes: you'll want small amounts of butter, flour, dry mustard, sour cream, and parsley, a cup of beef broth, an onion, three or four potatoes, oil for deep frying, and a chunk of tenderloin weighing 1˝ pounds. If you are not going to slice the meat yourself, ask your butcher to do so - into slices about 1/8" thick. If you're not going to be cooking on the same day, then freeze the meet. It will defrost quickly if you slip waxed paper between the slices. As for the potatoes, you'll want to slice them into julienne strips as close to 1/4" thick as possible. There is no need to peel the potatoes. The onion ought to be thinly sliced as well; use a mandoline for this if your knife work is not a strong suit. The parsley should be chopped.
I have excluded frying the potatoes from the recipe below, because times for this always vary widely. Saveur calls for three minutes of frying; my potatoes required about eight or nine, in two cookings, to reach the right color - and that is not a constant. It is always wise to cook fries just to the point of doneness, and then to finish them off in a second immersion when you're ready to serve them.
1 cup broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup sour cream
Bring the broth to the boil and let it simmer. Then melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and the mustard, and stir with a wooden spoon for two minutes. Pour the broth into the saucepan and whisk vigorously off the flame. When the sauce is smooth, return it to the heat for two minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the saucepan once again from the heat, stir in the sour cream, and set aside.
The onion and the beef
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, sliced thin
1˝ pounds beef tenderloin, sliced 1/8" thick
Cook the onion in a large skillet in melted butter over medium heat until they're soft and golden - about five minutes.
You may stop here until just before serving time.
At the last minute: Get the pan nice and hot over high heat, and toss in the beef slices, turning them as needed to cook evenly, for no more than three minutes. Pour the reserved sauce into the skillet and stir well, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. At serving time, spoon the Stroganoff onto a serving dish, cover with "a mound of jumbled straw potatoes," and sprinkle with parsley. (Christmas 2005)
* I recall spending a lot more than $179 for my unit, but then I'm getting soft in the head as I approach la soixantaine.
** I know that this fryer cost more - about a hundred dollars more - when I bought my first one. What gives? Am I an early adapter?
Copyright (c) 2006 Pourover Press