Beef stroganoff with a modern upgrade

Beef Stroganoff was invented in mid-19th-century Russia and embraced in America in the 1950s. Here, this comfort food favorite gets a welcome update/upgrade.

Blue Kitchen
Beef stroganoff over butter noodles gets a modern upgrade.

We are just back from a wonderful road trip that covered almost 2,500 miles and brought us to so many beautiful parts of America and left us dazzled with the natural beauty and grandeur of, well, pretty much everything we saw.

We also had some pretty amazing food and drink. Heading west, we set out with the goal of eating lots and lots of beef. Amazingly, that did not exactly happen. We drove by cattle ranches all over Nebraska. In Omaha, we kept meeting French people (go figure), including French people running the lovely very casual little La Buvette in the Old Market, where we had a wonderful duck confit dish and an equally wonderful dish of lamb kidneys with parsnip puree. We had a pork tenderloin sandwich the size of a turkey platter somewhere in Iowa. We had a charming little small plates dinner at a place in Scottsbluff called The Tangled Tumbleweed. But, as you will have noted, none of these meals particularly entailed the eating of beef.

Then, one morning, after we had pretty much blown our own minds walking around Scottsbluff National Monument, we happened to wander through the downtown portion of Gering, Nebraska, the nearest town, where we found the Gering Bakery, a real old-school spot with cakes and breads and cookies including old-fashioned favorites like Russian Rocks, as well as superb doughnuts. And: egg noodles. As soon as we saw the neatly organized bags of egg noodles on top of the display case, it fell into place: egg noodles… beef… beef stroganoff!

Which is a dish I haven’t made for years. Back when I was trying to learn to cook, this… or a faster, less yummy version of this… became my fancy shmancy dinner party staple. There are tons of basic versions of this out there, and one of them was the one I used to prepare. Then I just drifted away from it. It just seemed kind of old fashioned, and the results were not necessarily tip top, and it was time to explore other territories.

Now, suddenly, I found myself nostalgic for this recipe of the distant past. But it would be nice to have it come out, well, better. More modern. More delicious. Which is why I was so delighted to stumble on the Food Lab’s terrific advice on “rethinking beef stroganoff.” I am particularly in love with two Food Lab suggestions: (1) thicken the stock without using any flours or starches, but by using gelatin; and (2) most notably, DO NOT slice up the meat before cooking it. DO. NOT.

Also contributing to this recipe was a magnificent sauté pan from a set given us by All-Clad. Actually, Terry won this set with lamb chops he cooked with lemon caper butter in a demo pan from All-Clad. This is not a nonstick pan! And it made a tremendous difference. I wanted a beautiful sear on the meat, and I wanted the mushrooms to actually brown. This pan delivered wonderfully, and was easy to clean up too.

Even though this recipe is more ornate and time consuming than most beef stroganoff recipes, in practice it still is pretty simple and it moves forward quickly. When you have tried it once, you will want to use it again and again.

Beef Stroganoff
Serves 4 to 5

Note: All the working parts should be at room temperature.

2 cups white wine [editor's note: can substitute cooking wine]
1 cup chicken stock (low-sodium, if store-bought)
1 envelope gelatin powder
1-1/2-pound sirloin steak
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (plus more, if needed)
3/4 pound mushrooms, thickly sliced (or more)
1/2 cup minced shallots
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (not smoked)
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1 pound egg noodles

1. In a medium sauce pan, bring wine to a boil, lower heat and reduce to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Reducing the wine makes the resulting sauce taste like it’s cooked longer than it actually has.

2. Pour the chicken stock into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on top, stir and set aside. Slice the mushrooms—make thickish slices. Some people prefer to quarter the mushrooms but for me, a sliced mushroom browns better. I also prefer the look.

3. Meanwhile, start a pot of water boiling on the stove for the egg noodles—cook the noodles until al dente and drain them, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water. Set noodles aside.

4. In a big, heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to medium-high. (For the All-Clad pan, I did not need to go above a medium heat—it  is such an efficient pan.) Season steak generously on both sides with salt and pepper. When the pan is thoroughly hot, add the steak. Cook on each side just until it has a lovely sear and releases from the pan (or a bit longer if you do not like rare). Transfer the steak to a warm plate, tent with foil and set aside as you prepare everything else. (It will inevitably cool. Don’t worry, you’ll reheat it later.)

5. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to the pan (or more, if needed), lower the heat a little and add the sliced mushrooms. Cook, stirring now and then, until they are browned. Not beige. Nicely golden brown. It will take 7 or 8 minutes. That delicious golden flavor is an important part of this dish. When the mushrooms are handsomely browned, add the shallots and two teaspoons of butter. Stir and sauté the shallots until they become translucent—90 seconds to 2 minutes.

6. Add the paprika, stir again and then add the soy sauce, Worcestershire, dried tarragon and Dijon mustard, and stir until everything is combined and heated through (10 or 15 seconds). Then add the reduced white wine, plus any drippings and juice that are in the steak plate, and stir again. Let it all simmer gently so that any browned bits get incorporated.

7. Pour the sour cream into the bowl of chicken stock and gelatin and whisk it all together.  Then carefully pour, whisking, into the cooking pan. Everything should be nicely mixed together. Thanks to the gelatin,  the sour cream will not curdle or break.

8. Grate nutmeg over everything, stir again and adjust the salt and pepper. Slide the steak onto the top of the sauce and let it heat gently for a minute. You just want to warm it up. Then transfer it to a cutting board.

9. Add the cooked noodles to the sauce, stir gently and heat together. If the sauce isn’t saucy enough to generously cloak the noodles, or if it seems too thick, then add some of the reserved pasta cooking water, just a dash at a time, until it is the consistency you prefer. Slice the beef thinly across the grain.

10. To serve, individually plate the sauce and noodles and artfully arrange a fan of beef on top.  Scatter on some parsley, and serve. If you prefer, you may serve this family style—just arrange everything in a big deepish platter, to pass.

Kitchen Notes

Yes, white wine with beef. White wine is preferred for this—you really need the extra acidity and brightness.

No, don’t use reduced fat sour cream. Just don’t. Use a nice tangy full-fat brand. We prefer Breakstone.

Also, seriously don’t use smoked paprika. Gross.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Butter + leeks = delicious: Scallops with Melted Leeks and Egg Noodles

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