One of my very favorite wintry seductions is beef Stroganoff. Unfortunately, many recipes for this dish have been Americanized and incorporate flavorless button mushrooms or, even worse, cream of mushroom soup. The authentic version, which dates back to Russia in the early 1800s and a diplomat named Count Grigory Alexandrovich Stroganov, is simpler—made using high-quality beef and a mustard-spiked sour cream sauce.
The story goes that Count Stroganov lost his teeth and couldn't chew tough bites of meat. So, his chef shaved tender pieces of meat, lightly browned them, and served the beef with a tangy sour cream sauce. The result was so tender that the toothless count could have his beef and eat it, too.
Regardless of the dish's history, here is my favorite Stroganoff recipe. If you'd like, you could substitute thinly sliced turkey, chicken, pork, veal or perhaps even veggies for the beef. Anything will taste terrific with this sauce.
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. beef tenderloin or other high-quality beef, sliced very thin
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 cup rich beef bouillon
1/4 cup sour cream (regular or light sour cream both work)
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. chopped parsley (optional)
Note: To slice the beef ultra-thin, you could have a butcher shave it into thin slices for you. Or, if you're preparing the beef at home, it helps to place the meat in the freezer for an hour or more before using. Partially freezing the meat makes it easier to slice thinly.
First, prepare the Stroganoff sauce. This can be done hours in advance of cooking the meat. Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Add flour and dry mustard and stir with a wooden spoon, making a roux, for about 2-3 minutes.
Gradually add the bouillon, whisking to incorporate it into the roux, until thick, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the sour cream and whisk until smooth.
Remove from the heat and set aside.
To prepare the beef, melt the remaining 2 Tbs. of butter in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat.
Add the sliced onions and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Increase the heat to high and add the beef. Saute the meat rapidly, stirring, until just cooked through—about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to low, add the reserved sour cream sauce, stir and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Serve the Stroganoff with potatoes or atop a bed of cooked noodles or rice. Garnish with the (optional) chopped parsley.
Note: Another attractive presentation is to simply put the Stroganoff directly onto a plate and top with matchstick french fries.