Friday, January 10, 2014

James Beard's beef Stroganoff (let's try a classic)

Next time, I will take care not to photograph white sour cream on a mostly white plate, and in less-than-optimal light, too. I thought it would be all right because the gaudily painted and gilded plate looked Russian (it's actually Bohemian). If it just looks sort of alabaster and artsy, I'll be relieved.

Steven Gilbar in his book on food name/trivia history, Chicken a la King and the Buffalo Wing (2008), says that the famed dish of thinly sliced beef in a sour cream sauce most likely dates to the 1860s or 1870s, when it was created for Count Alexander Stroganoff (1795-1891). The elderly gourmand had bad teeth and wanted an easily chewable but delectable dinner. Onions seem to be the third absolute requirement in the recipe; Gilbar mentions also mushrooms and tomato paste, but James Beard omits them so we do too.

We are cooking from The James Beard Celebration Cookbook (1990), edited by Barbara Kafka. Once you slice your beef tenderloin thinly, and have an easy handful of other ingredients ready to go, dinner is on the table in a flash. Very nice for a Sunday treat.

Beef Stroganoff 

1 and 1/2 pounds beef filet, very thinly sliced
6 Tablespoons butter
Olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped green onions
1/4 cup white wine
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1 and 1/2 cups sour cream
salt, pepper, chopped parsley

Melt 4 Tbsp. of the butter and a little olive oil in a heavy skillet over high heat without burning it. Saute the beef slices, a few at a time, very quickly. When they are lightly browned on both sides (this will take seconds if they are thin enough), remove to a hot platter.

Add the remaining butter and the onions to the pan and stir for a minute. Add wine, Worcestershire, and sour cream. Stir well and heat through without boiling or the cream will curdle.

Add salt and pepper to sauce and pour over beef. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over rice.

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