beef stroganoff

I don’t remember eating beef stroganoff when I was a child. I have this image in my head of a glumpy* taupe sauce with grey meat, but I’m sure this image came from ’90s depictions of school cafeteria food. My interest in the dish stems from my interest in Russia (not necessarily the Soviet era, but the pre- and early revolution era), and I somehow associate beef stroganoff with that. It and borsch, but that will be a different post.

So, in the interest of trying a new recipe a week, I decided to make beef stroganoff. Why? Who knows. Why not? Seemed to be the correct approach to take.

Here is the first problem: beef stroganoff is made with mushrooms. And I hate mushrooms. I actually don’t mind the taste (I ate mushroom soup as a kid, but not mushrooms in any other form). What I find abhorrent is the texture. I am actually repulsed by it. Now that I’ve started cooking for myself, I appreciate the woody flavour of mushrooms, and also how they form a strong and hearty meat replacement. I still hate them passionately.

I have, however, recently overcome my hatred of beets. This repulsion stemmed from a very clear episode when I was 6 years old, and I refused to enjoy this root for years. But, it’s grown on me. As I started replacing the plain white potato with sweet potatoes, and then moving on to parsnips and turnips and other root veg, I began to appreciate the sweet earthiness of the beet itself. Thus the beet presented itself as a suitable replacement for the mushrooms. Not cooked the same way, obviously, but roasted and mixed in afterwards with the carbs.

The second problem with this dish: usually it’s served with pasta (or at least, I think it is). I’ve cut out pasta with my cooking. This was an easy switch though: quinoa cooked in beef stock, which mixed in very well with the roasted yellow beets I had.

And then the beef stroganoff itself. I used what looked to be a decent recipe, and it turned out fabulously. What makes this dish is the sour cream: it adds a sourness to the sauce that prevents it from being a plain white sauce dish. I used leeks instead of green onions, which turned out smashingly. I also used a pot that wasn’t big enough to hold the onions AND the beef; next time I would brown the onions first, and then add the beef. I found the beef to be a little dry and tough, so it could either use less time (my natural instinct) or more time (to break down further, because it’s stewing beef) – I’ll just have to try making this dish two more times to be sure.

Overall, if you’re looking for a warm comfort food that isn’t filled with cheese and carbs, this is a great option. Served with a side of boiled Brussels sprouts, it made a fantastic dinner for a week of -30C. It’s probably even better without the -30C. Let me know how that goes for you. Actually, don’t. Knowing the warm weather you have may put you in the same category as mushrooms. Just saying, you’re warned.

*I’m taking Shakespeare liberties here, but I’m certain this word conjured up the image in your head exactly as I’m thinking of it.


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