The classic Russian dish of beef, mushrooms and sour cream gets a delicious upgrade, with chanterelles. Recipe below.
Food has never been more interesting. Chefs are going global and hyperlocal, often at the same time. Molecular gastronomy is turning restaurant kitchens into science labs. The best restaurant in the world serves lichen, moss and other foraged goods. And home cooks are getting right in there with them, tapping into ingredients both worldly and local and fearlessly exploring new techniques.
In all the excitement over the next new thing, though, some classic recipes are being left behind. Beef stroganoff, for instance. Even when I was a teenager and just starting to explore dining out without my parents, beef stroganoff was outdated. Its appearance on a menu indicated a restaurant of a certain age—and perhaps aspirations to “fine dining” unattained.
The classic dish of sautéed beef, mushrooms and sour cream far predates its popularity in the United States in the 1950s. Some sources claim the recipe was developed at an 1890s cooking competition in St. Petersburg and is named for Count Pavel Stroganov, a Russian diplomat. Others date it back to a Russian cookbook, A Gift to Young Housewives, published in 1861, further stating that it was based on an even older traditional dish.
Versions of beef stroganoff are popular from the UK to Brazil, Japan and even Iran. And like clam chowder, there are white (sour cream) and red (tomato sauce-based) takes on the dish. The sour cream version is generally seen as the classic.
My own take on the dish starts with the classic, then upgrades it with some of the beautiful chanterelle mushrooms we brought back from Seattle. If you can’t get chanterelles, cremini mushrooms will do nicely. Button mushrooms will also work. Dijon mustard adds complexity to the tang of the sour cream. Some recipes call for a splash of cognac. Given its cost, we only splash cognac directly into our mouths; I substituted a little cheap brandy. If you don’t have brandy on hand, just up the amount of white wine a little.
Cook as I say, not as I did. Most recipes tell you to brown the pieces of beef quickly on one side, then turn them and brown the other. I did that and, even working quickly, I overcooked the beef, making it a little chewy. Stir fry it instead for a very short time, stirring frequently. The beef doesn’t need a nice char—it just needs to be not raw on the outside before continuing.
Beef Stroganoff with Chanterelle Mushrooms
1 pound top sirloin
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup chopped shallots
8 ounces chanterelles, larger ones sliced or torn
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons brandy
3/4 cup dry white wine
1-1/3 cups reduced-fat sour cream
1 generous tablespoon Dijon mustard
fresh Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish
8 ounces uncooked egg noodles
Start a large pot of water to boil to cook the egg noodles. Slice beef into thin strips, about 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick and 1 to 2 inches long. Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium flame. Working in batches, stir fry beef for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Be careful not to overcook the beef. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
Sauté shallots in same pan until translucent, a couple of minutes, drizzling in a little oil, if needed. Transfer to bowl with beef. Add remaining butter to pan and sauté chanterelles for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, sprinkling in tarragon about halfway through. Deglaze pan with brandy and wine, scraping up any browned bits.
Reduce heat to low and stir in sour cream and mustard. Return beef and shallots to pan and cook together 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Meanwhile, cook egg noodles according to package directions. Spoon beef stroganoff over individual servings of egg noodles and garnish with parsley (see Kitchen Notes).
Pretty however you plate it. I plated the dish as described above to make it more photogenic. After dinner, I tossed the leftover sauce into a container with the leftover egg noodles for, well, leftovers the next night. Even tossed together, the dish still looked good—and it had the added advantage of sauce coating the noodles nicely.