Here in Minnesota, we’re being hit with another Polar Vortex. When I was a kid, we just called these frigid conditions “winter” and dressed accordingly, but nowadays it’s a Polar Vortex; the media goes crazy and schools are closed.
The national news features Minnesotan reporters bundled up in hats, scarves and fur-lined hoods, braving the bitter-cold temperatures. Fighting to remain standing in hostile winds causing sub-zero wind chills, they react as though this doesn’t occur every winter in Minnesota.
When gray skies abound and winter temperatures plummet, a warm and hearty meal is all the more comforting. One of my favorite cold-weather comfort foods is this beef stroganoff. The recipe features a couple tricks and techniques that really boost the flavor, making it taste like it simmered all day when it can really be prepared in about an hour.
This recipe is adapted from the March/April 2010 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.
1 lb sirloin or tri-tip steak, trimmed of most exterior fat
2 t soy sauce
1 lb white mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
2 t hot water
2 t dry mustard
1 t sugar
½ t pepper
1-2 T vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 C)
½ t salt
2 t tomato paste
4 t flour
1/3 C dry white wine or dry vermouth
1½ C beef broth (I use Penzey’s Beef base, otherwise Swanson’s)
½ C sour cream (4 oz)
Salt and pepper, fresh or dried dill (optional), fresh chopped parsley (optional)
8 to 12 oz wide egg noodles, cooked according to package instructions
Thinly slice the steak across the grain into bite-sized strips. Place in a dish and coat both sides of steak with soy sauce. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes or up to one hour.
While meat marinates, place mushrooms in microwave-safe bowl and cover. Microwave on high until mushrooms have decreased in volume by half, about 4-5 minutes. Drain mushrooms but reserve the liquid and add to the beef broth; set mushrooms aside.
In a small bowl, mix the hot water, dry mustard, sugar and pepper into a paste; set aside.
Dry the steak pieces and season with pepper. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place steak in skillet (work in batches to prevent overcrowding) and sear until browned on both sides. Transfer meat to separate plate and set aside.
Add the mushrooms, onions and salt to the hot skillet (along with another tablespoon or so of oil if the pan is dry) and cook until they start to brown and a dry residue (fond) forms on the bottom of pan, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Add tomato paste and flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until onions and mushrooms are coated, about 1 minute. Stir in mustard paste, then add the wine/vermouth and cook until evaporated. Add the beef/mushroom broth mixture and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce has reduced slightly and begun to thicken, 4 to 6 minutes.
Once the sauce has thickened, stir in the meat and any accumulated juices and cook until beef has cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in sour cream. Season with salt and pepper and dill, to taste. Either ladle over cooked egg noodles or stir in the cooked noodles prior to serving. Sprinkle with parsley and/or dill as an optional garnish.
Step by Step Details
Despite the seemingly-many steps involved in this recipe, it actually cooks up pretty quickly. Do all your slicing and dicing before you start and the rest will be smooth sailing.
Start by getting the steak marinating in the soy sauce. This step really adds a great flavor to the finished dish. Thinly slice the steak across the grain into bite-sized strips. (Slicing along the grain will give you tougher strips.)
Place in a dish and toss the steak slices to evenly coat every piece with soy sauce, adding more if needed to coat every piece Any extra will be discarded later anyway, so don’t worry about using too much. Cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes or up to one hour.
While meat marinates, microwave the mushrooms. This is a great way to coax the moisture out of the mushrooms prior to cooking, so they’ll brown up nicer. When draining the mushrooms, reserve the liquid left behind – it’s packed with flavor. Just add it to the beef broth.
In a small bowl, make the mustard paste. Yes, this step really does make a difference: not only adding the ingredients themselves, but doing so in the form of a paste. I’ve tried not adding these ingredients at all, I’ve tried adding them but not as a paste, and I’ve tried them as the paste. What did I learn? To just trust Cook’s Illustrated. They know stuff. And the paste is really the way to go.
Dry the steak pieces and season with pepper. Sear the pieces until nicely browned on both sides. Work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan: too many pieces will just cause them to steam each other rather than brown.
Transfer browned meat to separate plate; set aside. Then add the mushrooms, onions and salt to the hot skillet (along with another tablespoon or so of oil if the pan is dry) and cook until they start to brown and a dry residue (fond) forms on the bottom of pan, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Add tomato paste and flour, stirring constantly until coated, about 1 minute.
Add the mustard paste, stir, then add the wine/vermouth and cook until evaporated. Pour in the beef/mushroom broth mixture and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon (or a rubber spatula, if you’re a kitchen rebel like me) to loosen any browned bits.
Cook over medium heat until sauce has begun to thicken, then stir in the meat and any accumulated juices.
Cook 1 to 2 minutes and then stir in sour cream.
Keep stirring until completely blended. Now it’s time to taste it.
And now it’s time for dinner! Sometimes I add the cooked noodles to the mixture and serve it right from the pan.
Other times I plate the noodles and ladle the mixture on top.