If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen. And now I happily pass what I have learned along to you, gentle reader.
Befstróganov. That’s the name (Бефстроганов) the Russians give to the delightful comfort food Americans know as “Beef Stroganoff.” Interestingly enough, the original recipe called for beef cubes, not strips, and omitted both onions and mushrooms. Since then, the recipe has evolved with the passage of time and these days, onions and mushrooms are considered indispensable to developing the full flavor of the dish. I prefer green onions because of the subtle flavor they impart.
The secret to perfecting this 19th century Imperial Russian recipe lies in slow cooking the beef.
FAIR WARNING: This recipe is decadently rich – enjoy it once in a blue moon, but if you are watching your weight or your cholesterol, don’t make it a part of your weekly menu.
2 pounds beef chuck roast
Rendered beef fat (see directions)
1 tsp each kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 cups baby button mushrooms, stems cut off and caps quartered
6 green onions, sliced (white parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
½ tsp Coleman’s dry mustard or 1 tsp prepared Dijon mustard
2 cups beef broth
½ tsp each fresh thyme and marjoram or 1 tsp each of the dried herbs
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ cup sour cream
½ cup light cream
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup finely chopped chives for garnish
1 lb. extra wide egg noodles
2 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to exactly 200 degrees F.
Carefully remove all the fat and gristle from the roast and cut into strips ½ inch thick and no more than 2 inches long; place slices in a large Pyrex or stainless steel mixing bowl. Dice the pieces of fat and put them in a small saucepan on medium heat. Cook gently until most of the fat is rendered. Remove from heat, pour the fat over the beef strips and toss quickly to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again.
Heat a large cast iron skillet on high heat until rocket hot – about 5 minutes. Brown the beef strips in batches, reserving each browned batch to the large mixing bowl. When all of the beef has been browned, reduce the heat to medium then add the butter and mushrooms. Continue cooking until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add the sliced green onions and cook until soft and translucent – about 5 minutes – then add the diced garlic and cook for a minute more. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula. When the wine has almost evaporated, add the beef broth, mustard and spices. Stir and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Fold in the beef strips (along with any juices that have accumulated), cover the skillet with an ovenproof lid or heavy duty aluminum foil and place in the oven to slow cook for 2 hours.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the roux: in a small saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour after the foaming subsides. Reduce the heat to low and let the roux cook for a few minutes. Whisk together the sour cream and the light cream until smooth and free of clumps, then whisk into roux. Transfer to a small, clean bowl and reserve.
After 2 hours, turn off the oven and place the skillet on the stove. Using a slotted spoon, reserve the contents of the skillet to a large, clean Pyrex or stainless steel serving bowl. Cover and return the bowl to the oven.
Bring the broth in the skillet to the boil on medium heat, then whisk in the roux/cream mixture. Bring to the boil again and then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir until mixture thickens and then continue stirring as mixture cooks for another 5 minutes. Remove the beef from the oven and gently fold into the thickened broth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Cover skillet and return to the warm oven.
Add 1 tsp kosher salt to 6 quarts of water and bring to the boil. Add 1 lb. extra wide egg noodles and cook until al dente. Drain noodles, pour into a large serving bowl and add 2 tbsp butter. Toss until butter is melted and noodles are evenly coated.
Plate the Befstróganov over a bed of the noodles and garnish with a sprinkle of chives before serving with a small side salad and a light red wine such as chianti.