Beef Stroganoff or Beef Stroganov as it’s sometimes referred to is a Russian dish that at it’s simplest is braised beef with a basic sour cream sauce served with kasha (buckwheat groats) that now has managed to become popular the world over, although not in any one form.
Like so many dishes that have achieved fame internationally the roots of Beef Stroganoff are difficult to pin down. In Russia it’s common to name a dish after the family to which it is generally attributed and there are two individuals that stand out as the ones who created what is now a national dish in it’s home country. Alexander Grigorievich Stroganov, a diplomat from Odessa is said by some to have created the recipe. Others credit Count Pavel Stroganoff a noted 19th century gourmet, friend of Czar Alexander III and a celebrity in St. Petersburg. In 1891, chef Charles Briére, then employed by the Stroganoff family, submitted a recipe for sautéed beef and sour cream to the French L ‘Art Culinaire lending some credibility to the claim for this family. While either or both of these people may have helped to popularize the dish it’s roots go much farther back than the 19th century when their families served it.
A recipe for Беф-Строганов or Beef Stroganoff appeared in Russian many years earlier in the cookbook “A Gift to Young Housewives,” (published in 1861) by Elena Molokhovets. However even in Molokhovets’ book the recipe is referred to as a modified version of a traditional recipe. Versions of beef with sour cream and mustard date back to medieval times in Russia and other parts of eastern Europe. In his book, “the Cuisine of Hungary” George Lang cites appearances of a beef and sour cream dish as early as the fifteenth century in the Hungarian Court of King Matthias, and thus it seems we’ll never know for sure.
The first recipe for stroganoff appeared in English in 1932 and likely was brought over to North America by either Russian immigrants or those from China where in pre-communist times the dish became popular in many hotels. In America it can be found in “The Joy of Cooking” in 1943 and since the end of WWII has become a widespread dish there. Numerous variations on the recipe have appeared in cookbooks throughout North America and Europe. Since the 1950’s a wide variety of new ingredients have shown up including: ground beef, tomato paste, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, wine, noodles, rice and even ketchup, while the Sareptskaja mustard that appeared in Molokhovets’ first recipe, has long since disappeared from the list.
There are as many versions of beef stroganoff as there are people who make it and the recipe has changed greatly as it has become popular in the UK, Australia, Canada, Portugal, Brazil, France and other countries. Below is the first published version from 1861 by Elena Molokhovets and translated from Russian, following that is my own modern interpretation.
Elena Molokhovets’ Beef Strogonoff
- 2 lbs tender beef
- 10-15 allspice berries, ground
- 2 glasses bouillon
- 1/4 lb butter
- 2 spoons flour
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 teaspoon Sareptskaja mustard(substitute Dijon mustard)
- Two hours before service, cut a tender piece of raw beef into small cubes and sprinkle with salt and some allspice.
- Before dinner, mix together 1/16 lb butter and 1 spoon flour, fry lightly, and dilute with 2 glasses bouillon, 1 teaspoon of mustard, and a little pepper.
- Mix, bring to a boil.
- Add 2 tablespoons very fresh sour cream before serving.
- Then fry the beef in butter, add it to the sauce, bring once to boil, and serve.
John’s Beef Stroganoff
- 2 lbs beef tenderloin (or other high quality cut)
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 cups white mushrooms, sliced thick
- 1-10 oz can beef consommé
- ½ cup sherry
- ¼ cup cognac (optional)
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ¾ tsp dry mustard
- ½ tsp dry dill
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 2 cups sour cream
- 1-12 ounce package of egg noodles
- Cut the tenderloin against the grain into thin 2 inch long strips. If using other cuts of meat be sure to remove any excess fat and gristle.
- In a large saute pan (or skillet) melt 2 tsp of butter over medium heat.
- Place strips of beef into pan in batches that just cover the bottom. Cook each side for 1 minute, remove and set aside. Retain any drippings in pan.
- Reduce to medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic to pan and saute until clear and any released water is gone.
- Melt 1 tbsp of butter in pan with onion/garlic and add mushrooms. Saute until water that is released has cooked off (about 8-12 minutes), stirring as necessary.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil for noodles.
- Combine consommé, sherry and cognac. Increase heat to medium-high and stir into mixture.
- Combine spices and stir into the sauce. Cook until reduced somewhat (about 5-8 minutes), stirring often.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add sour cream. Simmer until thickened, stirring often (about 8-12 minutes).
- While the sauce thickens add noodles to the boiling water and cook to desired firmness. Drain and toss with 1 tbsp of butter to keep from sticking. Cover and set aside.
- Add beef strips to the sauce mixture and simmer for about 2 minutes to rewarm(don’t heat too long or beef will toughen).
- Serve stroganoff over a bed of noodles and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and paprika.