Beef stroganoff good enough for scientists and home cooks alike

Linda Davidson/THE WASHINGTON POST - This One-Pan Ground Randall Lineback Stroganoff puts the classic dish back in the gourmet category.

To judge from the flap over the New York Times’s obituary on Yvonne Brill, female scientists, no matter how brilliant, will always be forced to carry around their domestic baggage. Case in point: The Times initially deemed it newsworthy to lead its obit on Brill, the famed rocket scientist who helped keep our satellites in orbit, with this tidbit about her kitchen skills:

“She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children,” wrote Douglas Martin. “‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.”

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

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Following a social media backlash, a subsequent version of the obit deleted any mention of beef stroganoff and emphasized her career in the first paragraph, but it was too little, too late. A Web full of pundits had already pounded on their keyboards to opine on the latest example of a female scientist examined mostly through the lens of her gender. The New Yorker marveled over the Times’s paternalistic treatment of Brill’s work-life management, while Slate concluded that all obits on accomplished individuals, whether male or female, would be better served by including personal details.

Lost in all the discussion is a look at beef stroganoff itself, a dish with its own complicated history. According to Larousse Gastronomique, the “traditional dish of classic Russian cookery has been known in Europe, in various forms, since the 18th century. The Stroganovs were a family of wealthy merchants, financiers and patrons of the arts, originally from Novgorod. They set up trading posts as far as the Netherlands; one of them, raised to the nobility by Peter the Great, employed a French cook, who might have given his master’s name to one of his creations.”

After World War II, America quickly embraced beef stroganoff as something of a gourmet, even exotic, dish — in part, some believe, because Americans had survived without red meat during much of the war. But post-war America had little time for the classic French preparation, with its 12-hour marination and brandy-flaming technique. The convenience culture of 1950s and 1960s America led to many bastardized versions of beef stroganoff, transforming a hearty and creamy meat dish into, essentially, Hamburger Helper.

It’s still not known where on the spectrum Yvonne Brill’s rendition fell: classic French or convenience-foods America. (I’m still trying to track down her original recipe.) In the meantime, we here in the Food section have unearthed a few recipes from the archives, in case you feel like paying tribute to a brilliant scientist who just happened to make a mean beef stroganoff.

Recipes:

* One-Pan Ground Randall Lineback Stroganoff

* Linguine With Mushrooms, Stroganoff Style

Pork Stroganoff

4 to 6 servings

The meat — less expensive than beef — is juicy, tender and improved by the rich and flavorful sauce. Serve this over egg noodles and forget about the calorie counting for one night.

Adapted by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick from “Please to the Table,” by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman (Workman, 1990).

2 pork tenderloins (1 1 / 2 to 2 pounds total)

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup diced onion

1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon flour

2/3 cup low-sodium beef stock or broth

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Pat the meat dry. If desired, remove and discard the silvery skin that covers the meat at the fat end of each tenderloin. Cut each tenderloin in half. Take each half and cut in half lengthwise. You will have 8 slabs of pork about 6 inches long and 1/2- to 1-inch thick. From these slabs, cut thin slices, about 1/4-inch thick or less.

In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat.

Add a portion of the pork slices, being careful not to crowd the pan. Saute until browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Transfer the cooked pork to a clean plate and repeat the cooking process with the remaining pork, adding more butter and oil if needed.

When the pork is all cooked, add the onions and the remaining butter and oil to the pan. Cook over medium-high for 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms and salt to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms have begun to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the flour and stir until it has dissolved. Pour in the beef broth and cream and cook until the liquids thicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the mustard and sour cream. Stir to combine, then add the cooked pork. Combine and let heat until the pork slices are heated through.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the dill and parsley. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve immediately.

(Recipe originally published Sept. 13, 2000.)

Beef Stroganoff

3 to 4 servings

From Urs and Michelle Gabalthuler.

1 pound beef tenderloin, diced

Salt

Ground black pepper

Sweet paprika

Flour for dusting, plus 1 tablespoon for sauce

Vegetable oil

5 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup chopped shallots

4 ounces jarred pimientos, cut in julienne

2/3 cup pickles, chopped

2/3 cup Burgundy wine

2/3 cup low-sodium beef stock or broth

3 tablespoons sour cream

Noodles, for serving

Season tenderloin with salt, pepper and paprika. Dust meat lightly with flour. Saute meat quickly in a little oil in a hot skillet until it is slightly underdone. Remove from pan. Add butter to skillet and stir in shallots, pimiento, pickles and 1 tablespoon flour in butter. Whisk in burgundy and reduce slightly. Add beef stock and let simmer for 2 minutes, or until thickened.

Add sour cream and stir thoroughly. Return meat to pan just before serving and reheat briefly. (Don’t let it simmer any more, so the meat won’t be completely well done.) Serve on a warm plate, with noodles.

(Recipe originally published March 27, 1983.)

Cold Roast Beef With Stroganoff Sauce

8 servings

A summertime version, from Judith Huxley.

For the meat:

2 1/2-pound eye round roast

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

Salt to taste

Ground black pepper to taste

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1/2 pound bacon, cut with scissors into 1/2-inch wide strips

1/4 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, squeezed dry

2 tablespoons minced scallion

2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon minced fresh chervil or 1 teaspoon dried chervil

Pan juices from the roast beef

Salt to taste

Ground black pepper to taste

For the meat: Rub 2 tablespoons of the butter on beef and set aside. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the beef and cook the chopped carrot, onion and celery in it for about 8 minutes, or until soft and transparent. Move the vegetables to the edges of the pan and set the beef in the middle. Roast the beef in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes in all. After 30 minutes, salt and pepper the beef and return to the oven for the remaining 15 minutes. For rare beef, the internal temperature will read from 120 degrees to 125 degrees. Remove the beef from the oven and allow it to sit in the roasting pan to cool for 1 hour.

For the sauce: Combine the oil and crushed garlic in a saute pan or frying pan, heat and add the bacon strips. Saute, stirring constantly, until the bacon is browned and just crisp. Place a sieve over a bowl and turn the bacon into it. Then place the bacon on paper towels and drain well. Return 3 tablespoons of the fat to the pan and saute’ the mushrooms in this for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Combine the bacon and the mushrooms in a bowl and add the sour cream, horseradish, scallion, parsley, thyme and chervil. Remove the beef from the roasting pan, place it in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Turn the vegetables and juices from the roasting pan into a sieve set over the sauce bowl and press down hard with the back of a spoon to extract all the juices. Discard the vegetables. Stir the sauce well, taste for salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

To assemble the dish, remove the beef and the sauce from the refrigerator an hour before serving time. Slice the beef thinly and arrange in rows down the length of a serving platter. Cover with plastic wrap and return to refrigerator until needed. Add whatever juices the meat has rendered to the sauce, stir and turn the sauce into a clean serving bowl. Allow the sauce to sit at room temperature until needed. Serve the sauce separately with the meat.

(Recipe originally published Aug. 8, 1982.)

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