Beef Stroganov (more commonly, Beef Stroganoff) was the creation of the great French chef Careme during his term of service at the court of Tsar Alexander I of Russia. In the pattern of his grandmother, Catherine the Great, Tsar Alexander mouthed fierce nationlism while allowing his court to be influence greatly by the French.

The creation of Bef Stroganov stemmed as much from political pragmatism as from any desire for gustatory novelty. Alexander ordered Careme to invent a dish in honor of the Stroganovs, the powerful merchant family that opened Siberia for fur trading and dominated the commercial saltworks of the northern Urals. The final result employed a number of favorite Russian ingredients - onions, mushrooms, beef, sour Cream - and a French technique for putting them together.

The dish was a success. It was a greater success than the Tsar and the chef of the Strognovs could possibly have imagined, for it survived them all. It survived Tsarist Russia altogether. It exists today in a multitude of forms throughout the Soviet Union, Europe and North America.

Some modern renditions of Bef Stroganov share only the beef and the sour cream with the original. No less than 30 different recipes were unearthed for this writing. There are recipes that call for the inclusion of brandy, sherry or white wine. Others mandate the use of hot pepper sauce. Worceshire sauce or A-1. Still others call for beef stock, bouillon or tomato puree.

There are those writers who prescribe a long cooking process that profuces a stew-like dish; others suggest fast cooking at tableside. The cuts of meat called for vary from flank and round steaks to sirion and filet. Some recipes omit the onion (for substitutes shallots). Some recipes omit the mushrooms. Some omit both.

With all that variation, some recipes taste better than others and personal preference plays a large role in determining which method is favored.

BEEF STROGANOV In the Style of Careme (Serve 4 ro 5) 2 pounds beef fillet (trimmed of all fat) 4 to 5 tablespoons vegetable oil 12 to 15 large mushrooms, thinly sliced lengthwise 2 medium onions, thinly sliced and separted into rings 1 tablespoon mustard powder 1 tablespoon sugar Salt and pepper 1 pint sour cream

Slice the filet into strips about 1/4 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick.Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet over mediun-high heat. Brown the meat quickly, a handful of strips at a time; place the browned meat on a warm platter with a slotted spoon. When all meat is browned, dust it lightly with salt and pepper. Add 2 more tablespoon of oil to the skillet and add the mushrooms and onions. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the mustard, sugar and a pinch of salt with enough hot water (about 1 tablespoon should suffice) to form a thick paste.

When the vegetables have lightly browned, return the meat to the skillet and stir in the mustard paste; simmer for about 1 minute. Fold in the sour cream, taking care not to allow the mixture to boil. Serve immediately

MEDALLIONS OF BEEF STROGANOFF (Serves 4 to 6) 8 to 12 one-inch slices of beef tenderloin (2 per person) 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter Paprika Salt and pepper 1 cup rich beef stock 1 tablespoon brandy 1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1 cup sour cream

Saute medallions over high heat in butter for about 1 minute perslice. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parprika. Add beef stock to the pan, turn heat to medium, cover and simmer until medallions reach the desired degree of doneness. (Allow about 1 1/2 minutes for rare). Remove meat to a platter to keep it warm. Add brandy and sherry to the mixture in the saute pan and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, removing the sauce from the heat when it is heated through. Sprinkle lemon juice over the sauce and spoon over the medallions.