Happy Holidays! Perhaps this posting is coming a bit late – the days always seem to get a little crazy during the holidays. This year, George and I celebrated our first Christmas in California. It was an exciting Christmas for us – our first as a married couple, our first on our own without our immediate families and our first in moderate degree temperatures.
For me, Christmas, or better yet the whole winter season, is not so much defined by sharing it with family and close friends, but by the smells, sounds and cold temperatures that have come to shape my holiday season. There is a certain crispness to the ringing of a Salvation Army bell outside of Grand Central Station on a cold December day that is not heard when I enter my local Pasadena grocery store. The sound firewood makes when my Dad drops it on our back deck on Long Island in anticipation of building a fire cannot be replicated in our Pasadena condo. That sound, which resembles a drumroll on a tampered kettle drum is so perfectly pitched because of the dry salty cold air created by our proximity to Peconic Bay. The holiday season is also not complete without the aromas and smells of winter stews and soups bubbling on the stove in a warm kitchen.
While I may be thousands of miles away from a New York winter day, I am doing my best to bring my associations of the season to Pasadena. Recently, I made a big pot of Beef Stroganoff and let its rich sauce simmer on the stove to allow the fragrances of the beef broth and fresh oregano permeate the kitchen and apartment. Two of my favorite winter meals are Beef Stroganoff and Beef Bourguignon. I have a great Beef Bourguignon recipe and over the years have figured out how to turn Beef Bourguignon into Beef Bouguign-Yum. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Beef Stronganoff and every time I make it, I blend together several different Stroganoff recipes creating my own version – the version I remember eating on cold winter nights back East.
Unlike other stews that taste better when cooked slowly, Beef Stroganoff can be made in about 45 minutes. Beef Stroganoff is also different from other winter stews as its ingredients are not cooked simultaneously in one pot; the dish requires that individual attention be paid to several of its ingredients. I have seen ingredients and spices vary by recipe, but my favorite Beef Stroganoff is quite basic – it is simply sliced sirloin, mushrooms, onions and the sauce, which is a beef broth and wine reduction seasoned with fresh oregano, tomato paste and salt and pepper. Of course, any Beef Stroganoff would not be complete without its piece de resistance – a little sour cream added at the end. The sour cream adds a nice blushness to the sauce making it warm and rich for any winter night dinner.
I have included my recipe, which as previously mentioned, is a blend of several recipes.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds sirloin, sliced
1 large onion sliced or 2 small onions sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 cup of sour cream
Began by slicing the sirloin into 1/3 inch strips about 2 inches long and seasoning the meat with salt and pepper. Set the seasoned meat aside.
In a large skillet or small dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onions and saute until tender and translucent. Remove onions and set aside.
In the same pot, add remaining butter and mushrooms and saute until tender. Remove mushrooms and set aside. Add olive oil to the skillet and add meat. Brown the meat on all sides – about 3 minutes per side.
Add the mushrooms and onions and stir together. When the meat has browned, sprinkle in flour and stir. Add beef broth and wine and blend together. Stir in tomato paste, oregano and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for 20 minutes until liquid as reduced and thickened. A few minutes before serving, add sour cream and parsley and blend together.
I serve Beef Stroganoff over egg noodles, but the dish could easily be served over rice or steamed greens.
While our Pasadena nights are not as cold as a winter night in New York, this Beef Stroganoff dish certainly makes the holiday season smell and taste just the way I like it!
Until next time…