Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beef. It's What's for Dinner.

This is our neighbor's cow. She is all by herself, which herd animals hate; She keeps looking towards our sheep flock in a friendly way. Her shelter was built on top of the ridge but she prefers the cozy protection of the cherry tree in the lowest corner of her pasture. The poor, sad cow vocally lamented her situation for over a week. I grew up with cows. My father was a cattle rancher and raising wheat and a herd of Herefords was our livelihood. We also kept a couple Holstein dairy cows for the family's milk. Though Americans are a nation of beef eaters, my family is a bit of an anomaly as we generally eat very little beef. Every year we raise lamb, rabbits, poultry and a pig for our family's meat, and though we raised beef on the ranch during my childhood, we actually ate more deer and elk meat than beef. Beef has always been a treat in my food world except for a period when my mother-in-law raised beef to share with her adult children. We are all excited about the recent MEAT SWAP a few weeks ago, when we traded lamb and goat we'd raised and butchered, for beef that my husband's sister had raised. Since then, we have been eating beef with gusto: Portuguese Steak, which is amazingly delicious; steak, medium-rare, served with mushrooms and garlic browned in olive oil; the quintessential (homemade, NOT McD) All-American, all-beef hamburger; Thai Spicy Ginger Beef, which my husband absolutely loves (the peppers from our garden were actually hot this year); and humble Beef Stroganoff.

Beef Stroganoff is so old-fashioned, so unexotic, so unsexy (and unphotogenic) of a food, that it's easy to pass over. It readily adapts to being made in large quantities and nasty versions by various food services have given it an undeservedly bad reputation. But Beef Stroganoff done well is a deliciously comforting dish of tender beef and soft noodles in a creamy, complex and deeply flavored sauce. It is an honest-tasting casserole of Russian-origin with relatively straightforward ingredients that are easily put together. It is so charmingly 1950's and -unlike the congealed salad recipes of the same era that always illicit an involuntary, "Eww" from me- I can't help loving it. In the beginning, after first discovering Stroganoff (I don't remember my mom ever making it), I made this recipe in an avocado green electric skillet from the 1960's that was my grandmother's, until I reluctantly retired it. This is my recipe I've used for years. I don't recommend eating it once a week throughout the PNW's nine months of NOT summer, but I make it at least once, or even a few times, during the season of dark -when fall has fully descended, during the dark days near the winter solstice, and/or in March before the end of the dreary rainy season- then it is a welcome and comforting indulgence.

Beef Stroganoff
4 T. butter
2 T. oil

1 large onion, diced
1-2 c. mushrooms, chopped
Saute until limp, but not brown. Add:

1-2 lbs beef sirloin tip steak (or boned lamb leg), cut into cubes or strips
1/4 c. flour
Saute a few minutes then add:

3-4 c. stock
3/4 t. salt
2 minced garlic cloves
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. dry mustard
3-4 T. ketchup
Cook 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add:

2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard

Simmer 2-3 minutes. Add:

3/4 c. sour cream
Do not let sauce boil after adding sour cream. Meanwhile, separately cook 12-16 oz egg noodles al dente and add to Beef Stroganoff. I like to serve this with brussel sprouts, but last week I served a simple salad of tomato slices and minced basil from the garden with the Beef Stroganoff and it was scrumptious.

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