Leftover steak in the frig, what to do?
Beef Stroganoff is an exceptionally good way to use leftover steak. In the case of tonight, said steak was grilled round, what's sold as "London Broil" though it ain't. I like that, too, sometimes better than what's sold as "steak." But I digress.
Beef Stroganoff, everyone agrees, is named after the Russian aristocratic family of the same moniker. Many say it's named after a particular scion of them, one Count Pavul Stroganoff, a friend of Czar Alexander III, a great entertainer and socialite in late nineteenth century St. Petersburg, and a celebrity of the time on the order of today's Hollywood stars. He had a good cook, and his parties popularized the dish. It was not named for him, though. That's a fact because it appears in cookbooks earlier than his birthday. It seems to have been an old family recipe. The first known mention of sauteed beef in a sour cream sauce, which is what it essentially is, is in fifteenth century Transylvania. No doubt in an earlier time Dracula himself enjoyed it there, though he may occasionally have put in something other than beef.
Restaurants in America were offering it as early as the thirties. It became the rage here in the sixties, when it was popular to throw dinner parties with the hostess of each trying to outdo the others with the elegance of her servings. It's a bit funny beef Stroganoff should be considered an elegant dish, actually, but there's no accounting for taste.
Like all classic foods, there are as many recipes for it as there are opinionated cooks. Here's how I did it:
I cut the grilled round steak into thin strips, then crosswise into bitesized pieces. There was about a pound and a half of it. Half an onion was chopped and sauteed in butter (you have to use butter with this dish, the Russians did), then several minced cloves of garlic added, and then the beef. When it browned, I put in the leftover merlot sauce I used with it first time around, and some more brown stock, deglazing the pan with the liquid. A handful of dried shiitake mushrooms (because it isn't yet the season here for the boletes in the yard) and their steeping tea, and half a sweet pepper that needed using, and some dill weed. Russians are big on dill weed.
The heat got cut down, and all that simmered until the liquid started to thicken just a little, then the lid went on. Most recipes call for quick cooking, just sauteing the beef. I like it braised. I think that's how the popular Count Stroganoff had it, and probably Count Dracula as well. Anyway, I let it continue simmering until it was thick, rich, and aromatic, which took half an hour or forty minutes, and then I stirred in four or five big dollops of sour cream and tasted for seasoning. Some people use sweet cream, but that, too, is an American variation. I let it come just to a bare bubble again, then served it up over well buttered wide noodles, which with rice an alternative is the usual way of doing it. Dracula probably had his on bread or potato instead, but I've never had the chance to ask him and would be happier if I never do.
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