Friday, January 28, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

I have mixed feelings writing this introduction because I have to admit that this was one of my least favorite dishes growing up. As children my sister and I never really got into our Russian food heritage. My mom would tell us we were having stroganoff for dinner and Sasha and I would groan and then start looking for something we considered "better tasting" to fill up on before dinner. Eventually my poor mom and dad got sick of our complaints and just stopped making and eating this dish. So now that I am older (definitely) and wiser (maybe), with a more developed and adventurous palate, I have been cooking up Russian classics and resurrecting the lost dishes of my youth. This week I made beef stroganoff. The result? Love at first bite!

Here are the ingredients you will need:
  • 3/4 lb short ribs
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, washed and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup dill, chopped
  • 1/2 pound egg noodles
  • salt and pepper to taste

Short ribs are a great, inexpensive cut of beef to use in braises, stews, and soups. This is a tough cut of beef but with the help of time and low heat the connective tissues break down and the meat becomes so tender it falls off the bone. The bones within the short ribs help to develop a rich beef stock that adds flavor to the final dish. To prep the short ribs remove them from the packaging and pat them dry with a paper towel. Pre-heat a dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot on the stove top on medium-high. Season all sides of the meat liberally with salt and pepper, and then brown them all over in the hot pot. Do not skip or skimp on this step - this is where flavor development begins. The short ribs will release fat as they sear, and once they have a nice dark brown crust (about 2-3 minutes per side) remove them and set them aside on a plate, leaving the rendered fat in the pot.

To the pot add the carrots, onion, and celery, a combination known as a mirepoix. Sautee the vegetables with a pinch of salt until the onions are soft and translucent. Place the short ribs over the sauteed vegetables and add the wine to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape off the brown bits, or fond, left on the bottom. Add the water, cover the pot, and simmer on low heat for 3-4 hours.

After hours of slow cooking the short ribs will be fall-apart tender. Remove them from the pot and place them on a plate to cool. Use a potato masher or fork to mash up the now-soft carrots, onions and celery. At this point the left over sauce should have a medium-thick consistency. If it is too thin bring it to a boil uncovered to further reduce it. Use a fork or your hands to pull the short rib meat off the bone, and then place it back into the sauce to warm. Taste and season the sauce with salt and pepper, but remember that you will be adding seasoned salty pasta water later.

Cook the egg noodles in a large pot with heavily salted water according to the package directions. When the noodles are about a minute from being done pull them out of the water (reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water) and add them to the short rib meat and sauce. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to change the viscosity of the sauce. Bring the short rib meat and sauce to a boil to finish cooking the noodles. Remove from heat and mix in the sour cream and dill.

Garnish the dish with a sprig of fresh dill and an optional dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!