I found myself pondering mushrooms and marriage the other day.
Back in the early days of our relationship, I would often quiz my husband about foods he liked to eat, foods he disliked, and foods that he wouldn’t eat if they were the last edible items on earth. One dish he said he loved was Beef Stroganoff. I thought,”Sweet! So do I!” However, mushrooms were in the “not with a ten foot pole” category. This led me to my first question: how can anyone hate mushrooms? Which was quickly followed by my second question: how exactly do you love beef stroganoff and hate mushrooms? Mushrooms are as integral to Beef Stroganoff as, well, beef! And finally, my third and most important question: could I still marry him after such a glaring flaw was pointed out to me? The conversation may, or may not, have gone something like this:
Me: What do you mean you don’t like mushrooms?
The husband: I just don’t.
Me: All mushrooms?
The husband: Yes, all mushrooms.
The husband: Sorry.
Me: Beef Stroganoff is made with mushrooms.
The husband: No it’s not.
Me: Yes it is. I’ll google it, you’ll see.
The husband (post goggle): Huh. The kind I always had didn’t have mushrooms.
Me: What kind was that?
The husband: You know, the one in the commercials. The box has a picture of a hand with a face on it.
Me: You mean Hamburger Helper?!?
The husband: Yeah! That’s it!
Years went by, during which time I tried countless variations of a mushroomless Beef Stroganoff, trying to find one that was so good, you forgot it was missing the best part. Some turned out ok, some not, but none of them were the real deal, just homemade hamburger helper. This mushroom-free era was a dark and difficult time in my life, but I like to think it made me stronger in the end.
Skip ahead to the present day. I prod the husband for dinner ideas, like I often do. He suggests Beef Stroganoff. The conversation may, or may not, have gone something like this:
Me: So you know I have this food blog thingie, right?
The husband: Uh-huh.
Me: I’d like to post this recipe.
The husband: Ok..
Me: Well, how would you feel if, um, I made it…..with mushrooms?
The husband: Sure.
Me: I’m sorry, what?
The husband: I said sure. I love everything you cook, so I’m willing to give the mushrooms a try.
So what do mushrooms have to do with marriage? These flavorful fungi, besides tasting wonderful sautéed with a little butter, have helped me become more aware of a few things; that I did indeed marry the right man, that any good relationship stays healthy through mutual compromise, and that someone you thought you knew as well as you know yourself still has the capacity to surprise and delight you.
And for the record, he wasn’t thrilled with the mushrooms, but loved the overall flavor, and he ate every bite.
Most Beef Stroganoff recipes call for beef tenderloin, or top sirloin, and you can go ahead and use that cut with this recipe, just skip the marinade step. For those of us (me) on a tighter budget, use a more affordable top round roast and a buttermilk marinade. The buttermilk tenderizes the meat without adding any unwanted flavors that acids like vinegar or lemon juice bring to the party. The tang of the buttermilk blends in with the tang of the sour cream. The other trick is to slice the meat at least 1/4 thick and fry it for no more than 30 seconds to 1 minute per side, otherwise it will dry out and get tough.
Many of the ingredients in this recipe have been scaled or substituted to make this an affordable, budget friendly, family dish that doesn’t need to come out of a box.
Some people sprinkle paprika as a garnish when serving. I think it deserves a starring role, so I add it during the cooking.
Mushrooms, glorious mushrooms. How I missed you.
You must, *must* have plenty of sauce to drizzle over the egg noodles. It is required.
Affordable Beef Stroganoff
Adapted from Bon Appétit, September 1999 via Epicurious
2 lbs top round roast
2 cups buttermilk
2 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
3 tbsp butter
1 med onion, diced
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced thick
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp flour
1 cup beef broth or stock
2 tbsp dry Sherry
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Cut the meat into strips about 2 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick. Place the meat in a large plastic freezer bag and add the buttermilk. Seal the bag and massage to make sure the meat is completely coated in buttermilk. Marinate at least overnight and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Drain the meat and pat dry with paper towels. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet on med high heat. Fry the beef in batches until lightly browned, about 30 seconds per side. Remove from skillet and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add butter to the same skillet. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, thyme and paprika and cook until the mushrooms have softened and any liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, stir and cook for about a minute. Add the beef broth and the Sherry, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 more minutes. Return the meat and any juices to the pan and cook until just heated through, 2 – 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream, Dijon and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve over rice or egg noodles.