Today I want to talk about Beef Stroganoff. We spent two fast and fun-filled days in Saint Petersburg, Russia, last fall as part of a beautiful Nordic Cruise. To facilitate touring this incredible City, we booked a tour (outside of the ship’s excursions) with Alla-Tour.
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On the first day of our tour in Saint Petersburg, we break for lunch at a local restaurant. The meal starts with a nice serving of Borscht and then the main course of Beef Stroganoff. Everyone in our small group expected Beef Stroganoff, but not Beef Stroganoff with mashed potatoes!
The Beef Stroganoff You Grew Up Eating
In America, many youngsters in the ’50s & ’60s grew up with an elementary version of this dish. This Beef Stroganoff was made with ground beef and cream of mushroom soup. I’m sure a national soup brand, created this recipe to sell more soup. Even when made from scratch in the USA, Beef Stroganoff is almost always served over curly egg noodles. Where did the mashed potatoes we were served in Russia come from?
I decided to do some research on the age-old dish to see if I could trace down its origin. And figure out why mashed potatoes are the side dish of choice for Beef Stroganoff in Russia.
Once Upon a Time, There Was a Count
Most legends attribute Beef Stroganoff to the dish’s namesake, Count Pavel Aleksandrovich Stroganov.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Russian aristocracy was hopping all over Europe. Pavel’s parents, Count Alexander Sergeyevich Stroganov and Princess Ekaterina Troubetzkaya were living in Paris when he was born.
When Pavel became Count Stroganov, he carried on with the new tradition of hiring French chefs but maintaining a palate honed in the homeland.
In “A Taste of Rusia, a Cookbook of Russian Hospitality,” the recipe for Beef Stroganoff is attributed to Count Stroganov’s French chef. It’s said that the chef made an old French recipe for beef in mustard sauce. To bring the dish closer to the palate of his Russian employer, the chef simply added Russian sour cream (smetana) to the plate. And voila, Beef Stroganoff was born. This new dish was a hit and went on to become an international sensation!
Still, No Potatoes!
But Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganoff died in 1817. Potatoes were not widely cultivated in Russia until Catherine the Great ordered her subjects to begin growing the notable tuber. It wasn’t until around 1850 when Czar Nicholas I began to enforce Catherine’s order that potatoes became widely available and consumed in Russia.
The potato is a sturdy crop that grows in many adverse conditions and provides a good source of nutrition at a low cost. For these reasons, the lowly potato became the go-to side for Russia and most of Europe. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find a Russian dish that doesn’t have a potato somewhere near it or in it.
My husband favors the curly egg noodles of his youth. But as a homage to Russia for my dinner this time, I chose to use potatoes as the side. I didn’t use mashed potatoes, though, I decided to roast them. I hope you enjoy my recipe…
- Dutch Oven or Large Stew Pot
- 1 medium Brown Onion Sliced
- 8 oz Mushrooms Sliced
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 2 tbsp Canola Oil
- 4 cloves Garlic Minced
- 2 tbsp Flour
- 1 1//4 lbs Beef Sirloin Tips or pre-sliced from your butcher
- 1 cup Beef Broth
- 1/4 cup Cognac can be excluded
- 1/4 cup Sour Cream
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp Parsley for garnish
- Prepare your veggies, slice the onion and mushrooms and mince the garlic
- Pre-heat your pot over a medium heat.
- Add 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter to the pot and add the mushrooms and onions. Cook until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are slightly browned.
- Remove the onions and mushrooms to a bowl, add the minced garlic and set aside.
- In a small bag add the flour, salt and pepper and shake to mix. Then add the beef tips and shake to coat.
- Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter to your pot. Bring up the pot to a medium high heat, then add the beef tips cooking on all sides until browned.
- Remove the beef tips from the pot and deglaze with the beef stock and cognac
- Return the beef tips, mushroom and onion mixture to the pot with the beef stock.
- Bring the whole mixture to a quick boil, then reduce to a low simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened.
- Just before serving, add the sour cream to the meat mixture to create the lovely creamy sauce, then sprinkle with chopped parsley.