A hearty, creamy, robust sauce that encompasses tender, slow cooked beef piled high onto extra wide and starchy egg noodles; if you were to see that on the plates of our table, you better believe the only sounds you’d be hearing after slurping would be, “Can I have seconds, please?”
Beef Stroganoff was a staple in my mama’s kitchen and her mother’s as well. When I asked Gran to tell me the story of where she got this dish from, she told me that she found it years ago in a cookbook. This cookbook was a gift given to her by my grandpa shortly AFTER they married. She is almost positive that her mother-in-law made this suggestion to him for the gift but at least now it is something we can laugh about. That’s proof that we all have to start somewhere. This reminds me of my favorite quote from Julia Child, “no one is born a great cook, one must learn by doing.”
How ironic that the first time Gran made this was for her twin boys’ birthday dinner. She chose it as a special meal to serve them. Last week, I made this for our girls’ birthday dinner too. They lapped it up.
It is the perfect meal for filling the stomachs of a large crowd, the growing appetites of teenage boys, or even two 1-year-old girls. The other advantage of this dish is its independence. It definitely holds up as a stand alone meal, yet, our favorite way to serve it up is with a big garden salad and a roll. The main components of beef stroganoff are, of course, the beef, then mushrooms and onions. The sauce gets the richest part of its flavor from beef consomme, minced garlic, and butter. Then it’s velvety goodness comes from sour cream and cream of mushroom soup.
You can use about any cut of beef for this. Gran uses round steak cut into strips, Mom uses a roast cut into strips and I used beef stew meat as it was. There’s also versatility in how you can prepare it. You can flour then fry your meat and dump all the ingredients (minus the sour cream) into your slow cooker. Then stir in the cream at the end so it doesn’t disintegrate during the slow cooking process. Or, you can cook the meat in the broth and prepare the sauce on the stove top as I prefer to do. Bottom line: don’t make this harder than it has to be -do what works best for you!
The most important part of getting this recipe right is the texture and flavor of your meat. A cut of meat needs seasoning and searing to lock in its extensive flavor before it ever enters the slow cooker. Even if it is part of a flavor-packed sauce, it’s necessary to take this extra step. Emma Christensen says it best as she answers this question on “The Kitchn” blog, proving that searing meat before slow cooking is worth the effort.
Contrary to widely held belief, searing meat doesn’t actually seal moisture inside the cut of meat or result in a juicier finished dish. It does, however, give meat dishes an incredible depth of flavor. Additionally, it gives meat an appetizing color and kills off any bacteria that might be hanging out on the surface of the meat.Searing over high heat caramelizes the surface of the meat, which enhances the savory ‘meat’ flavor and fills the finished dish with complex layers of nutty caramel and coffee-like bitterness. In technical terms, this is called a Maillard reaction and it’s a flavor profile we omnivores happen to find quite delicious. Without searing, meat dishes can taste flat and boring.
No one likes flat and boring, especially when it comes to beef stroganoff. Flouring meat before frying helps to thicken the liquid of a dish that often becomes too thin during the slow-cooking process. You would definitely want to flour your meat if you are going to be using the dump and cook method I mentioned above. Otherwise, keep reading to see how you can omit the flour and take control of the thickness of your sauce on your own.
Preheat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat. Add in oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Use your favorite all-purpose seasoning. A hearty-flavored, but low salt mix would be my suggestion. You’ll be cooking this meat in salty broth, so be careful not to over do it. I used one of my favorite garlic lovers seasoning from FlavorGod. He keeps the salt content low but the flavor kicked up high. Check out his assortment here with my coupon.
Sear the meat on all sides until well browned and caramelly. Place the drained meat in your slow cooker and cover in beef consomme. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until meat is tender but not falling apart. This may require you to do some taste-testing, but I’ve never known anyone to complain at that.
You can begin the next step about a half-hour before your meat finishes cooking. Or, you can postpone until you are closer to the time you’ll serve your stroganoff.
Cut up a large, sweet onion into slivers, then saute in butter in a large electric skillet or deep-welled pot. Add in a couple cloves of minced garlic and sliced mushrooms. Continue cooking until the onions are translucent. At this point, you can prepare salted, boiling water for your egg noodles as well. Follow the directions on their package to prepare them.
To the onion mixture, add your cream of mushroom soup and sour cream, stirring until well combined. Then, using a slotted spoon, add in your meat from the slow cooker into your sauce. Ladle the remaining broth from your slow cooker into your skillet, a little at a time. Keep stirring to thin out your stroganoff until you reach the desired consistency. Allow sauce to simmer for about fifteen minutes. Once the noodles finish cooking, drain and rinse them in warm water. This will rid them of extra starch that might cause them to stick together. You can toss them in a little olive oil to help prevent clumping too.
The only thing left for you to do here is to serve it up well. Don’t shy away from giving your table guests big helpings. This is one of those pure moments of warm comfort food at its finest. Spoon your meat sauce over a heavenly heaping bed of noodles and listen for the silence. It will last as long as it takes them to devour their plates until they ask for seconds!