Whenever I interview a chef or cook or foodie-like person, I inevitably ask them to describe their favourite childhood meal.
It never fails.
They get a dreamy, cloudy, soft look on their face as they drift back into their days of innocence. More often than not, it is simple, unfettered meal that hits them in the feels. Something that momma or grandpa made, never without a healthy dose of love.
For me…it was beef stroganoff. First, the back story…we had a busy household. For years we owned a fast food restaurant that my parents slaved away at. Before and after those years my mom was the “daily cook”, after hours spent at an exhausting executive job at the local college, she would do her best to get something healthy and filling on the table. She wasn’t home all day tending to a garden, cooking from scratch. We lived in the Northwest Territories, so shopping for ingredients was an adventure in “what is the least nasty here!”. She always said she wasn’t a great cook & left the special meals to my dad, who had a flair for food, ran the restaurant and was then a chef in our local ‘fancy place’.
However, my Mom did have the best attitude about food. As in…if you walked through our door…she’d feed you. It was all about love with my momma. Her Ukrainian heritage shining through, “Eat, eat , eat, you’re too skinny, sit down, what can I get you?”. Ask ANY of my friends…this was a constant. She welcomed everyone and anyone. I remember being given the auspicious task of organizing the vegetable platter for guests. Nothing was left unnoticed, the details mattered, pretty mattered, taking extra care…mattered.
When we got to pick what we wanted for dinner, either it was a birthday, or we’d done well on a tough exam or something, anything went right in our lives, we would celebrate as a family. I almost always chose beef stroganoff. I have no idea what the traditional version tastes like…I just wanted my moms, made with love and Campbell’s mushroom soup. When I went away to university, the food was uhm…disappointing at best (barf). But I managed to find a way to connect with home. Once a month the cafeteria would serve “something” that they called beef stroganoff. It wasn’t anywhere near, however , I discovered if I asked for a few cups of extra sour cream and stirred it into their said “stroganoff”, it almost resembled my beloved childhood meal. Funny how a taste can take you back as swiftly as an overplayed song.
Over the years I have adjusted the recipe adopted from my mom, to make it my own. But some things remain the same. First, it is one of my children’s favourites, often requested (even though three of them hate mushrooms) . Secondly, I am never skimpy with the sour cream. That doesn’t happen.
So here’s my easy breezy version, still takes me back. Warm schmoozy love…on a plate.
To keep leftovers, IF there are any, I mix noodles and sauce together. To reheat, place in a warm pan and add a bit of cream to rehydrate. Will be even better day two.
- 3 cups egg noodles, cooked
- 1.5 kg , steak of your choice ( I usually choose a decent cut because I don’t like it to be chewy…I have bought less expensive cuts and simply marinated them)
- 2-3 cups mushrooms, sliced ( I use whatever fresh mushrooms appeal to me…sometimes I get fancy & add in some wild ones)
- 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
- ½ medium white onion, medium dice
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. salted butter
- 2 cups whipping cream (or half & half if you prefer a lighter sauce)
- 2 tbsp. beef bouillon paste ( I use Organic Better than Bouillon from Costco when I don’t have any homemade)
- 2 cups sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
- 2-3 tbsp. fresh tarragon, chiffonade (cut really small)
- salt and pepper
- 2 cups fresh arugula for garnish
- Step 1 Boil large pot of well-salted water and cook egg noodles.
- Step 2 In a hot frying pan, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and brown steaks, lightly dust each with salt and pepper. Cook each until evenly brown and firm on outside, but still med-rare inside. About 5-8 minutes. Set steaks aside on a plate to rest.
- Step 3 In same pan, turn the heat to medium, add the rest of the olive oil and butter. Add the onions and garlic, stir constantly until onions become clear.
- Step 4 Then add in mushrooms to onion mix, stir regularly until mushrooms have become soft and browned. Next add in green pepper, toss mixture together.
- Step 5 Slowly mix in cream, once it is warmed, add the bouillon paste. Stir gently to blend. Simmer this mixture until it has reduced by a third.
- Step 6 While that is reducing, strain egg noodles, rinse in hot water and set aside in pot, keep covered to keep warm.
- Step 7 Slice the steak into thin strips on a flexible cutting board, add steak & juices to the vegetable and cream mixture. Stir until meat has just turned from pink to light brown.
- Step 8 Mix in fresh tarragon (if you only have dry add it in when you’ve added the cream), sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Step 9 Now for the most important part! Remove your luscious meaty, vegetable sauce from the heat, gently mix in all of the sour cream until it is smooth and blended. Yummmmm…
- Step 10 To serve place a serving of noodles on a plate, top generously with steak and sauce, garnish with a handful of arugula! Comfort food and crowd pleasing.
“Take time enough for your meals, and eat them in company whenever you can. There is no need for hurry in life—least of all when we are eating.” ~ Edward Everett Hale