When we lived in Kentucky, we belonged to a dinner group which met every other month or so. Couples took turns hosting a special dinner, the hosts determined the menu and members brought the dish assigned to them. It was a fun group, we ate well and everyone learned some new recipes. For me the only downside was the fact that my serious weight gain began around that time.
The husband of one couple taught Russian language and literature. His wife, Helga, was from Germany and was a wonderful cook. I and other husbands used to point out to our wives that she also washed their garage door windows weekly. Actually, we called this to their attention only when we were looking for a fight or were trying to deflect our spouse’s attention from grass that needed mowing or some other such unpleasant chore.
One time, Helga decided to host a Russian dinner. I don’t remember what Jerri’s assignment was, but Russian cuisine features lots of mushroom recipes, so she may have made something with fungi. We had mushroom appetizers, mushroom salad and mushroom soup brought by visiting couples. Helga cooked two different kinds of beef Stroganoff with wild mushrooms which she served with a choice of kasha or noodles.
I am pretty sure that that dinner was the first time I tasted kasha, that wonderful alternative to rice or noodles made with buckwheat groats. Kasha has been a popular Russian dish for hundreds of years, so Helga very likely included it on her menu for a Russian dinner.
Everything was delicious if somewhat repetitious. I have a vague recollection that dessert was baba au rhum and I know that we had ice cold vodka for an aperitif and a good red wine with the meal.
This recipe for beef Stroganoff is not an authentic Russian recipe (note the can of mushroom soup), but it is simple and absolutely delicious. Connie, Jerri’s friend and fellow teacher at Maine South High School, gave it to her before our wedding. Connie was the sharp-eyed friend who spotted the traffic jam on the Interstate and helped Jerri find a way home through fifteen miles of city streets during the Chicago Blizzard of 1967.
Connie wrote the recipe on a “Here’s what’s cookin” card which Jerri files under main dishes in the box she got for the recipe shower her friends gave her before she left Chicago. As you would expect from a teacher, the recipe is clear, concise and foolproof. Here is Connie’s Jiffy Beef Stroganoff. It serves six generously. May you enjoy it as much as we have.
1 1/2 lbs. beef
2 T all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 small clove garlic
4 oz. canned mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 T water
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped pimiento
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. brown seasoning sauce
2 T minced parsley
Rice or noodles
Slice the meat into strips about 1 1/2 by 1/4 inches and dredge them in the flour, salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a covered skillet over medium heat and brown the meat.
Chop the onion, mince the garlic and drain the mushrooms while the meat browns.
Reduce the heat to low and mix the onion, garlic, mushrooms, soup and a tablespoon of water with the meat. Cover the skillet while you grate the cheese and chop or drain the pimiento. Stir in the cheese and pimiento, cover again and simmer for about twenty minutes until the meat is done.
Stir in the sour cream and seasoning sauce. Mince the parsley and stir it into the mixture. If the sauce seems too thick, you can thin it with a little milk. Continue simmering the stroganoff over very low heat for an hour. Connie says that you can serve it almost immediately but that it is much better simmered for awhile.
Serve over rice or noodles with a green salad, bread and a glass of red wine.
NOTES: Connie noted that you can substitute hamburger for the beef, but I would not recommend it. She also suggested that the Stroganoff was great with Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice. I can vouch for that, but I still prefer noodles.
It is great warmed up!