Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Recipe: Boeuf Stroganoff
First cousin to a stir-fry, this is another of those dishes where there are as many different versions are there are sources to consult. The basics are simple: quickly sautéed strips of beef in a reduced cream and paprika sauce. Some versions include mushrooms, others onion and some tomato concentrate. Personally I prefer it without any of these.
Strangely, though, one element constant to all the versions I found- which makes absolutely no sense to me - is that they are without exception written back to front i.e that the meat is cooked first and then kept warm while the sauce is made. This is bonkers! Cooking the beef only takes a minute, but making the sauce will take 5-10 minutes, or longer, depending on the power of your burners, during which time the tender strips of beef are merely getting dry in a warming oven.
My preference is to make the sauce first, make sure it is up to scratch and have it ready for when it is time to stir-fry the beef. Not only does this produce a better result, but is eminently practical for entertaining, when the sauce and the sliced meat can be prepared in advance, and thus you are away from your guests for only a minimal amount of time.
Ingredients: 750g Beef Fillet, trimmed (you can use Sirloin or Rump instead, or even Skirt); 30g unsalted Butter; 60g chopped Shallots; 100ml dry White Wine or Vermouth; 50ml Cognac; 200ml Veal or Chicken Stock; 300ml Cream (Crème fraiche or sour cream or Greek Yoghurt is best - the sauce should not be sweet); 2 tablespoons Sweet Paprika; juice of 1/2 Lemon (NB not ne, don't bother with this if you are using Sour Cream); Salt and Pepper; 60g clarified Butter*; chopped Parsley, for garnish
1. Sauté the Shallots in Butter until thoroughly wilted but not coloured. Add all the liquids and reduce to a coating consistency.
2. Dissolve the Paprika in a little sauce to break down any lumps, then add this back into the sauce in the pan and stir thoroughly. Taste for seasoning. Add a little lemon if the cream you are using is neither of the three types mentioned above.
If the sauce is going to sit for a long time, cover it with a piece of cling film to stop a skin forming.
3. Cut the Beef into strips 5cm x 5mm x 5mm.
NB1: The long side of the strip should be cut across the grain of the meat; if you cut with the grain, the meat can end up undesirably chewy.)
NB2: It helps in cutting if the meat is ice cold - achieved by leaving it in the freezer for 15 minutes or so before slicing.
NB3: I then spread all the pieces out onto a length of greaseproof paper, roll it up, and put it in the 'fridge or freezer. When I am ready, I unroll the paper and slide all the pieces into the pan. Cold meat takes longer to cook, so this gives you a little longer to sear and brown the outside while keeping the inside rare.
At this point, you can set the prepared sauce and Beef aside for several hours, until time for the final cooking and assembly.
4. Heat a large frying pan or wok until very hot. Add the clarified Butter, then add the meat and seal it all over very quickly for about a minute. At this stage, the meat must still be rare inside. Tip the meat into a colander placed over a plate. Season it with salt and black pepper. Wipe the pan out with kitchen paper to remove any oil or debris.
5. Lower the heat to medium. Add the prepared sauce to the pan and quickly bring just to the boil. Turn the heat to low. Return the meat to the pan, stir to coat with sauce and heat through for a few seconds. Garnish and serve at once on hot plates.
Ideally the Beef should still be medium rare and juicy, but if you prefer Beef well done, just cook it a little longer in the sauce.
This is best with plain rice, puréed potatoes or noodles.
* To clarify a small quantity of Butter like this quickly, put 100gms of butter in a tall plastic jug and microwave only until you hear the Butter just beginning to pop or splutter. Stop at once. Wait for a few seconds, if the Butter is not liquid, give it a second dose. Let it settle and pour off the clarified Butter you need into your pan, leaving the milk solids behind: you can add these to something else like mashed Potato or any other cooked vegetable. You need to be quick on the draw in this process: if the Butter heats too long, it can spit all over the place. You can of course use Oil, but Butter tastes better.