Saturday, April 30, 2011

Confession Time

Beef Stroganoff by terpkristin
Beef Stroganoff, a photo by terpkristin on Flickr.

So, I have a confession. I've never bought beef other than ground beef. Nor have I ever cooked beef other than ground beef/hamburgers. That all changed today.

In continuing with my new year's "resolution" of cooking at least one recipe from each cookbook I own, the next cookbook on my shelf was Light & Healthy 2010 from America's Test Kitchen. While I was going through the cookbook, I had to force myself to try something different. There were a lot of recipes in there that look like things I like to make and eat regularly (such as chicken stew). After all, part of the point of the resolution was to try out some new things. Though there were plenty of recipes for things I've never made before (not just beef, but also pork--other than the pound of real bacon I bought for a party and the very occasional sausage, I've never bought or cooked that, either...just not a fan of the flavor). In the end, there were two recipes that fit all my requirements: beef stroganoff and spring vegetable risotto. Since I've just gotten over a period of doing a lot of vegetarian dishes, I opted for the beef stroganoff.

I'm not sure if my mom ever made beef stroganoff when I was growing up. I think I've only had it once or twice, and what I remember of it was a thick cream sauce. I think I remember coming across a recipe while in home ec in middle school that used cream of mushroom soup. This recipe did not.

I was surprised at how long this took to put together and cook. Including prep, it was a bit over an hour (albeit, a lot of it is just waiting for things to cook so it's not an active hour). I guess, though, that if you want to develop flavor without as much fat, you have to let things cook. I'm not complaining. The result was a supremely tasty brandy cream sauce with big chunks of beef and big mushrooms. The sauce isn't as thick as I remember it being (or remember seeing it at restaurants), but that might have been partially my fault. The sauce spends about 30 minutes simmering at medium heat; I think for the first 15 minutes, I might have had the heat a little too low. I kicked it up for the last 15. What I really like about this dish is that I can really taste all of the components in the sauce. I still get a touch of the brandy, the beef isn't hidden in salt, and a little bit of lemon juice and parsley added at the end round out the flavors. I'll be keeping this recipe in my repertoire.

So. Not a bad first beef experience. I actually didn't like the smell of the beef cooking in the skillet. Once it was cooked, though, the flavor was pretty good. I'm not sure that I've learned much about buying or cooking beef. I cooked the beef much like I cook chicken. And, if I were to be honest, if the cookbook hadn't told me to get tenderloin and showed a picture of how to cut it, I probably wouldn't have had any idea what type of beef to look for in the store. Sometime this summer, I'm going to have to buy more beef and figure out what one does with beef, other than grill it.


E.M. said...

This looks yummy!! I would love to cook like that. Im only in High skool and taking classes for cooking... looks awesome and keep cookin!!

Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Kristin, making beef stroganoff isn't rocket science! Sorry, I couldn't resist! :D (I bet you get that all the time!) But, seriously, I'm glad you tried a stroganoff recipe that did not include a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Though there are a few good "quick" foods, for the most part it takes a bit of time to develop flavor.

kristin said...

Funny, I didn't actually think the making was too tough. But buying the beef....

I so rarely eat it (much less cook it/buy it) that I wandered for awhile in the meat section of the grocery before I found what I was looking for. :D