I just arrived home from a two-week trip to the country of Taiwan, taken with the single purpose of eating my way across the island. I spent my time exploring a very unfamiliar-to-me cuisine, which was at times a little scary and on one occasion downright inedible. I don't mean to offend; in fact, the trip was exhilarating. It's just that sometimes, eating food that is different from your own means taking a leap of faith.
And a leap of faith I took! It required a little Skype encouragement from my boyfriend, but I made it my mission to try everything (well, almost) everything that came my way. I ended up discovering some amazing foods that I would never have tried otherwise. Now I've got a laundry list of recipes I can't wait to adapt for my American kitchen, but in the meantime I've been craving some savory, decadent, good old-fashioned comfort food.
After two long weeks away from my kitchen — and subsisting almost exclusively on restaurant food — I have been in desperate need of a home-cooked meal. Something soothing and familiar that takes me back to childhood. At the end of the day I couldn't think of anything better than a big bowl of beef stroganoff to warm my bones. But not just any beef stroganoff, you see.
I was raised on a version fairly traditional to the times: ground beef, pre-sliced button mushrooms, a can of mushroom soup, and a carton of sour cream. Ta-da! Dinner was done. And to be quite honest, whenever my mom makes it for me it is still one of my favorite things.
In my recipe, however, I've created what you might consider a beef stew-stroganoff love child. I've never been able to resist anything cooked low and slow. Whether it be short ribs or chili, the more time it takes to cook, the better it tastes (hello, smoked pork butt!). So instead of the usual ground meat, I ended up with succulent braised beef, big meaty mushrooms, and a rich creamy sauce. I paired it with fresh pappardelle instead of the usual egg noodles and a big bottle of Spanish red wine. I'd say that's comfort food, alright.
And I know it's still a little too warm for some of you to make this, but colder weather is just around the corner. Tuck this recipe away for when you need a big meal and a big hug. I promise it's worth the wait.
How about you? What is your go-to comfort food when you need something warm and familiar?
Braised Beef Stroganoff with Pappardelle
Serves 4 to 6
Vegetable oil or clarified butter
braising beef (I used boneless shoulder)
unsalted beef broth
mushrooms (I used oyster, shitake, and cremini), cleaned and sliced
(8-ounce) carton sour cream (I used light)
Freshly ground black pepper
Flat leaf parsley, to garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 300°.
Freeze the beef for about 20 minutes, which will make it easier to dice. Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes. Pat dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil or clarified butter in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Sauté the beef cubes on all sides until well browned but not cooked through, about 3 -5 minutes, working in batches if necessary. Add back all of the beef and its juices to the Dutch oven.
With heat still on high, add the flour and cook for one minute until there is no visible white left. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan and then reduce by half, about 10 – 15 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and move it to the oven. Cook for approximately 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is ultra-tender. Allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the beef mixture is cooling, heat the butter over medium heat in a large skillet and sauté the onions until they start to soften. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until golden brown and tender, about 12 minutes. Add the cooked mushrooms into the beef sauce. Stir a cup of the beef sauce into the sour cream; then fold the sour cream mixture back into the rest of the beef sauce. Taste and adjust final seasonings. Gently reheat over low to medium-low heat if necessary. Serve over cooked pappardelle or egg noodles. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)