I grew up eating stroganoff, and so I had it in my mind that is was about as Russian as pizza is Italian and General Tao's' chicken is Chinese. And while I know the version I ate was "Americanized" the dish didn't start there. There are several versions of how it came about, was it a French chef in a St. Petersburg cooking contest? Or the intellectual count who welcomed everyone to his table? I have no idea and I doubt googling will get me to the bottom of it all. However, it's a simple dish that is both hearty and delicious. 

From what I can tell it's about as varied as pizza as well. All start with the same building blocks. Dough, sauce and cheese on the one hand, and thinly sliced beef, mushrooms, and smetana on the other. Pepperoni? Pineapple? Olives? Fresh herbs? Stroganoff is no different. Some recipes called for Worcestershire sauce, other soy, some for tomato products, ketchup or paste? 

So with that all in mind I looked at dozens of recipes and created my own based on what I like and what I was familiar with in regards to the dish.

1.5 lb. Thinly sliced strips of beef
2 Tbsp flour
1 red onion, sliced
1 c. beef broth
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 c. smetana

Toss the beef with the flour, the meat wont be completely coated and that's ok. Heat your oil in a large frying pan and add the beef, about a quarter at a time. You don't want to crowd the pan or the meat won't brown.  Remove the browned meat, it should be cooked on the outside but it's fine if it's not cooked all the way through. Add the rest of the meat in batches.

After the last batch saute the onion just until it's getting tender but not completely soft. Add the tomato paste and saute for another 2 - 3 minutes. Add the meat back to the pan along with the beef broth and any drippings from the plate you had the meat reserved on.

Simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.

Stir the smetana until it's smooth, add some of the hot gravy and mix it in and the mix it all back in to the pan. Heat through and serve with potatoes or pasta.

The last step with the sour cream is important, otherwise the sour cream wont completely mix in to the sauce and instead be tiny pockets of sour cream in your gravy.


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