My mom’s cooking is the stuff of legend. Every out of town guest or wayward college student that was presented with a plate of her grub said so. She learned to cook in the 40s and 50s by helping her mom raise two younger brothers. She was blessed with a husband in the 60s who would eat almost anything, a first born daughter who didn’t like everything but never spoke up, a second daughter who liked almost nothing and who was often busted standing in front of an open refrigerator munching down on cold hot dogs with ketchup and finally a youngest child who ate everything that was put in front of her (but for cooked carrots. Never cooked carrots).
As time passed, this youngest daughter (ok, ok, it’s me) began to spend more time in the kitchen with her mother and picked up a trick or two. The thing is, and this is no knock, it was the 70s and 80s. Casseroles, stews and Better Homes & Gardens recipes ruled the roost. There is still a place for these things, my mom’s Hot Chicken Salad is basically a casserole and it’s to die for. And to be honest, I never realized the recipes were so dated until someone pointed it out. He wasn’t being cruel, it just so happened that he learned some ridiculously delicious dishes from a few chefs along the way and easily showed up my safe yet boring Corningware meals (tasty as they are).
Every year on our birthdays, mom would make what we wanted. If it wasn’t a main dish, it was a special dessert and if it was a good year, both. I never wanted dessert, only Beef Stroganoff. For years and years that is all I wanted. Vats of it. Down to the very last drop of sauce and single noodle in the pot. I loved it. It wasn’t until I saw the recipe that the mystery finally wore off. I think I actually said out loud, “THAT’S IT?!” and I’m pretty sure my mom chuckled at me. All those years of thinking she slaved when in reality it was this quick and dirty, and the hardest part was driving to the store to buy the meat. Dang it! Here:
Mom’s Beef Stroganoff (v.1)
1 lb. sirloin, cut into thumb-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped (not too thick)
1 c sour cream
1 c cream of mushroom soup
2 T ketchup
2 T Worcestershire sauce
Brown onion in butter, when translucent add sirloin until browned.
Combine sour cream, cream of mushroom, ketchup and Worcestershire in a bowl. Add to meat and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Should be thick, condensation from lid should be enough added water. Pour over egg noodles.
See now, this dish is good in my memory but frankly tonight when I made the sauce, it didn’t taste nearly as mushroomy or tangy as I recalled. I couldn’t imagine licking the bowl or scraping the last noodle. It was bland. Being that I have what my dad called a “sour tooth”, my first impulse was to add more Worcestershire, which I did. Still not exactly right. Needs salt. Added. Better. Mushrooms… add more mushrooms. Partly because I didn’t have enough meat to bulk it up, partly because I love mushrooms. And hey, I’m Hungarian why not throw in a little paprika for color and smoke? This was one big success of a revamped dish. So now we have:
Penny’s (and Mom’s) Beef Stroganoff (v.2)
.5 – 1 lb. sirloin or round, cut into thumb-sized pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped (not too thick) or in a desperate pinch, 2 T chopped or minced onion flakes (still good)
2 c sliced crimini or baby bella mushrooms (this is about one whole cello-wrapped container bought at the grocery store)
2-3 T butter
1 c sour cream
1 c cream of mushroom soup (cans are 10 oz, it’s ok to use all of it)
2 T ketchup
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t salt
1/4 t paprika
Egg noodles (based on serving size, they don’t expand much)
Brown mushrooms and onions in butter, when soft add sirloin, brown.
Combine sour cream, soup, ketchup and Worcestershire in a bowl. Add to meat and simmer covered for 15 minutes with an extra sprinkle of dried onions if you so desire.
Should be thick, condensation from lid should be enough added water. Pour over egg noodles. Devour unabashedly.
So there you have it. Now to be fair, I don’t measure much when I cook. I start with a recipe and go off script so I’ll be honest and say that I don’t actually know for sure that those additional teaspoons and tablespoons are exact but it leaves room for more or less tang and onion. If anything, they’re scant measurements.