Beef stroganoff is well known throughout the world, but it originated in Russia. Essentially it is sautéed pieces of beef in a sauce with sour cream. Those three constants appear in almost all beef stroganoff recipes. The first published recipe of beef stroganoff is from 1861, and it is beef cubes in a mustard sauce with sour cream. The addition of mushrooms and onions came later in the evolution of the dish.
After the fall of Imperial Russia, beef stroganoff became popular in China. Before WWII and communist China, American servicemen were stationed there. When they came home, they brought recipes for beef stroganoff with them. The recipes became family heirlooms, becoming part of an American tradition.
1. Chose your ingredients wisely. Using low-fat sour cream or margarine will change the way your stroganoff tastes. I encourage you to stick to the good stuff for this recipe. Just don't eat it everyday. For the meat we used New York Strips, as they were on sale. Most recipes for stroganoff call for some form of tender meat, and I wouldn't use anything below the quality of sirloin.
2. Prep your ingredients. Trim some of the fat and connective tissue from the meat while you cut it into thin strips. The onion should be diced but not necessarily minced. Slice the mushrooms, by trimming the bottom of the stem and slicing them up. Open cans and measure your ingredients into staging bowls or containers. Some ingredients, like the sour cream and tomato paste, won't need secondary containers.
3. Once all ingredients have been prepped, you can begin cooking your stroganoff. The first step is to dredge the beef strips in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper. All you need to dredge the meat in is ¼-½ cup flour plus a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. You will want to do this just before you begin cooking, as the mixture-covered meat starts to stick to itself if it sits too long.
4. Heat up a large skillet, frying pan, or wok on medium to medium-high heat with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Once the pan is heated, begin laying the beef into the pan, trying not to overlap the pieces. Don't cram them all in there at once. It will take at least two batches to fry all the meat. Leave the cooking beef alone, and don't flip the meat until the first side is brown. It will take a couple minutes.
5. The beef will brown quicker because of the flour dredge. Use a tong to flip each piece individually to get the other side brown. Don't cook the beef until its done, but just until its brown. Put the browned meat in a bowl and set it aside. Finish cooking the remaining beef.
6. After you have finished frying the beef, melt a tablespoon of butter in the pan. Add the mushrooms and onions, and cook them until they too are browned. If you like your onions cooked more, put them in for a few minutes before adding your mushrooms. Set the cooked mushrooms and onions aside in the same bowl as the browned beef.
7. Lower the heat to low-medium, and melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the frying pan. Use a spatula to scrape up the meat/flour drippings. Once the butter has melted, add the ¼ cup all-purpose flour. Stir it into the butter until you make a paste. This is called a roux. Stir the roux, and cook it for a minute. This ensures all the water gets cooked out.
8. Using a whisk, stir the sour cream into the roux. When sour cream gets warm it melts and gets runny. Whisk in the mustard as well. followed by the tomato paste, the beef broth, and finally the lemon juice. Whisk the mixture until it's combined well.
9. Don't adjust the seasonings until you have mixed in the meat, mushrooms, and onions. I ended up adding a little pepper and some more sour cream. After that, it was perfect. Also, the sauce will get thicker after you mix in the meat because the meat is coated with flour.
10. You don't have to cook it anymore. The heat from the sauce will finish cooking the beef. Turn the heat off, and serve over thick, wide egg noodles. Don't skimp on the noodles. They must be the thick ones. I am not joking! If the sauce is not as thick as you want or the beef is not as cooked as you would like. Just cook it over low heat until it is.
There are a ton of variants of this beef stroganoff recipe. Here are a few.
Some people serve it over rice.
Some don't add the mushrooms or onions.
You can serve the sour cream on the side.
Or use ketchup instead of tomato paste.
Switch the beef with chicken, or make it completely vegetarian.
Some people cube the beef.
In Brazil, it is used as a pancake filling and as a topping for potatoes and pizza.
The traditional garnish/topping for beef stroganoff in Russia is potato straws.