Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Comforting Beef Stroganoff + A Cahors Malbec #FoodieReads


I still don't remember how I ended up with The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart by Emily Nunn* on my to-read stack. I don't recall if a friend recommended it, or it was just one of those 'people who bought x also bought this' suggestions that always gets me on Amazon. Always.

In any case, on one sunny Saturday this month, I plunked down on a chair in the sun and read all the way through it with, first, lemonade in hand and, then, sparkling wine as the afternoon wore on.


Uncomfortable Food
Years ago I asked friends to help me define 'comfort food' - you can read my post 'I make uncomfortable food.' After this dinner, Jake said, "You should email Kevin and tell him you can make comfort food!" Too funny.

On the Page
Let me set the stage: Emily Nunn has just lost her brother to suicide, her engagement is shattered when the Engineer doesn't understand why she's wallowing in her grief, and she checks into rehab to deal with her alcohol addition. After her stay at the clinic, as part of her recovery, she embarks on a comfort food tour, traveling the country and staying with friends and family.

At each stop she cooks and eats with them, sharing stories about her healing process. "Food has become my touchstone for understanding what real love is. The best thing? Food makes it easier to give love, untangled. Since it keeps us alive, the smallest, simplest gesture can seem miraculous: I brought you this soup" (pg. 303).

 The Comfort Food Diaries is part memoir, part travelogue, part family history, and part self-discovery. It's filled with homey recipes for the food that nourishes the appetite and the soul, including Angel Biscuits, Great-grandmother's Mean Lemon Cake, Elaine and Emily's Bloody Mary Aspic, Aunt Mariah's Pot Roast, and My Mother's Southern Salami Sandwich.

Most of the recipes are tied to a family member and come with a story that sets the scene for when Emily ate the dish. Before Portia's Scallops on Creamed Corn, she writes, "One major thing that I relearned in assisting with the soothing meals Portia made is that the freezer is not just your friend, it's your best friend, especially if you want to eat at the level she and Buddy do, and even more especially if you wish to stockpile a form of unconditional love - once given, food can't really be taken back - to have around if friends drop by. She makes sure to freeze bags of fresh corn with its milk, good slabs of bacon, assorted homemade stocks, her favorite dough for pies or the terrific rustic tarts she also makes, both savory and sweet. Also, she refreshes her supply of homemade granola frequently. I kept asking what I could do, but aside from stirring or chopping I just absorbed her grace in the kitchen, which is unstressed, and unembarrassed by mistakes. If you drop a chicken, you pick it up and rinse it off. You keep going. This scallop dish is the best example of this: giant luxurious payoff with little effort..."(pg. 182).

The Comfort Food Diaries is beautifully written. And there are many recipes included that I can't wait to try.


On the Plate
When I started to talk about comfort food with the boys, Jake asked if I could make beef stroganoff. Okay. 

Obviously, the versions I have made before weren't memorable. So, I took to social media and posted this: "It's a rare thing when Jake makes a food request. But last night, he asked if I had ever made Beef Stroganoff. Clearly not memorably. Any great recipes I should try?"

Lots of Jake's relatives chimed in that it's a wonderful dish, that they loved it, too, and that it was one of their favorites. So...which relative made the best one, I wondered...and how would I get that recipe?!?

My sister-in-law admonished me not to skip the sour cream. "I know you were probably making some healthy version," she chided. Maybe I was! Another friend echoed the need for sour cream. Iris posted, "I do marinate the steak pieces with a little bone marrow and beef stock for an hour at room temperature. Tastier and more tender. Sour cream essential ingredient."

My friend Erika of In Erika's Kitchen wrote: "My mother-in-law would tell you it's easy. Brown beef, remove. Saute onions and a shit ton of mushrooms. Add back beef plus some broth to cover. Simmer until tender, a few hours. Mix sour cream with a little flour, then stir into stew. Serve over buttered noodles."

Another blogging friend - Sarah of Curious Cuisiniere - shared her Russian Beef Stroganoff recipe! You can read about the history of the dish there. And it was this recipe that I used as a starting point to fulfill Jake's request.


Ingredients serves 6 to 8
  • 3 T butter, divided
  • 1 pound mushrooms (I used brown crimini mushrooms), cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced, approximately 2 C
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 pounds steak (thinly sliced against the grain, I used New York steaks)
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 C broth (I used my Homemade Ramen Broth that I made with pig trotters and chicken paws!)
  • 1 C red wine (I used a leftover Syrah)
  • 1 t brown mustard seeds (you can use yellow, I just had brown)
  • 2 T mustard (I used a whole grain mustard)
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 package egg noodles, cooked according to the package directions
  • 3/4 C sour cream
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Procedure

In a large skillet, melt 1 T butter. Sauté the mushrooms in the butter over medium-high heat until the mushrooms have softened slightly and are starting to crisp on the edges, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.  

Add the remaining 2 T butter to the same pan and melt. Stir in the onions and cook until they begin to soften and turn translucent. In a medium mixing bowl, coat the beef strips in flour, tossing to coat completely.

Add in the beef and cook until nicely browned, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Pour in the broth and the wine. Whisk in the mustard, mustard seeds, and tomato paste. Stir in the mushrooms and fresh thyme leaves. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, temper the sour cream with a splash of hot broth so that it doesn't curdle when you add it in. Spoon the warmed sour cream into the pan and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed.


Serve the stroganoff over hot buttered egg noodles.


The verdict: Happy, happy Jake! Beef Stroganoff was a success...and, he even said, better than he remembered from his childhood. Woohoo.


In My Glass
So, here's a funny story. I had a bottle of Château du Cèdre 2015 Cèdre Héritage Malbec from Cahors that I needed to pair for my September #Winophiles group. I decided it would go well with the beef stroganoff, and it did!


But when the Winophiles hostess asked for our pairing titles, I could not for the life of me find the photos much less remember what I paired with the wine...until I came into this draft post and saw the wine there. Whoops. In the meantime I had purchased another bottle of the same wine and cooked a different dish. You'll see that pairing along with the tasting notes this weekend.


Suffice it to say that this Cahors Malbec was a fantastic match with the creamy, comforting beef stroganoff. Cheers!

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Here's what everyone else read in September 2018: here.

4 comments:

  1. Isn't it funny how beef stroganoff comes in and out of fashion, but everyone loves it every time it's back! I wonder if those InstaPots will give it another boost. Your version looks totally delicious, and yes, comforting.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think this book sounds interesting but I still haven't made a dent in my pile of books on my nightstand.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Stroganoff is one of my comfort foods but I've never been able to make a vegetarian/vegan version that seems quite right. It is probably because I've been making it too healthy too.

    Another comfort food that my grandmother used to make for me was Lipton's chicken noodle soup with extra egg noodles. I've tried to recreate that vegetarianized (that's a word) for years. Then I realized that I can make a killer fake chicken soup but Lipton's chicken noodle tastes like chemicals and not actual chicken soup so it is very quite right. Too bad my grandma cooked from processed foods instead of scratch! LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never quite right - not very quite right. English is hard for me today.

      Delete

Share Buttons