Friday, September 13, 2013

Mushroom "Stroganoff"

My first run-in with beef stroganoff came when I was in my later years of grade school, and I was reading one of those teen novels.

The protagonist was a high school freshman (Ooooh! High school! How adult!!!) and at some point she met a guy. (OOOOOHHHH!!!! Boyfriend!!!)

She decided that she wanted to invite him over for dinner and cook him a fancy adult-style meal. So she decided to cook Beef Stroganoff, since that was very fancy.

Well, it was pretty darned fancy to me, because I'd never heard of it.

And then someone in the book convinced her to make meatballs stroganoff, because it was easier. And I thought, gee, if you like this guy and want to impress him, why would you go to all the bother of cooking for him, and then make something easy?

See, I was like that even when I was a kid.

So she makes her stroganoff, and ... I have no idea what happened. I remember the stroganoff reference, but I have no idea if the meal was a success or not.

My next run-in with beef stroganoff was at some restaurant. Somewhere.

I was not terribly impressed. Meat and noodles and gravy, yippee. Further introductions to stroganoff were even worse. Buffet-style cafeteria food or noodles-in-a-box.

Well, the 50s are over and stroganoff is out of fashion. It's never on restaurant menus, right?

But that doesn't stop me from making an occasional noodles-and-gravy dish that resembles stroganoff. Sort of.

And this one is even a little farther from the norm, since it includes Kary's Roux. You see, the nice folks at Kary's teamed up with my friends at 37 Cooks, and we're all having fun taking roux where roux has never gone before.

I'll tell ya, when I heard we were working with roux for this challenge, I was like, roo? Like kanga? Well ... okay, but I've never cooked it.

And then I was like, rue? The medicinal herb? But that's not generally edible, is it?

Finally, I was like, yeah, I'm just kidding. I know what roux is ... it's what I make with flour and water before I make gravy.

So, why would anyone buy a roux, you ask? The "original" wet roux from Kary's is a dark roux. Like the color of mahogany, maybe. Just short of burned.

Making a roux that dark is time-consuming. It involves a lot of stirring and watching and stirring and stirring and stirring and (yawn, I'm tired of standing here) and watching and stirring (I need a glass of water) and OH DAMN, I BURNED THE ROUX.

And then you start all over.

So I was more than happy to get a jar of dark roux to play with rather than stand at the stove for half a day cursing and fanning the smoke detector.

So, stroganoff, meet roux. Roux, meet mushrooms. Because I decided to make a meat-free version, using mushrooms at the major player. This isn't a vegetarian dish because I used beef stock. Mostly because I happened to have it on hand. But if you want to go vegetarian, you could use a vegetable stock. Or water.

For the noodles - does this ever happen to you?  - you go to the store with the idea of one type of pasta in mind, and then you leave the store with something else?

I was thinking something fettuccine-like would be good, but then I found these other noodles that were about the width of fettuccine, but had a name I'd never heard of. Fresine.

And they had that rough exterior texture that meant a sauce would cling really well.

So I bought them. Weird noodles, sort of.

If you look at them head-on, they're an oval shape, rather than flat like fettuccine. They took a little longer to cook than fettuccine would have, but no big deal.

Mushroomz and Noodlez
an ode to zhtroganoff

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound button or crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 pound fettuccine or other noodles
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons Kary's Original Roux
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Additional sour cream, for serving, if desired

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed frying pan (or saute pan, or whatever) and add the mushrooms and onions.

Cook until the mushrooms lose their water, then continue cooking until all that water is reabsorbed or it evaporates and you've got mushrooms and onions skidding around a mostly-dry pan. If some of the mushrooms brown a little bit, that's a plus.

This mushroom-cooking will take a while. Be patient.

Meanwhile, boil those noodles in salted water, until they're just al dente.

Add the beef stock (or vegetable stock, or water) to the mushrooms along with the wet roux. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens a bit.

When the pasta is done cooking, add it to the mushrooms and sauce. Add a bit of the cooking water and cook until the noodles are nicely coated with sauce and the sauce has thickened so it's coating the noodles rather than having the noodles swim in thin liquid.

Add the sour cream and stir it in.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and some generous grinds of pepper, as needed. Since the noodles were cooked in salted water and the beef stock might have been salty, you might not need salt - which is why we didn't add salt until now.

If you prefer a creamier sauce, you can add more sour cream, or pass it at the table for people to stir into their own portions.

Serve with a little dollop of sour cream on top, if you like.

If you've got something green - parsley, chives, scallions - you can garnish with that as well. All I had on hand was dill - which would have worked, actually - but I was saving that for pickles.

If you have leftovers, you'll probably need to add some extra water when you reheat, since the noodles will absorb some of the liquid.