For the past two weeks, I have been relying on a lot of slow-cooked meals to help get dinner on the table on the days when it seems impossible to find the time to cook. This month is a busy one, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s taking two of us, plus an army of small appliances and well-loved cookware to make sure there’s something decent on the table each night.
From Monday to Friday this usually results in the use of our slow cooker, which allows me to toss some ingredients together in the morning, set it on low and leave it alone until much later in the day. On the weekends it’s my well-loved Dutch oven that’s being exercised, as I usually braise something meaty into tender submission, serving it with a favourite noodle or grain.
Last night’s dinner was a beef stroganoff that got the same low and slow cooking treatment as pretty much every other dish I’ve made in the past few weeks. This time I made the effort to carefully brown my beef and sauté my onions before slipping the skillet into the oven for a long, low simmer. This extra step really does make all the difference in a dish, and because this particular one isn’t comprised of a long list of ingredients, I wanted to make sure that the ones I used were as flavourful as possible.
While this dish certainly isn’t the prettiest one you’re going to put on the table this season – it’s awfully brown, don’t you think? - it just might be one of the tastiest. The braised beef simmers in a broth and red wine sauce before being whisked with sour cream, yielding a rich sauce that couldn’t be simpler to make. There is no fussing with a roux, no specialty ingredients that need to be sourced, and no extra time required to turn this slow-cooked dinner into one worthy of serving to your guests.
I recently learned that in Russia they like to spoon beef stroganoff over French fries or mashed potatoes, which would suit me just fine, but instead I served them with buttered egg noodles tossed with fresh herbs, steamed broccoli, and a simple salad. If mushrooms aren’t to your liking you can completely omit them from the recipe and add a little more beef instead, if you prefer. It turns out they aren’t really an authentic addition anyway, and seem to have been added to most Americanized versions of this dish that also happen to list canned mushroom soup as an ingredient. Let’s all agree that the mushrooms can remain optional (I vote yes!), but the inclusion of the soup that was popularized in the 1970s is definitely a no-go moving forward.
Slow Cooked Beef Stroganoff
- 2lbs. cubed stewing beef
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for pan
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 pound cremini mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 cup beef broth or stock
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup sour cream
- Hot butter egg noodles or rice, for serving
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Place the stewing beef in a large bowl and sprinkle with the flour, salt, and black pepper. Using a wooden spoon, toss to combine until the beef pieces are evenly coated with the flour.
Heat a large Dutch oven or oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter and warm until butter has melted. Place some of the beef in the hot oil - take care not to crowd the pan - and cook until browned on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook the other side for the same amount of time, or until completely browned. Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat with the remaining beef, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.
Once all the beef has been cooked, add the onion to the pot. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently to scrape up any cooked on bits at the bottom of the dish. If needed, add a little more oil to the pan to keep the onions from sticking and burning.
Place the mushrooms, beef broth, red wine and mustard in the pot and stir well; cover and place in the oven. Cook for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Remove from the oven and stir in the sour cream just before serving. Serve hot over buttered egg noodles or rice.
Note: Feel free to follow the recipe through to the browning off the onions, then dump everything into a slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Remove from the heat, stir in the sour cream and serve as per the recipe instructions above.