Although Russian in origin, Beef Stroganoff is largely a variation on a French dish of sautéed beef and a pan sauce made with mustard as the primary flavor agent. What makes Stroganoff Russian is the pre-eminence of sour cream in the dish's flavor profile. In the French classic, Emincé de Boeuf à la Moutarde, the recipe calls for créme fraiche and a mid-strength prepared mustard. In Stroganoff, those ingredients are exchanged for sour cream. The result is a piquancy in the Stroganoff that is not evident in the French original.
The Dish's History
Like many classic recipes, Beef Stroganoff's origins are clouded by disagreement. What is in general agreement, however, is that in 1891, a French chef (Charles Briere) working for one of the wealthiest families of Tsarist Russia (Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov) entered the dish in a St. Petersburg cooking competition and took 1st prize. As was the custom at the time, Chef Briere named the dish after his benefactor, Count Stroganov.
An interesting side note: The French use the spelling Stroganoff, whereas, in Russian, the spelling is Stroganov.
In 1932, the first recipe for Beef Stroganoff was published in an English-language cookbook. It wasn't until after World War II that the dish's popularity skyrocketed as a centerpiece of stylish dinner parties from coast to coast.
At the same time, families moved to the suburbs, and dinner parties became more fashionable than ever. Beef Stroganoff, luxurious yet easy to prepare, became a signature dish with countless hostesses and a headline entré in upscale restaurants.
Over the years, purists saw the recipe become "corrupted" with the additions of various other ingredients, such as tomato paste, and the greatest abomination: condensed cream of mushroom soup.
Beef Stroganoff Recipes
This recipe from the Genius Kitchen website is a typical French preparation with mustard sauce: Emincé de Boeuf à la Moutarde.
Here is the recipe for the Lobel family's version of Beef Stroganoff.
Most often Beef Stroganoff is served with rice, rice pilaf, or mashed potatoes. Egg noodles with butter, parsley, salt, and pepper is perhaps the most traditional side dish.
Have you ever made Beef Stroganoff? Have you ever tried substituting chicken for beef or made any other variations?