Stroganoff Deconstructed

My counterpart made beef stroganoff last night, and in the process of planning this dish, he decided to go the Deconstructionist route. This is a bit of a Modernist approach, but don't worry - we're not encasing the sauce in little alginate spheres or anything too weird. And we did stop to consider at what point this approach would cross the line from cool to pretentious and feel we have stayed well on the cool side of that line.

While this is more of a technique to prepare stroganoff than an actual recipe, I'll also be sharing the ingredients we used. However, you should be able to accomplish this Deconstructionist version using your own from-scratch recipe.

Mise en Place

Our recipe consists of:

  • New York Strip steak, cooked medium rare (140 degrees F)
  • Mushrooms - both baby bellas and oyster (although king oysters are preferred)
  • A sauce made primarily from sour cream and cream cheese with a court-boullion, herbs, and veg added for flavor
  • Italian egg noodles tossed with goat's milk butter
 Our ingredients

Our ingredients

Court-Boullion

One of the best ways to add flavor to a sauce is through a court-boullion - a French quick stock of veg, herbs, and bay leaves, plus any other trimmings from the veg and herb prep you're doing. This is pretty easy to accomplish and adds only minutes to the total prep time. While not required, it is highly recommended as you get a lot of flavor bang for small effort. You're using the court-boullion to extract the bay leaf flavor to add to your sauce in liquid form. 

Start this on the back burner in a small saucepan immediately. Keep in mind, this is not the primary base for the sauce, but an added flavor, so you don't want a soup kettle. Use a medium sauce pan and fill it only about half way with water. You want a super-concentrated liquid that will add flavor but won't dilute the sauce - it will have enough liquid from the dairy.

 Mirepoix

Mirepoix

Prep the Veg

We used the expected veg of shallots, onions, and garlic (just a little). But, we love veg, so we also used carrot cut julienne. Our herbs were parsley, a little tarragon, and lots and lots of thyme. We also used salt, pepper, dill, and Hungarian paprika.

Once you have your veg and herbs prepped and that court-boullion simmering, it's time to cook everything starting with the steak.

Steak, Medium Rare

If you are aiming for medium rare, you'll get there if you don't completely defrost the steak and actually cook it while it's still partially frozen. This allows you to get a good sear on the outside without overcooking the center. Cook the steak in a generous amount of oil until it reaches 140 degrees F. Remove it from the pan and set it aside on a wire rack to rest. Pour off the oil into a separate container to use later. 

 Steaks - only partially defrosted to ensure a medium rare center

Steaks - only partially defrosted to ensure a medium rare center

Now cook the veg. Add some of the oil back to the pan and sautee the veg using a spatula to scrape up the meat residue. Once the veg is mostly cooked add the meat back into the pan because it's time to flame that sucker.

Flaming Cognac

This is my favorite part of any good meal. When the meat is back in the pan, pour a generous amount of booze in there - something like brandy or cognac. We used mostly cognac with a small pour of sherry. Carefully light it up with a lighter - not a match - and step back. This burns off the alcohol without removing that added depth of flavor you get from the liquor.

 Flaming the meat

Flaming the meat

Don't Swamp the Mushrooms

Start the mushrooms using a couple of pans so that you have a nice single layer in each pan. This is important as mushrooms release fluid while they cook. if you overload the pan, the liquid can't cook off and your mushrooms will by soggy. This is known as swamping. You'll use that reserved oil from the steak to cook the mushrooms, as well as your prepped herbs. We like the results from cast iron skillets here, too.

While the mushrooms are cooking, start your pasta and work on the sauce. Remove the steak from the pan again and build on the veg. Add the sour cream and cream cheese and let that melt into the veg. Strain that court-boullion now, too. You should really only have a cup or less. Add it to the sauce.

Deconstructionist Plating

Now if you're really good, everything should finish at about the same time. Slice the steak into thin strips. Strain the pasta and toss with a generous amount of goat's milk butter. For the Deconstructionist presentation, you're going to plate up instead of serving this family-style on a platter.

Layer it up starting with a nice bed of pasta, then steak, then sauce, then mushrooms. Sprinkle a bit of paprika and dill on top.

Stroganoff is traditionally served with rice pilaf, making it the forbidden Two-Starch Meal. We served ours with oven-roasted brussels sprouts in a spicy honey glaze.

 Deconstructed and plated up

Deconstructed and plated up