What Is Beef Stroganoff?

Beef stroganoff is a dish made with inexpensive cuts of meat, such as top round, sliced thinly against the grain and sautéed together with onions and mushrooms. It's finished with a sauce made from sour cream and chopped fresh dill, and served over a bed of egg noodles or rice. Does it sound heavy? You bet it is. The dish is Russian in origin and takes its name from the 19th-century diplomat Count Paul Stroganov. It was probably originally conceived of as a way to use up leftover meat, one that would get people through the harsh, bone-chilling winters.

Along with steak Diane, chicken pot pie, and pot roast, beef Stroganoff has become one of those iconic comfort foods that haven't quite gone the way of the dinosaur, but it's not something often found on most Americans' dinner tables on a typical Thursday night, either. And that's a shame. While it's admittedly not the healthiest dish, it's a hearty meal that can be thrown together with just a few ingredients and a minimum amount of effort. Plus, for extra-tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat, it can always be made in a slow cooker.

As with many simple dishes, the devil is in the details. Freezing the meat before slicing will make it easier to create the thin slices needed for this dish, although some say this may make it difficult to brown the meat later on. Dusting the meat with a little flour and sautéing it in butter until browned will give it a nice, flavorful crust, while using a little beef broth, white wine, and Dijon mustard will add depth of flavor and a hint of tanginess to the sauce. After removing the meat from the pan, add the onions and mushrooms in batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the pan. Also, don't move the vegetables around too much; this will give them a chance to brown properly and develop flavors. Deglaze with some beef broth and white wine, if using, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Add the beef back in with any accumulated juices, and let the sauce thicken. Stir in the sour cream just before serving and top with fresh chopped dill for a nice touch. There it is — the classic and ever so satisfying beef Stroganoff.