Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Here is a real food recipe that is very traditional, economical and most of all delicious.

Beef Stroganoff is one of our family favorites and I make it often. When we have a freezer full of beef I will make the sauce in the classic way using a tender cut like sirloin or flank steak. That traditional preparation only takes about thirty minutes to make. Today I didn't have any steak but I did have stew meat. Elk stew meat (which tastes exactly like beef but is very lean). Stew meat is a tougher cut of meat (and thus more economical to buy) so requires a longer cooking time to tenderize it. Since we were going to be in town all day I decided to utilize the crock pot for a slow-cooked meal.

I want to show how this entree can be prepared in an all-natural foods kind of way, with simple ingredients, very economically. Prepared properly this dish has loads of flavor and there is no need to use processed foods like dry onion soup mix or seasoning packets or canned prepared sauces that inevitably have not-so-natural additives. It is easy to make delicious foods with traditional preparations like our dear departed grandparents used to.

Though I used my crock pot to tenderize the meat, I started the preparation on the stove top with my heavy skillet.

To begin, heat the pan and add a good fat like lard. When the pan is good and hot, add one pound of stew meat and sear the sides of the meat. Searing requires keeping the pan hot and patience. Don't overcrowd the pan since that will cool the pan and make it difficult to keep the temperature that will make a nice brown surface on the meat. If necessary, just cook half the meat at a time until well browned. You want an actual brown sear on the meat and brown goodness in the pan for flavor.

Next add one half of an onion that has been sliced or chopped. Or both. I couldn't seem to decide apparently. Also, if you have fresh mushrooms (I didn't) slice them and throw them in with the onions.
Lovin' the brown goodness in the pan. That is flavor baby!

Sautee the onions (and mushrooms, imagine they are there...) about five minutes until slightly softened. At this point add a tablespoon of minced fresh garlic. The garlic only needs about one minute in the pan.

The flavorful stroganoff sauce is made simply with beef broth, red wine and tomato paste.
Yes, red wine is the secret ingredient of all good cooks.
Sometimes they even put it in the food.


Old joke.


Never buy the bottles in the store labeled "Cooking Wine." Those contain vinegar not wine. Also, don't pour the good stuff (you know, the $10 wine) into your food. That only goes in your wine glass. The best wine to cook with is the cheapest "real" wine you can find, like that Two Buck Chuck there. I paid $2.99 for that large bottle of Cabernet which is probably cheaper than the vinegar that is labeled "Cooking Wine"! That's a delicious and economical way to stock the pantry I say. I'll get many cooking uses out of that bottle.

So first pour about 1/2 cup of the wine into the hot pan. You can use up to a cup of wine if you are feeling giddy. Let it simmer and sizzle while you scrape the browned meat goodness from the bottom of the pan and reduce the wine. This cooking process also burns off the alcohol while it imparts a delicious richness to the sauce. Really. Don't skip the wine.

Next pour in two cups of the beef broth and bring to a simmer.

One more element for flavor is tomato paste.

One heaping spoonful.

Stir this all together and season to taste with salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper).

Since this is the slow-cook method, transfer the sauce to a crock pot and cook it on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours.  Your crock pot times may vary.

After the meat has become tender, thicken the sauce with equal amounts of butter and flour. About two tablespoons of each. Mix this together.....

....into a smooth paste.
Stir it into the sauce. It should melt into the sauce easily and thicken the broth into a nice gravy.

Yummy richness!

What is beef stroganoff (or elk in this case) without sour cream?
It's just not beef stroganoff.
Stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of sour cream right at the end before serving.

Serve over rice or buttered egg noodles and enjoy a classic, well-prepared, delicious, satisfying meal!


  1. If I can find some stew meat in my freezer, I'm making this. Yum. Sometimes I forget about these things...

  2. I recently read an article online somewhere (can't remember where) in which some very discerning culinary experts (owners of some high end Sonoma/NorCal restaurants) discussed cooking wine. The general consensus seemed to be that you should not cook with any wine you wouldn't drink.

    Just saying, for what it's worth. I wish I could quote some of the reasoning-- it was convincing. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to cook with 5 year Chianti; rather, that you shouldn't cook with Chucky Shaw or Franzia.

  3. And that was an axiom that has been held for a long time. Then the Cooks Illustrated kitchen tested it by making something with cheap wine and better wine and the judges could not tell any flavor difference. I would be interested in reading the remarks in the article you read though.

    And hey, I would drink Chucky Shaw and Franzia but I would never drink "cooking wine."


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