Keller admits nostalgia for Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup beef stroganoff in the introduction to his much more involved, fancified version of the dish. I’ve never had cream of mushroom soup beef stroganoff, but I admit, I love Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup; it’s instant nostalgia. My mom used to put it on everything: rice, cauliflower, as a quick pasta sauce. When I taste that coagulated, creamy, slightly sweet soup with the tiny mushroom bits in it, it instantly brings me back to a point in my life where everything was all right with the world.
For me, cream of mushroom soup is just like that scene in Ratatouille when the food critic, Anton Ego, is sucked back to the time when his mom could fix anything with a warm bowl of homemade stew. That’s what I love about food: a smell, a taste, even anticipation can evoke visceral memories, good and bad.
The Ad Hoc Beef Stroganoff is a good memory, for sure. Even now I can taste the creamy, earthy mushroomness of the sauce, the perfect bite of the pappardelle, the tender, fall-apart in-your-mouth beef. It was so good we consumed a good part of an over-sized platter that looked like it could feed at least 8.
If you love mushrooms, you’re going to love this dish. There are 2 pounds of mushrooms used to flavour the sauce. While I was picking through the mushrooms at the grocery store, it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure if our friends were mushroom lovers or haters. I figured, if they were lovers, bonus for them and if they were haters, this dish would make them love mushrooms – hopefully.
This dish is as much about the mushrooms as it is about the beef. One pound of finely chopped crimini mushrooms and a flavour sachet with a bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns are used to scent the heavy cream that is the base for the sauce. The cream simmers and thickens for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, the other pound of mushrooms is sliced and pan fried in butter and oil. To get a good brown sear on the mushrooms, you heat your pan on medium-high heat, heat the butter and oil and add the mushrooms and don’t stir for a good 3 minutes. If you move the mushrooms around they’ll end up steaming.
The sauce is strained, then enriched with créme fraîche and half of the sauteed mushrooms. It’s incredibly silky, rich and delicious. At this point, the sauce can be kept warm and held while you finish preparing the short ribs.
The short ribs are easier to cut when cold, so after braising, throw them in the fridge to cool. When you’re ready to serve, brown the ribs, presentation side down, flip and then finish in a 350˚F oven to warm for 10 minutes. While the beef is heating up, cook your pappadelle, strain it and then toss with butter, the sauce, and a bit of reserved pasta water, if needed.
Get the largest platter you have, and plate up your mouth-watering mess of noodles, topping it with the beef, left over sautéed mushrooms and flat-leaf parsley. Sit back, relax, and proceed to stuff yourself silly while creating new food memories with good friends.
It turns out that we were split 75% mushroom lovers and 25% mushroom haters, but I’ll say this: the mushroom hater ended up having thirds, so I think I’ve converted him. If you know any mushroom haters out there, do them a favour and make this beef stroganoff to introduce them to the lovely, umami rich, earthy flavours of mushrooms. They’ll thank you for it.
Note: What does one do with all the strained out mushroom bits? As a pro-mushroom person, I couldn’t throw away those mushrooms so I saved them, as unappetizing as they looked. A couple of days later, I braised some more short ribs in the leftover braising liquid and made a ghetto version of the stroganoff. It was still amazingly delicious and full of mushroom flavour.
Ad Hoc Beef Stroganoff Recipe
1 pound cremini mushrooms, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2/3 cup chopped onion
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups heavy cream
1 sachet of 1 bay leaf, 3 thyme sprigs, 10 peppercorns
1/3 cup créme fraîche
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound cremini mushrooms sliced 1/4 inch thick
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
braised beef ribs, chilled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
gray salt or coarse sea salt
Process the mushrooms for the sauce in a food processor until finely chopped. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated, about 10-15 minutes.
Pour in the cream, add the sachet and bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium-low and simmer until the cream is reduced by about one-third, about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium-heat and add the butter and oil. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and brown without stirring for about 3 minutes. Flip and brown, about 1-2 minutes.
When the cream has thickened, discard the sachet, and strain the mushroom bits out. Heat the sauce on medium low heat, stir in the créme fraîche and add 3/4 of the sautéed mushrooms. Keep the sauce warm over very low heat. It will be very thick.
Bring a giant pot of salted water to boil.
Heat the oven to 350˚F. Cut the chilled short ribs into 2-inch cubes and brown in an oven safe pan, presentation-side down for about 2 minutes, flip and then transfer to the oven and heat for about 10 minutes.
Cook the pappardelle according to package directions, reserve a cup of the cooking water and drain. Toss the pasta with butter and sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, add some cooking water to thin.
Arrange pasta on a platter and top with the remaining 1/4 sauteed mushrooms, browned short ribs, flat leaf parsley and salt.