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Beef Stroganoff, my take on Thomas Kellers Ad Hoc Recipe

What do you do when you buy cream for a dish and you only need about a third of it? Well, you embark on a two day preparation of beef stroganoff of course. I know that's not what most of you were thinking but perhaps next time you have leftover cream, you will...

Lately, I've been trying to cook intuitively; you know, think about what's in the fridge and pantry and bang out a really good dish. It's been going well, hopefully you'd agree with me since the products most often end up here, in the blogosphere. I decided that I need to mix it up a bit and execute some recipes from my favorite chefs. In my opinion, an experience even the best home cooks need to do on a regular basis. So the first in my recipes entries is, Beef Stroganoff by Thomas Keller. For those of you that don't know who he is, let me first say that I have a bit of a man crush on him. Not only did he lead the only west coast three-star Michelin rated French Laundry in Napa, he has his prints all over several other culinary creations ranging from cook books to television to other restaurants. Never have I executed a recipe more intricate and detail meticulous than one of Kellers. I have his Ad Hoc at Home book; he claims that it is a gourmet interpretation of classic home-cooked favorites. When I hear, "home-cooked favorites," I picture tasty one pot, rustic dishes that get right to the flavor point. The recipes in Ad Hoc are as complicated as the blueprints for a nuclear reactor. Okay, I exaggerate a bit but they are intense. I'll get right to the point, here is my execution of his stroganoff.

Add leeks, mushrooms, onions, carrots, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves to a bottle of red wine and reduce until the wine is a glaze.

Meanwhile sear the beef (should have been boneless short rib, I used boneless chuck roast instead) in oil and set aside

Chop up more aromatics and spices (leeks, carrots, onions, thyme, and bay leaf), add them to the wine glaze and cover with cheese cloth to create a pillow for the beef to rest upon.

Add beef broth to the pot.

Create a parchment lid, cover the braise, and place in oven for about two hours.

Remove beef, strain, and reserve braising liquid.

The ingredients for the rest of the dish are below. I told you Keller was intense. It's no wonder The French Laundry can get away charging a minimum of $240 for a prix fixe dinner, without wine. Cream, creme fraiche, mushrooms, butter, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, cubed braised beef, parsley, canola oil, noodles (pappardelle preferably).

Add cream and sachet of bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns.

Meanwhile brown mushrooms in butter and canola oil. Keller instructs to turn each mushroom over after three minutes to brown both sides.

The same goes for the braised beef, browned and flipped. Then into the oven for about ten minutes.

The cream sauce is blended and strained and put back on a low flame. The browned mushrooms are then added.

The finished product was as good as it looks. The beef would have been much more tender had it been short rib but I did enjoy the chuck roast for it's deep beefy beefiness. The preparation of the beef, while labor intense and time consuming, left a nice little crisp to the browned bits. The mushroom cream sauce is the true star of this dish though. The processing and later blending of the mushrooms embedded the essence of mushroom deeply through the layers of silky cream, tangy creme fraiche, and peppery thyme. Seasoned with gray or sea salt and chopped parsley, the dish is as visually stunning as delectable.

Paired nicely with a dry red, in this case a Barbera.

You can see the pictures of each step on my blog!

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  1. Sounds like a great stew - but to this linguistic purist, not Stroganoff. The meat in Stroganoff (traditionally tenderloin, but sirloin will do) must be quick-seared, definitely not slow-braised.

    And I say that as someone who LOVES to braise meats!

    9 Replies
    1. re: BobB

      That reminds me of a joke I heard years ago.

      A man orders Beef Stroganoff in a restaurant and, when it is brought to the table it's beef in a tomato sauce with zucchini and is topped with melted cheese.

      The man takes one look at it and says to the waiter: "Hold on! This is not what I ordered. I ordered beef stroganoff! There must be a mix-up! The waiter tries to calm him down and goes back into the kitchen. He emerges with the chef. The customer again says he was not served beef stroganoff.

      The chef bangs his fist on the table, saying "Of course it's beef stroganoff. I am Stroganoff!"

      1. re: BobB

        does it count if it was quick seared before the braise?

        1. re: jayspun

          Not really - slow cooking makes it a whole other dish. Not to knock it - it does look fantastic - my objection is purely to the use of the same name for two quite different dishes.

          1. re: BobB

            A couple things. What the "authentic" or "original" version of the dish actually is, is a mystery. The earliest known recipe for something called beef a la Stroganoff called for mustard, but no onions or mushrooms. So given that original recipe, few if any American versions should be called beef Stroganoff. Different societies prepare the dish in very different ways - some use tomato paste, some use tomatoes, some use mustard, some use heavy cream. Yet they are all recognized as "beef Stroganoff". There's a version in the US, which is what folks are used to, which is why anything that deviates from the sour cream, shrooms, onions, and strips o beef is called a bastardized version or a completely different dish altogether. But that reflects the American version of the dish - not how it's viewed internationally.

            We could easily say the same thing about coq au vin - that anything that doesn't use an old rooster and isn't braised for 2 days shouldn't be called coq au vin, because the dish was made specifically for dealing with very old chickens that were very tough. Does that mean that dishes that use anything less than an old rooster on death's doorstep shouldn't be properly called coq au vin? Or take chicken cacciatore - there are as many versions of that dish (starting with whether tomatoes are added or not) as there are Italians.

            I get that at some point, a recipe strays so much from the original that it shouldn't use the same name. But I hardly think Keller's version of Beef Stroganoff is so far off base that it's a different dish. Different than what you are used to? Maybe. But any different than what you would find in any number of restaurants worldwide? Not at all.

          1. re: BobB

            Wow. The nitpicking that went on this thread is amazing. So heres a bit more. How in the hell does this dish even remotely resemble a stew?

            Keller states many times how dish is a variation on the classic AMERICAN Version of Stroganoff that was popularized in the `70s by thousands of housewives using Cambells Cream of mushroom soup. Have I had version he refers to?

            Yes, many times.

            Would I ever make it myself?

            Not a chance.

            Did my childhood seem `seriously deprived`in any way because sometimes Mom whipped this off in between coming home from work and driving us to baseball or soccer or hockey games?

            Hell no. What an utterly snobbish thing to suggest.

            Kellers VERSION of Beef Stroganoff is amazing. the pieces that compose the dish are, each one, a revelation. If you ordered this in Ad Hoc, and had the willpower to send it back after tasting it, then you are ........(I was going to say an incredibly strong person. But I will say what Im thinking, and finish the sentance with)....a complete idiot.

            1. re: RodVito

              Is there an Ad Hoc Shepherds Pie?

              1. re: RodVito

                Wow yourself. You have to write eight times as much as my brief comment - which if you'll bother to read carefully, in no way denigrates the taste or quality of Keller's food AT ALL - just to insult me?

                Have a nice day.

            2. Kudos to you for taking on a complex recipe and executing it well, but booo for Thomas Keller for not coming up with an original name for an original dish. It does not even vaguely resemble beef Stroganoff, which never never ever has carrots in it, much less red wine, and uses sour, not fresh cream. It is a lot closer to boeuf Bourguignon, except that dish NEVER has cream in it. Nevertheless it does sound like an interesting dish. Maybe it should be named beef Keller? I don't know why some chefs -- Keller and others -- can be so damned creative in coming up with new dishes and so ridiculously lazy that they have to trade on the name of a long established and famous dish. If I ordered beef Stroganoff from the menu at one of Keller's restaurants and was served that, I would be VERY upset!

              3 Replies
              1. re: Caroline1

                The carrots and wine are only used in the braise; the sauce ends up very traditional in it's creamy mushroomess. Also, as far as I can tell, sour cream is very traditional and the sauce is cream based. I do, however, think you make an excellent point about naming new dishes.

                1. re: jayspun

                  The fact that Keller's heavily bastardized version of Stroganoff requires any sort of precooking of the beef is a major part of the problem that comes with calling the dish "Stroganoff." Traditional Stroganoff compares more readily with a Chinese stir fry than with a braise. In traditional Stroganoff, as well as the more modern "gourmet" versions that use tenderloin instead of a more "utilitarian" cut of beef, the major time commitment in preparing the dish comes with the prep -- slicing the three primary ingredients; onions, mushrooms and beef -- and then sauteing them separately with the onions and mushrooms sauteed until soft and the beef sauteed only briefly to a very medium rare, then the three are combined and brought quickly to heat and then removed from the stove and sour cream is added to ensure that the sour cream does not break. Its a wonderfully flavorful dish, and like so many Chinese stir fries, the fast simple cooking is critical to the final flavorful result.

                  Like BobB, my problem is with Keller's language, not with the recipe. If Keller was an artist, this would be abstract impressionism but he's trying to label it as realism. It just doesn't fly. There was a time, and not too long ago, when chefs respected the culinary language and did not try to muddy it. Keller is taking the art of obfuscation to new heights with this one! Shame on him! Bravo for you executing his recipe well. But any way you slice it, it ain't Stroganoff! '-)

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    People, let's have a little dose of reality. There's nothing wrong with Keller calling that dish Stroganoff. It has the main ingredients and the basic preparation. Does he take some liberties? Sure he does. So what?

                    And for that dose of reality, one of the original Stroganoff recipes from the mid 19th century Russian cookbook called for cubes of beef with mustard, no onions or mushrooms. Yet it was called "Beef a la Stroganoff", and was (by many accounts) the first such recipe. Several years later, various recipes included (or not) tomato paste and mustard.

                    There are many preparations for the dish. In The US, the cream, mushrooms, onions, and strips of meat is the "authentic" version, but in other countries (including some closer to Russia geographically), there are significant differences, such as using a tomato based sauce, or a white wine based sauce, or heavy cream (and not sour cream).

                    For what it's worth, I'm not sure Keller needs to be called out for his preparation of Stroganoff. There's nothing "bastardized" about it - because there's no single correct preparation of the dish. It varies widely from country to country, and even it's original recipe from it's motherland looks little like the version Americans are used to eating. And if I ordered it at his restaurant, and that's what I got, I'd be pretty darned happy to be eating anything that Keller or his staff prepared.

              2. Bad Thomas! Bad Thomas! What you made sounds delicious, but it's not a stroganoff; nor is what he calls stroganoff. Stroganoff meat is quickly seared, never braised. But again, it's a delicious sounding dish.

                1. Did we already resolve the 'what is Stroganoff' issue in
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7393...
                  ?

                  There are links on that thread to the early 1861 recipe.

                  1. On the question of whether this is 'authentic' stroganoff, note:
                    - the recipe is from Kellers 'Ad Hock' cookbook

                    - http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/0...

                    Watch the video before complaining about Keller's use of the 'stroganoff' name:
                    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?i...

                    - this is a reinterpretation of the American 1970s version, not the original Russian

                    "Beef stroganoff made with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup was a mainstay of the 1970s that I still feel some nostalgia for. This interpretation of that all-American version of stroganoff calls for braised beef short ribs with a mushroom cream sauce, enriched with crème fraîche. This is just as much about the mushrooms as it is the beef...."

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: paulj

                      Geez such hostility. Where is the outrage about tomato "carpaccio"? Or eggplant "napoleon"? Chef's are reinterpreting dishes all the time with different ingredients. Keller is known for that, as well as his tongue-in-cheek names. (Did you really expect a strand of Mikimotos with your "Oyster and Pearls"?) The AHAH text is very clear about the "reinterpretation" status of this recipe.

                      For me, this recipe and the recipes before and after it in AHAH, (Braised Beef Shortribs, and Catalan Beef stew), were a revelation. Keller teaches how braised beef can be used as a "staple" to create 3 amazing and diverse dishes. Depending how you finish them, you can end up with a basic short rib braise glazed with braising liquid reduction, beef "stroganoff", or a flavorful Catalan beef stew. Any discussion of this recipe should include this context, this recipe is certainly not presented as a classic "Beef Stroganoff" recipe in isolation in AHAH.

                      1. re: Chowstr

                        Thanks for the clarification! And to paulj too. I did not know about his comments about his take on the dish. His admission that it is not traditional, and is his take on the abominable 1970s Campbell's soup thing makes a lot of difference. Yet it sounds like such an elegant and long process through which to reach a perfectly delightful dish, I do wish he had called it something else, then made it known in notes with the recipe where he got his inspiration. But poor guy! Nostalgia for a 1970s Campbell's soup version of anything! A seriously deprived childhood, I suspect! '-)

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Not everyone can have the exotic memories of a Russian princess in exile! :)