Where do historic great dishes come from? (No, not the porcelain kind- the food kind).
Some are the result of indigenous availability (like the grain grasses of the Nile Valley that gave way to bread).
Some are the outcome of eccentricities (think: the Earl of Sandwich).
Many are the fallout of quick thinking and a depleted pantry (Caesar Cardini, in 1924 Tijuana, Mexico, found himself short of- well- everything, with a packed house, so he threw together a robust salad with what was at hand), but many are the inspiration of a chef, and in 19th century Russia personal chefs came with a steep price tag only nobility could afford (today we call them Movie Stars).
Count Pavel Alexandrovich Strogonov was just such a man, with a chest full of rubles and a hearty appetite.
He had a French chef (name unknown) who put together a little number with lightly floured beef strips, mushrooms, a nip of red wine, and sour cream. Served over a wide peasant egg noodle it became a sensation!
Then, Imperial Russia fell (as most imperious highfalutin self-grandiose crazy Rasputin influenced dictatorships do), and so did the Count, and his dish. Into obscurity.
Until a group of Tsar lovin’ Russians (hoping for the return of their previously obedient serfs and jewels by Faberge) fled to the eastern most reaches of the Empire, into a region known as Manchuria, China, and set-up shop.
These ‘White Russians’ took with them as much as they could sew in their petticoats and the recipe for Beef Stroganoff (which comes to me vis-a-vis the opium trade out of Hong Kong during the late 1800’s to San Francisco, with valleys of free roaming cattle, ready for the slaughter that would be used in the dishes that ‘Settled the West’, and the train that sent the woman who would cook for a Gramercy Park family in New York, as the dish would be added to the menu of the Russian Tea Room by her lover who was a principal dancer for the Russian Imperial Ballet, where my Boston mother, would later enjoy her first martini, shaken not stirred, and return to the Midwest with my father, to incorporate into a family food favorite…
Lightly salted and floured beef strips
sauteing in garlic infused olive oil
with onion, bell pepper, and celery.*If adding mushrooms- wait until the end.
Add water and reduce.
Then add red wine (take a nip) and reduce
Turn off flame and fold in sour cream
Gently bring back to a simmer
and serve over those big fat egg noodles.