“Elena wants to come over and cook a Russian dinner,” says Noah. Yea! I love Russian food. Elena is one of Noah’s best friends. She spent her early childhood in Russia and still holds fast to her food memories of the Mother Country. Lucky for me.
So, as all parents of stone-broke college students would say, I tell them I will buy the groceries if they will cook and clean up. So what’s for supper? A lovely sour cream, dill and cucumber salad, buckwheat groats with crispy bacon, and Beef Stroganov.
Wait. Beef Stroganov. Does not Beef Stroganov call for filet mignon? Filet mignon that costs $26 a pound? Isn’t there a Russian version of Hamburger Helper? They are heading off to Whole Foods with my credit card because I don’t think any other grocery store is going to stock buckwheat groats, not that I actually know what they are. The last thing I say, emphatically, is: “Ask the butcher what you can use instead of filet mignon.”
They come back with skirt steak. I am thinking this is a disaster. My extensive, if unofficial, culinary background has always taught me that skirt steak is best cooked to medium rare to maintain some semblance of tenderness. The recipe calls for pounding the meat to tenderize it. The skirt steak is less than half an inch thick. I decide, at this point, that I will, at the least, be in charge of the meat. I tell Noah to put away the meat mallet and I just cut it across the grain into very thin strips. And then, working in small batches, I fry the shit out of it.
I taste it. Another myth busted. It is utterly delicious and very tender. Am I lucky or good? I don’t know which. But I will do this again. I will defy the food authorities and fry the living daylights out of skirt steak for what turned out to be a terrific Beef Stroganov.
Proshu k Stolu. Good eats in Russian.
1 pound skirt steak
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¾ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Thinly slice the steak against the grain. Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over high heat and stir fry the steak until well browned. Remove steak from pan and melt the remaining butter. Saute the onions over medium heat until soft.
Sprinkle the flour in the pan and then stir in the tomato paste, mustard, lemon juice and sour cream. Return the beef to the pan and cook until the sauce is bubbly. Serve with buttered egg noodles.