In fall and winter I’m normally off swimming on a Sunday night but the pool is closed for maintenance so I’m making comfort food. Tonight it’s Beef Stroganoff. This was my dad’s favourite meal when I was growing up. I make it a little different from the way my mom prepares it.

I was missing a bunch of the stuff that I really like to have for stroganoff but it still turned out good. I love to use pappardelle pasta. It’s like fettuccine but two or three times as wide. Had to settle for wide egg noodles. It’s really good in this dish. I was also out of herbs and the grocery store’s shelves were picked clean of herbs today. The poultry pack is good for this dish because it’s got a bunch of thyme, some rosemary and a little sage. It would have taken my stew to the next level. I can make do without it.

I set about getting everything ready before I started cooking. It’s just way easier to have all my stuff cut up before I turn on the heat. The French have a term for it “mise en place” or “everything in place.” So with my mise in place I started cooking. Got my casserole dish up to medium high heat and threw in the mushrooms. They can take more heat and won’t make the pan to dirty so it’s good to get them out of the way first. Next… the beef. I lowered the heat to medium low. I’m not trying to cook the meat all the way through. Just sear it and get some colour on it. I put some Montreal steak spice, garlic powder, smoked paprika and a little salt on the meat as it cooks. There’s too much beef to do all at once so I work in batches being careful not to crowd the pan. The bottom of the pan is turning a dark brown but I’m not concerned. My heat is low enough that I won’t turn that tasty fond into nasty burnt charcoal. I take the beef out and put it in a bowl with the mushrooms when it’s got a nice sear on it. The onions go in next. As they start to sweat they loosen up the beef fond at the bottom of the pan. When the onions are almost ready I throw in some chopped garlic. Garlic can’t be on direct heat for too long because it will turn bitter. Once my onions and garlic are happy I deglaze with some white wine. This is the time to scrape all those tasty bits of beef fond off the bottom of the pan. The liquid is fairly dark at this point but I’m not worried. I worked hard to build that amazing flavour on the bottom of the pan and now it’s coming to life. The mushrooms and garlic back in with a little flour. When I’m sure the flour has cooked I douse the whole thing with a little red wine and a bunch of beef stock. The heat is raised so the liquid starts to bubble and then I reduce the heat to a low simmer. It’s gonna stay here for a little while. The beef needs to braise in that tasty liquid to get tender and flavourful.

Almost done. Just have to put a pot of water on for the noodles. The noodles are going in the pot with the stroganoff so it’s a good idea to undercook them a little. They’ll finish cooking in the pot with the stroganoff so there’s nothing to worry about. Now I’ve got my stroganoff and noodles all happy so it’s time for the final ingredient. This one also has trouble with high heat so you need to make sure the sauce is no longer bubbling when you add it. What is this delicate magical ingredient? It’s dijon mustard. Big deal… whoppidy-do. Yeah whatever. If you put dijon mustard in boiling sauce it will get bitter too. This is what the final product looks like with a little smoked paprika sprinkled on top.

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