From Stroganoff with Love
Updated: Jul 26, 2021
Stroganoff is very Russian. It’s robust, unpretentious, and hearty enough to weather a long, cold winter. As I’m staring out my window to the 3rd day of a continuous winter storm, this seemed like the perfect recipe to share.
For me, Stroganoff is a dish that invokes images of bear skin hats, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and why you should never start a land war in Asia. It also brings up memories of the Russians that I’ve spent time around over the years. You see, much of my formative years as an athlete were spent being trained around and by hardened Russians and others from former Eastern Block countries. They could be a little intense and unforgiving, to say the least. And this is coming from someone that looks like he should be wearing a bear pelt and carrying an ax. But underneath their sometimes icy exterior, they can also show an undeniable warmth that certainly helped them survive long and cold training sessions in ice rinks.
The first time that I made a version of this dish was a few years after getting out of college. For a stretch of several months I made it a point to try making one new dish every Wednesday and have a few friends over to help me eat it. I was still at a point in my culinary life where I had a few dishes that were always a hit, but most meals were just slightly above serviceable. I needed to expand my repertoire. Stroganoff turned out to be a solid place to start because it’s relatively simple, filling, and budget friendly.
Since then, I’ve tried out a few different delicious variations. A survey of the internets will show you a plethora of styles and difficulty levels, including a Hamburger Helper version. (You know, in case you hate things tasting good.)
However, I’ve found that using meatballs for the protein makes the meal much more easily scalable, depending how many you’re feeding. Also, meatballs refrigerate and freeze well for later use.
As mentioned in a previous post if you can get down a few basic techniques, you can make a whole world of different dishes that are delicious and not overly complicated:
Sear meat in pan
Use fond (the little crispy bits left in the pan after searing something) and/or drippings to make gravy
Finish in the oven until tender and super delicious
Viking’s note: My leftovers game is way strong and the way I’ve structured this recipe is to maximize leftover options for my consumption by keeping some components separate until final assembly. As I’ve mentioned before, no matter how good something is, you’re probably going to get tired of it by day 3. Ex: You can use leftover meatballs on top of some spaghetti, brown gravy on mashed potatoes, or you can use the caramelized onions and mushrooms on just about anything later on. In total, this should make about 4 very filling portions.
Some balls are held for charity and some for fancy dress
But when they’re made for dinner they’re the balls I like best.
1 lb Ground beef
1 lb Ground pork
⅓ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup bread crumbs
½ medium yellow onion
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
Let’s start with some basic meatballs. I opted for beef and pork. Feel free to use whatever meats and seasonings you have on hand or tickles your fancy.
Start by finely mincing up your onion and garlic. Add them with a tablespoon of butter to a 12” cast iron skillet or appropriately sized dutch oven on low heat and caramelize until your house smells delicious.