It's interesting how food is associated with our memories. Remember a meal, and then go people, and places, and feelings. Or maybe it's just me?.. Maybe I'm getting old and tend to return to my past as old people do? :)
Combination of beef and mushrooms brings me back to the time when Alex and I used to visit that tiny restaurant called Retro. It was decorated in Gypsy style and the music they ran was old Russian romances - a perfect atmosphere for a romantic dinner. It was in the beginning of perestroika when restaurant business in Russia was just starting to pick up. The menu didn't boast with choices, but all they served was very tasty. People who worked there really knew what they were doing. They had mushroom noodle soup to die for, mouth watering beef stew in pottery pots, they also had beef in porcini sauce. The latter was my inspiration for today's recipe.
What you need:
2 lb lean beef cut in thin 1"x2"slices
Mushrooms (2 big Portobello or 6 stuffing mushrooms), julienned or diced
1 big yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
Ground black pepper
2 tbsp sour cream
3 tsp flour in 1/2 cup water
Barely cover meat with water, put on high heat, and bring to boil. When there is a lot of foam, drain water, rinse meat pieces, put them back to the saucepan, generously cover with water again, and put on medium heat. Watch it to remove more foam, then reduce to low and cover.
While the meat is simmering, melt butter on a skillet, and saute mushrooms and onions until slightly browned, add salt and pepper. When the meat is almost done, add mushrooms to it, and simmer together until meat is nice and tender. The water should be reduced, but still covering meat. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Mix flour in 1/2 cup water to even consistency, pour slowly into the meat, constantly stirring. Add garlic, stir well. The final step is to briskly mix in sour cream.
Serve with pasta, potatoes in any form, buckwheat. Garnish with greens.
As you can see, the preparation of the sauce resembles Beef Stroganoff, but it's just the principles of making sauces that are applied here. Mushrooms make it a completely different beef dish.
When you choose mushrooms, especially stuffing mushrooms, go for the biggest. They sometimes are sold on reduced price carts in grocery stores, because nobody wants them. These mushrooms are not that attractive, but the most flavorful.
To intensify the mushroom flavor, add some presoaked dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/3 cup dried), simmer it with meat about 40 minutes, not less.
For garnish I used fresh celery and thinly sliced hot green pepper from my garden. The "hot flashes" of the pepper were just the right finishing touch to this dish from my past, as if reminding me that when we attempt to reproduce our memories they never come unaltered.