Saturday, January 4, 2014

Julie's Beef Stroganoff Casserole

A tasty twist on a classic dish!

After all that hinting, no, we are not featuring spam casserole yet. I wanted my first foray into the world of casseroles to be a little less potentially horrifying, and I wasn't sure I'd really emotionally prepared myself for making anything involving spam just yet. I guess I'm not really being fair - I can't say I've ever had spam, so maybe I won't hate it as much as I think I'm going to, but in any case, we're going with something that seemed a little tamer for our first 1970's recipe.

We all like to joke that Julie is basically who my mom wanted to be as a kid growing up in the 70's (she has often lamented that Julie comes wearing a pair of sandals she always wanted as a child), so it seemed only fitting to ask her opinion on what to feature on the blog first. Fortunately, we had a really fun source to turn to to help us find inspiration!

Back when I first started the blog, my dad's oldest sister sent me one of her favorite cookbooks, and I've been dying to find a good time to feature it here.

The American Century Cookbook was published in 1997 and is, unfortunately, out of print. It has an amazing collection of recipes from the early 20th century onward, with lots of information and artifacts to give you the history of how a dish became popular and developed into the version you're familiar with today. There's so much good material in it, it's been difficult to pick where to even start off, especially because there are pretty excellent options for Samantha and Nellie, Rebecca, Kit and Ruthie, Molly and Julie and Ivy.

What really caught my mom's eye when she first went through the book was all the casserole recipes from the 70's, and so this seemed like a pretty obvious thing to revisit once she joined our group here!

After a lot of careful perusal, my mom picked the recipe for Beef Stroganoff Casserole, which was apparently a popular party dish in the 70's and 80's. My mom said she picked the recipe because it reminds her of something she remembers eating in the 70's that was made with Hamburger Helper, making this recipe something of a sophisticated relative of the one she remembers.

I was definitely excited to get started, not only because I genuinely enjoy beef stroganoff, but because it was an opportunity to test out my new onion goggles! Also, the recipe technically only calls for one onion, but all the ones we had in the pantry were super tiny - more like shallots, really - so I had to chop a few up to get the same approximate amount.

Unfortunately, my onion goggles didn't quite do their job. They kept sliding down my nose a little, so some of the fumes got in anyway and it was a little disappointing to find out I might have to tape them to my face to get them to actually work.

Anyway, I was still able to survive long enough to get started on cooking everything else. This is definitely a one pan recipe that doesn't get all that complicated, which is something I always enjoy. A challenge is fun too, but when you're making a dish for a lot of people, you generally want things to not turn go horrifically wrong.

Once you've got the meat and onions cooked, it's time to add all the rest of the ingredients. This was the point when I got a little worried this wasn't going to be a one pan dish, because as you'll see, things added up pretty quickly!

Specifically, the ingredient that really makes this a stroganoff casserole, and not just a beef, onion and cream bake or something.

Noodles! Lots and lots of egg noodles.

Seriously, I was a little concerned when I realized just how many noodles this was going to mean.

It made stirring the mix a little difficult, especially because I didn't necessarily want to smash up the noodles too much while I was doing so. That said, it kind of became inevitable just to help move it around a little better in the pan.

Making sure everything was well incorporated was definitely the most time consuming and frustrating part of making this dish, especially with our new space issues in the pan. I probably should have chopped up the cream cheese a little more finely to help it mix better, or maybe I should have stirred everything around more before adding the noodles, but the recipe didn't ask me to, so I didn't.

Still, things eventually worked out okay, especially once I got everything ladled into the casserole dish. I grated a fair amount of cheddar cheese for the top because I'm a bit of a cheese junkie with things like this, and I don't think I'm alone.

Pop in the oven for about twenty minutes, and you should be good to go!

I had some new taste testers tonight - my mom's childhood best friend and her family were over for dinner, and I was very excited to see what they thought about this latest culinary adventure. They've been reading the blog and were equally excited to get a chance to try something that was going to be featured on it, and I'm happy to report that people liked it quite a bit!

It doesn't exactly look that appetizing, but I promise it was flavorful and tasty. My one complaint is that it was pretty dry, which might be because we had to keep it warm in the oven before dinner and that might have burned off more of the liquid than was ideal, especially considering stroganoff is supposed to have a very wet, creamy sauce. My mom suggested putting more tomato sauce in next time to help give it a little more liquid, and I think I liked this enough that I'd consider making it again with that adjustment. Still, the flavors were still pretty recognizable as a stroganoff relative, and I definitely enjoyed eating it.

So far, I'm pretty pleased with my foray into the 1970's, and I'm hopeful future endeavors will be as successful! It's been a lot of fun to hear about how things were different in what wasn't a time that long ago, and I'm excited to keep sharing that with you.

It should make some good leftovers too!

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