Friday, February 7, 2014

Rebecca's Steak and Mushroom Stroganoff

A hearty staple of Russian cuisine!

I would imagine that pretty much everyone with access to a television knows that the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Winter Olympics were tonight, and while I've said I'm not that interested in sports, I think it takes a special kind of grump to not at least vaguely enjoy the concept of the Olympics. I can't remember specifically when I first became aware of their existence, but I do remember thinking Picabo Street was the coolest person alive when I first learned how to ski, and I've always tried to tune in to at least the Opening Ceremonies, if nothing else.

So despite all the controversy and lingering tensions about the Sochi games, I was still excited to tune in tonight and see what Russia was bringing to the table. And because I can't pass up an opportunity to try out a new recipe to feature with you guys, I pulled out a recipe I've been eager to try since first brainstorming what recipes I could feature with Rebecca after her very first post because I enjoy stroganoff, and am always happy to have an excuse to have some.

This post brought to you by Rebecca and one of the Sochi mascots: Bear the Polar Bear. Not the most creative name.

I could bore you guys with a lot of trivia about the Olympics, Sochi, or Russia itself, but one thing in particular has caught my attention during the coverage of the games: a couple news figures have made it sound like the Olympics have never been held in Russia before, and that's just embarrassingly misleading journalism. The winter games have never been held in Russia before, but the summer games were held in Moscow in 1980. The United States and several other countries boycotted the games to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter actually issued the threat of a boycott in 1979, and it caused a lot of concern that Russia might boycott the Lake Placid games, which would take place in February of 1980. Despite that, Russia attended the games and their all star hockey team lost to America's team of college athletes in a game most people know as the Miracle on Ice. The US went on to win against Finland to secure the gold medal, and during the medal ceremony, team captain Mike Eruzione motioned for his teammates to join him on the podium after the national anthem had finished playing, as it was only large enough to accommodate one person as the flags were raised. This moment was recreated during the 2002 Salt Lake games, when the Olympic Flame was brought up to the cauldron by Picabo Street and Cammi Granato to Mike Eruzione, who surprised everyone by motioning for the rest of the 1980 team to join him and light the cauldron together. Vladislav Tretiak - the Russian goalie who played in the Miracle on Ice game - lit the cauldron with figure skater Irina Rodnina this year.

The reason I think all of this is an interesting bit of trivia to share with everyone? Because my favorite sports movie of all time - and one of my favorite movies in general - is Miracle, and I've been impatiently waiting for a free night to give it a rewatch. I don't even like sports or sports movies usually, but it really hits me in the history feels and I'm not sorry about it.

Ari, I know you're reading this, just watch it. Trust me. When have I steered you wrong before?

Do you think we should mention And Soon the Darkness?

One of the most exciting things for us this year was that the mascots were cute. We have quite a collection of Olympic mascots which started when my sister and I fell in love with the mascots for the Salt Lake games in 2002, and my mom was especially excited to see that one of them was an adorable polar bear. She loves bears, and so as soon as one became available for purchase in the US, he was coming to live with us.

Still, kind of a bummer his name is just Bear, though. Powder, Copper and Coal were much more creative than Bear, Leopard and Bunny. Or is it Rabbit? I can't keep it straight.

Anyway, on to the stroganoff. Stroganoff first appeared in a cookbook in 1861, and has become a popular dish world wide, with each country putting their own unique spin on it. Japan, for example, often serves the meat and onion over white rice, which sounds like a totally tasty idea in my book. This particular recipe comes from a cookbook I got at Williams & Sonoma, and you will definitely seeing more of it in the future. The pictures are gorgeous and everything sounds delicious (and relatively simple!), and every time I open it up, I find a new thing I desperately want to devour.

I mean, what's not to love about comfort food?

So, bad news first. While I did do my usual documentation of every step of the process - or at least every step that was easily photographed and not totally boring - I made a terrible discovery right before we were ready to plate: my camera card was still in my computer. Not my camera. And for some reason, my camera doesn't actually say "hey, I don't have a memory card in me" until you go to look at the pictures you've "taken" and realize oh god, none of them are on here!

Which means unfortunately, I don't have much by way of documenting the process. I hope you guys don't mind, but I didn't have enough equipment or the enthusiasm to make the dish over again, and besides, I really wanted to get it up tonight. Sometimes I feel like I must be boring people with the same repetitive pictures of flour in bowls and things on the stove.

All I can say is that the dish was pretty easy to make and didn't require too much brain damage to get it done right. It's definitely something without a lot of confidence in the kitchen could and should give a chance. My mom also made another pot of the borscht I made a few weeks ago, and it was just as big a hit this time.

Overall, I'm pleased with how the stroganoff came out. The sauce was creamy and the mushrooms were absolutely delicious, but I did think the steak was a little... gamey? I don't know, I'm not really a fan of rare meat and certain cuts are definitely tougher and less appetizing than others to me. I've definitely had stroganoff with meat that was a lot more tender, and I think in the future, I'd try to find that kind of texture instead of the tougher stuff.

Regardless, I'm a little disappointed we haven't really embraced the idea of doing something like this for the Olympics before. Admittedly, during the London games we had out some English snacks to munch on during the Opening Ceremonies, but I can't remember doing anything in particular for Beijing or Athens. We used to be on vacation during the winter games a lot, so I guess that would have taken a theme off the table.

Anyways, that's about it from me tonight. Sorry this was kind of a lame post! I promise this isn't the shape of things to come. I just can be a little scatterbrained when it comes to my memory card and already had a super busy day.

I hope you guys enjoyed the ceremonies if you watched them, or at least have something compelling to talk about now that they're over. I have to admit, I still have a lot of mixed feelings, but am doing my best to focus on the positive and enjoy the games even if I don't agree with the host country about a lot of things. Here's to a good two weeks of winter sports!

And seriously, go watch Miracle. Do it.

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