Strip Steak Goulash, with criminis
I mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of eastern European in my background. Goulash, or the similar Stroganoff, is what the French would term a "peasant dish". It throws together what is underground, either in the dirt or a cellar, with whatever meat can be scrounged, cooked with some local herbs, spices, and such from local gardens. I've had a mother and two grandmothers cook their interpretations, and each is different. Throw in the rest of eastern Europe, and each recipe may be as different as the mother or grandmother cooking that day for the family.
I kicked the recipe up a bit with ingredients that would not normally be used in traditional versions of this dish, but the inspiration is from my upbringing.
I used a New York strip steak, with crimini mushrooms (sometimes termed "baby bellas" -- basically small portobello mushrooms) and a sweet onion. Spices are dill, paprika, marjoram, celery salt, kosher salt, and black pepper. Additional ingredients: tomato paste, garlic, egg-noodles, butter, sour cream, yogurt, flour, and fresh lemon juice (there isn't a thriving lemon tree within 3000 miles of Poland, but I like the acidity).
I cut the meat thin, against the grain, and sorta sushi-style -- top to bottom is at a 30-45 degree angle bias. I think this breaks the meat grains and makes everything incredibly tender when slow-cooked. NY strip doesn't need that kind of cut as much as, say, a traditional flank or hanger steak would, but this is a kicked-up version.
I dust the meat with flour, kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, celery salt, garlic powder, and a pinch of dill.
Quartered criminis capture the flavor of the mushroom better than slices, in my opinion. If it's a big cap, I'll cut into sixths, but the idea is big chunks of mushroom. They'll shrink after cooking, but I want mushroom bites to be as assertive as the slices of meat.
Mix 1/2 cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup yogurt, with a tablespoon of flour. This will thicken the goulash later, which may traditionally blur the line between a goulash and a strogranoff, but then again, so does my background.
In a tablespoon of butter, I brown both sides of the meat over medium high. The idea is to get a bit of brown crust, flip, and do the same, but the center of the meat is still raw. Quick and dirty, then take the meat out and save it to the side.
In the same pot, I throw in some more butter, then start to caramelize a sliced onion. This can be done much more slowly than the meat -- a good steady heat, and a lot of stirring, to move the onions from sweat to soft to just browning on the edges. Once starting to caramelize, I toss in the mushrooms to cook down a bit.
I raise the heat a bit to sear the onions and mushrooms a touch, then throw in a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, and a chopped garlic clove. I want the tomato paste to caramelize a bit, like the onions, and there is a bit of color change...but to me, the biggest indicator is odor. The tomato paste smell changes from sweet tomato, almost cloying in the paste out of the can, to a richer, mellow, brown-sugar smell. It's tricky, because if the heat is too high, the paste will burn, and no one wants that. But, some high heat is necessary to chemically change the sugars in the paste. A lot of stirring helps. There'll be a lot of brown stuff on the bottom of the pot, which is fine. As long as it isn't black. Toasted brown is good.
Add the meat, then the sour cream/yogurt mixture
This must simmer very, very gently. If a tough cut of meat were used, this would simmer for a couple hours. With NY Strip, I could probably turn the heat off now, and it would be done in five minutes. I kept it on, but about as low as I could get it. Meanwhile, I added more paprika and some dill
In the background, I have some egg noodles pretty much ready
So, plated over the noodles and it's ready
A couple behind the scenes:
Me, martini in hand, looking up at Christey, who finally found a ladder instead of a barstool (the finger thing is my family tradition to ward off candid photographers)
Plating photo area, staged and ready for me to finish cooking: