Friday, June 13, 2008

Mom's Recipe

There’s a recipe for Beef Stroganoff in the family that makes my mouth water when I simply think about it.

Beef Stroganoff Recipe
* 1 lb. lean boneless sirloin cut into strips
* ¼ lb. butter (½ olive oil, if desired)
* ½ lb. fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
* ½ cup minced red onions
* 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
* ½ cup beef consommé
* ½ cup Marsala wine
* ½ teaspoon dry mustard
* 1 tbspn. tomato paste
* ½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion and garlic in butter. Add mushrooms. Cook slowly five minutes. Remove to bowl.

Brown meat in same skillet.

* Add seasonings, onions, and mushrooms, tomato paste, consommé, and red Marsala wine. Simmer gently for 1 hour or until meat is tender. Just before serving, stir in sour cream. Do not boil. Serve on rice or noodles. Serves 4 (2 with seconds).

* After you have browned the steak in the fat, remove the steak and mix 2 tablespoons of flour with the fat left in the pan. Cook it for a little bit to get rid of the floury taste and mix it to get rid of any lumps that form (or use a blender to remove lumps).


Last month I cooked this dish myself for the first time. Some of the ingredients – e.g. beef consommé, Marsala wine, tomato paste -- I never cook with, so I was obliged to engage in an extra bit of foraging at the grocery store to locate them. The most elusive dubloon turned out to be the beef consommé: I didn’t see it among the broths and bullions, and the grocery store employee had never heard of it. I ended up phoning m
a mère, the family Kitchen Expert, who directed me to the soup aisle. I ended the call, and after a few moments more of looking I located the remaining ingredient.

A few days later I received a UPS box with my brother’s name on it in the return address; inside the box were two cans of beef consommé. “Ah, what a joker!” I laughed. I used one of the cans when I cooked up a batch of Beef Stroganoff, then boxed the empty can and returned it to my back-slapping brother.

This perplexed him to no end. “Why would Sean send me an empty can of consommé?” The can happened to have arrived just before his birthday, so he pondered whether I perhaps meant something profound and metaphysical in the keepsake I sent him.

I was perplexed in turn by his perplexity. Surely my meaning wasn’t so obscure as all that: that I’d received and enjoyed his largesse, and had sent him the decommissioned vessel in acknowledgement and to extend the gag a bit further.

The answer to the riddle came on my next visit south, where it was revealed that my mother had sent the two cans. The mix-up came at the UPS store, where the clerk applied to the package the family name on record in the UPS database. That name, it turned out, was not my mother’s -- it was my brother’s.

The conundrum cracked, my brother pledged to keep the can on hand as a token of the strangest birthday gift he’d ever received.
Meanwhile I was left to wonder what would happen if I asked mom for her apple pie recipe.

The Can Itself

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