About six months after Ben and I started dating we went very far north/east in Maine for spring break. Apparently we had missed the memo about going somewhere warm… Anyway, I was excited to get to cook, since we lived in a dorm, and I asked Ben what his favorite meal was. He said Beef Stroganoff, so I talked it over with my mom, got a recipe, and when we got to Maine I bought some nice beef, cream, a bunch of good mushrooms, etc., and made a very labor intensive stroganoff. He took a look, a bite, and said, “This is not stroganoff.” Needless to say, I was less than pleased, and I never made it for him again. It turns out he was thinking of Poor Man’s Stroganoff, which is much simpler and made with ground beef, not painstakingly cubed steak. I told him that he could eat it at home on vacations if he liked his mom’s version so much, but six years later I finally gave in and asked Christy for her recipe, which turns out to be so far beyond simple that I’m kicking myself for not making it much earlier. This is comfort food, and not glamorous, but I fed two hungry guys on a cold night, and they were both very happy. This time Ben was pleased as punch! I didn’t include mushrooms because I shopped before getting the recipe, and Ben insisted there aren’t any in it. There are supposed to be, but you chop them up very, very small.
So here you go: Christy’s Poor Man’s Stroganoff
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion
1/2 lb. mushrooms
8 oz. sour cream
salt & pepper to taste
Sauté the onion till soft, then add the beef, breaking it up into little sections. Stir occasionally and keep breaking the clumps of beef into smaller sections with the spoon. When completely cooked, drain off the fat, add in the mushrooms and sour cream, and heat thoroughly for a minute or two. Serve over rice or noodles.
I didn’t heat it quite long enough after adding the sour cream, but the guys ate the whole thing–a pound of meat, a pound of noodles.
A couple nights later, I fed the same two guys (Ben’s friend’s wife was out of town for a couple weeks, so we had him over a lot) a dressier pasta dish, though based on the same principles. Mark Bittman wrote in the Minimalist column in the Times a couple weeks ago about pasta with gorgonzola sauce, which sounded like an appealing and easy non-meat-based dinner. He added in halved cherry tomatoes and chopped arugula to add flavor, on the theory that both are reliable veggies in the middle of winter. Sound familiar? It’s the same pairing as the base for the parmesan-crusted chicken breasts.
This recipe was super easy and really delicious, once again the guys wolfed it down. It has the advantage of also being extremely pretty to look at.
Mark Bittman’s Cheesy Pasta
From the NYTimes, 1/24/07
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half-and-half, cream or milk
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or other good blue cheese
1 pound farfalle or other pasta
2 cups arugula trimmed of very thick stems, washed, dried and chopped
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
Freshly grated Parmesan to taste, optional.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. In a small saucepan gently warm the half-and-half and Gorgonzola just until cheese melts a bit and mixture becomes thick; chunky is O.K.
2. When water boils, cook pasta until it is just tender but not mushy. Drain and return to pot over low heat.
3. Stir in Gorgonzola sauce along with arugula, tomatoes and a healthy dose of black pepper. Stir to combine, taste and add salt, if necessary, then serve immediately, with grated Parmesan if you like.
Yield: 3 to 6 servings.
Yum, I’ll be making this again soon.