Cookbook author Beth Nguyen’s clever take on a classic beef stroganoff recipe is inspired by a memorable meal she had at a classmate’s house in the predominantly white Midwestern town where she grew up. (Read Nguyen’s essay about it here.) A few clever tricks make this version distinctly hers. First, she supplants the usual Worcestershire sauce with fish sauce. “You can’t taste the fish sauce,” Nguyen notes, “but you need it” to deliver a sauce with a powerful umami punch. Next, she replaces wan sliced white button mushrooms with hearty halved and quartered criminis. Finally, she replaces the typical chopped fresh parsley garnish with sliced scallions for a finish with more bite.
“Beef stroganoff has so few rules you don’t have to worry about breaking any,” Nguyen writes. In fact, there are dozens of interpretations of this 1950s staple of Russian origin including ground beef stroganoff, ones made with cream of mushroom soup, slow-cooker and crock-pot renditions—and those that tell you to simply follow the package directions. Done well, it’s one of those main dishes that’s fitting for a dinner party or a weeknight meal with the whole family. The key is to make sure nothing gets overcooked. Nguyen opts for skirt steak over ribeye, beef tenderloin, or sirloin steak, pan-sears it in hunks, then slices and serves it over the noodles and cream sauce so it stays tender and flavorful. To keep the salt level in check, she uses low-sodium beef stock instead of bouillon. One thing to look out for when making the stroganoff sauce: Sour cream can split if added directly to hot liquid, so mix it separately with a small amount of warm sauce to keep it smooth and produce a luxuriously creamy sauce to spoon over those buttered noodles.