Updated: Apr 23
This classic meal not only gets more complex and delicious flavor, but plenty of magic when you add these few key ingredients!
A lot of us have had our first experiences with beef strogonoff from a pre-made, boxed seasoning mix—myself included. I always remembered it being good, but nothing to write home about, nothing special, and having learned a thing or two about cooking myself, I now know why: because the boxed versions of foods we love tend to skimp on seasonings outside salt. It's the easiest way to catch as many consumers as possible: remove any flavoring that could potentially be a turn off (which, in their case, was pretty much everything) and leave it basic so that any strapped-for-time chef can adjust it however they want.
It makes sense, sure. But it's still a far cry from the original dish invented in the late 1870s for the Russian Stroganov family, which is believed to have been the invention of a French chef looking to combine French and Russian flavors (namely, mustard and sour cream). It was likely the Hungarians that added the paprika later, given how much this ingredient shines in other well-known dishes of theirs (like goulash), and honestly, I'm not entirely sure who added the mushrooms, but if it really was added to a cookbook in 1871, then I can only imagine it was an addition of those who wanted to bolster its hearty flavor without needing to add more meat.
What I do know is that when I made it the way a certain recipe suggested, I just felt there was something missing. And lo and behold, adding these original ingredients back in (and a couple extra) proved to be what took this dish from pretty okay to a rotational staple in my house.
Magic in Beef Stroganoff
Technically, every single thing in this, save maybe the noodles and the sour cream or yogurt, have their place in magic (and you could argue for those ingredients' powers, too, I bet). This means mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper included. But what we're focusing on for this dish is exactly what the boxed version skips: the thyme, paprika, and mustard.
Where thyme is ruled by Venus and the element of water, paprika and mustard are ruled by Mars and the element of fire. However, all of them converge on the theme of protection, which, when you tie it in with the secondary themes (courage, mental power, purification, and love), only add to beef stroganoff's status as a comfort meal.
Protection abounds above all when you use these ingredients, and in that veil of safety, you have the opportunity and encouragement to wash yourself clean of a hectic and busy schedule, build up your courage and mental strength, and remind yourself to approach yourself, others, and your daily challenges with love.
To me, a bowl of this after a long day of work, with my favorite shows or Youtube channels playing, is a bowl of security, peace, and relaxation, and that's my top goal for homemade meals.
Garlic cloves, crushed
Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
240g (1 cup)
Beef Broth (or bouillon & water)
All Purpose Flour
Whole Grain Mustard
12oz (1 package)
175g (3/4 cup)
Fat Free Greek Yogurt (or sour cream)
Salt & Pepper, Parsley
Chop your onions and fry in a little bit of olive or vegetable oil until golden brown.
Add crushed garlic and fry until fragrant.
Add ground beef and break it up into little crumbles.
When beef is almost browned, add sliced mushrooms & cook until water comes out.
Thicken the mixture with flour (more or less depending on how thick you want it, but I recommend 3 Tbsp of flour)
Slowly incorporate your beef stock or water & crushed beef cube until sauce forms.
Add Worcestershire sauce, thyme, paprika, and mustard.
Simmer covered on low heat for 20 minutes.
Towards the end of simmering, boil your water and cook your noodles to al dente (usually a couple minutes before the package tells you to cook it to).
Add your Greek yogurt or sour cream, as well as optional parsley, and stir together.
Drain noodles and add to the sauce, where they'll finish cooking.
It's quick, easy, and one pot (especially if you decide to skip the water and just add your noodles directly to the pot to cook). And best of all, there's plenty of time to clean as you go, so it's pretty low mess, too! An hour well spent for delicious (and magical) food.