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Remembrance of Things Pasta: Beef Stroganoff Soup
Categories: Beef, Dairy, Mushrooms, Pasta
Speak (Moo) Memory

Speak (Moo) Memory

My brother-in-law’s turning 50 yesterday reminded me of the beginnings of my culinary education.

I was still in college then, working on degree number two and teaching myself to cook by plowing through all the recipes my mom had made when I was growing up.

I made tamale pie (rechristened “tamale slop” by a crew buddy), ten bean soup, bacon-wrapped fish filets, pork chops in sour cream and loaves and loaves of bread. What I hadn’t done up to then was make anything up. Then one weekend when I was up visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Santa Cruz, I began improvising what I thought must be beef stroganoff.

What I was making vaguely resembled a dish of beef in a brown sauce served over noodles that they used to serve in the elementary school cafetorium. I knew Salisbury Steak was the gravy thing they served over an ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes, so this had to be Beef Stroganoff, right?

Close enough.

I got some beef out of my sister’s refrigerator, some mushrooms, onions, sour cream, wine (Something else I had just discovered.) and set to work. I started sautéing the onions, mushrooms and beef over low heat with enough fat and wine to keep the meat from drying out. Then I added some sour cream to make the sauce richer and to round out the tannins in the wine. Not that I knew any of this stuff back then. I just threw it all in the pan, boiled up some noodles and got lucky. (Sound familiar?)

I don’t know where this dish originated although it has an obviously Russian name. I just know that it somehow planted itself among my childhood memories and came to the surface on that night in Santa Cruz twenty years ago. Now it has come to the surface once more, as a soup.

I threw this soup together quickly. The rest of the family had gone to bed after a viewing of “Toy Story 3,” a story about the many things children leave behind as they grow up, including their parents. As I cooked the soup, I thought about some of the things and people I had left behind. Some I have tried to recapture. Others I have lost completely.

It’s strange what you can conjure up with a few simple aromas. They somehow open a secret door in your brain and rush you back to a time and place you haven’t thought of in years. The feelings come on so suddenly and are so vivid it’s hard to believe how much time has passed by.

Yet another thing I love about cooking. No, it doesn’t enable me to relive any part of my life (good or bad), but does bring those experiences close enough that I can taste them.

…or it could be that I’m flashing forward into the early stages of dementia. Time and children can do that to you.

Beef Stroganoff Soup
(serves 4-6)
1 T olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
8 oz. mushroom, chopped
6 oz. beef, sliced in strips
6 cups stock
1 T thyme
½ cup red wine
½ cup sour cream
Salt & pepper, to taste
4 oz. egg noodles

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion and mushrooms until browned slightly.
  2. Add the beef, stock, thyme, wine, sour cream and seasonings, cover, bring the mixture to a boil then reduce it to a simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Add the noodles and continue simmering for another 15-20 minutes.
  4. Serve warm with (as always) crusty bread and butter.

Image Credit: Memories of Russian Cows by Author.

It’s strange what memory can come up with in the kitchen. This can be a good or a bad thing. I’d love to hear what your most potent soup memories are? I’ll be reading and responding.

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