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New, improved stroganoff is quicker

Associated Press

"This retro Russian dish may look like a stew, but it's actually a quick sauté; that can be on the table in 20 minutes."

The statement heads a feature from the February issue of Cook's Illustrated, a magazine renowned for its thoroughness and reliability. In this case, their test kitchen faced what is described as the essential problem with stroganoff: Because it's made with a pan sauce, not as a slow braise or stew, it doesn't have time to develop flavor.

The usual solution is to add a lengthy hodgepodge of flavoring ingredients. The feature explains the painstaking testing that led to the magazine's improved version.

What works best, they found, is beef tenderloin, cut into thin strips rather than thick ones; button mushrooms, browned in the pan before the beef; white wine rather than red, used with a combination of chicken and beef broth; onions rather than shallots -- plus tomato paste, dark brown sugar and sour cream.

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The test kitchen's conclusion?

"This at last was stroganoff -- quick, but full of flavor, and, when in the company of a bowl of hot, buttered noodles, pretty irresistible."

Buttered egg noodles are the classic accompaniment; the recipe suggests adding the noodles to boiling water at the same time the onion and tomato paste go into the pan, so that noodles and stroganoff are done at the same time.

Beef stroganoff

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

12 ounces white button mushrooms, wiped clean and halved if small, quartered if medium, cut into sixths if large

Salt and ground black pepper

3/4 pound beef tenderloin (about 2 filets), cut into 1/8-inch strips

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1/2 cup canned low-sodium beef broth

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 small onion, minced (1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

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1/3 cup sour cream

8 ounces egg noodles, cooked in salted water, drained, and tossed with 2 tablespoons butter

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering, but not smoking, about 2 minutes; swirl to coat pan. Add mushrooms and cook over high heat without stirring for 30 seconds; season with salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to medium bowl.

Return skillet to high heat, add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat pan. Place tenderloin strips in skillet. Using tongs, spread the meat into single layer, making sure that strips do not touch, and cook without turning until well-browned on first side, 2 minutes. Turn strips and cook on second side until well-browned, about 1 minute longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to bowl with mushrooms.

Add beef broth to skillet, scraping up browned bits on pan bottom with wooden spoon; simmer until broth is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer broth to bowl with mushrooms and beef, scraping skillet clean with rubber spatula.

Return skillet to medium-low heat and add butter; when butter foams, add onion, tomato paste and brown sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is lightly browned and softened, about 6 minutes; stir in flour until incorporated. Gradually whisk in chicken broth and wine; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, whisking occasionally, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Whisk liquid from mushrooms and beef into sauce and simmer to incorporate. Stir about 1/2 cup of hot sauce into sour cream, then stir mixture back into sauce. Add mushrooms and beef; heat to warm through, about 1 minute. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve over buttered egg noodles. Makes 4 servings.

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