Wednesday, May 12, 2010

OMG a Recipe: Ad Hoc Stroganoff is Seriously Good S#%!

I was getting caught up on episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, and saw his "Obsessed" special, where he profiled people seriously strung-out on food. I saw the bit on food bloggers and it mostly made me cringe because I thought, gads, are we all just a bunch of gout-stricken, angry, misanthropic mouthbreathers? I looked at my sweatpants and t-shirt that I'd been wearing for the second day in a row and thought, yeah, probably, but I perked up when I saw Thomas Keller do his roast chicken bit. I appreciate his cooking style of  DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF, but I can't always put in the time needed to make some of his more involved dishes, so I don't often cook from his recipes. I did however find a new drug in Sir Thomas' take on Beef Stroganoff, from his Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.

Ad Hoc/Two Day Stroganoff - totally worth the effort! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

One of my good friends joked that "Ad Hoc" means Takes Two Days to Make. I guess that could be said for a lot of Thomas Keller's cookbooks. They're no Rachael Ray, done-in-30-minutes-flat kinds of recipes, but that's just because Keller really wants people to have a comprehensive experience of cooking a meal, creating fully-developed flavors. That tends to mean you'd better have a a day or two to fuss about. I'd heard so many good things about his beef stroganoff recipe in Ad Hoc from other food bloggers, plus I wanted a real tah-daaaah dinner for my Auntie S.'s last night before she had to head home, so I took up the Ad Hoc gauntlet and got cookin'.

So, why two days? You could probably prep the beef stroganoff with just one day of prep, as the cooking of the dish itself doesn't take much time beyond the preparation of a basic weekday meal. I made the pasta dough for the wide, flat tagliatelle noodles from scratch on one day, and then made the braising liquid for the boneless beef shortribs on another day, along with the braising itself and the rolling/cutting of the noodles -- this could have happened in a single day, I was just busy with getting the house ready for my aunt. The braising liquid is basically red wine reduced with aromatic spices and vegetables -- I did a cheat, using items from a bag of vegetable scraps I keep in the freezer, collected for making stock once a month. I have this thing about buying fresh vegetables only to cut them up and boil them down just for flavoring a liquid -- it feels so wasteful! Does it make my corner-cutting act evil and cheater-y? Maybe so, but the braising liquid was rich enough with the wine to flavor the beef shortribs nicely, infusing the meat with richness and the low cooking heat rendered it to a fork-tender softness. Keller recommends letting the cooked meat sit in the braising liquid overnight, as the chill firms the meat up for easier cutting before it gets thrown into the creamy stroganoff sauce. He also suggests saving the braising liquid for cooking other meats, but I ended up using it a week later for a rich beef and vegetable soup -- I wasn't going to let anything go to waste on this one.

As to the subject of handmade noodles, many will rightly think, Jeeze, Wasabi, you can just buy pasta, you know. I had it in my head to buy some fresh-made pasta from Pike Place Market, but I had seen some other bloggers talking about homemade pasta recently, and my own frustrations over failed pasta making in the past made me stubborn to accept the fate of being a Quitter McFailure. Once more unto the breach, I told myself. Crying God for Harry, England and St. George, and the satisfaction of not letting a mixture of egg and flour get the better of me, I made a batch of pasta dough and let fly the dogs of war with a rolling pin. For this, I didn't use Keller's pasta recipe because it's so egg-rich and I didn't want to risk losing so many eggs on a failed dough, so I just went with a basic pasta dough recipe. I don't think this resulted in any punishable food sins because it turned out fine. Per the advice of fellow bloggers like Salty Seattle, who regularly makes her own pasta, the dough was rolled out in small, handful-sized portions, and made extra thin, since the cooking process will fatten the noodles. I don't have a pasta machine, so it was just a rolling pin and my own personal Gun Show to get things going, but it did the job, even at the expense of the noodles looking a bit on the "rustic" side. Once covered with a meaty cream sauce, who cares?

The pasta ribbons ready for boiling, braised meat chilled and sliced, the stroganoff was assembled on my aunt's final night at our house. The sauce was a rich mix of cream, mushrooms and onions, handblender-buzzed into velvety smoothness. It warms up the meat and is tossed with the cooked pasta ribbons. I didn't think handmade pasta would make a difference, but the thicker noodles and chewier texture of scratch-made pasta made for a great toothiness. I'll make complicated recipes and then create my own shortcuts if I want to make it again to save time, but for this one, I would gladly make it again the exact same way, handmade pasta and all, for no other reason than to eat such an earthy, rich and flavorful dish.

Making this meal, I really felt like I was fully involved in all the steps of the process, watching each stage of how flavor and texture gets developed, resulting in that much more of a satisfying experience. It really made the food taste better for me, even if everyone else was like, whoa, how much cream is in this? I can honestly say, I look forward to making this dish again, and threatening arterial blockage to others.
Eating well and making pasta with The Gun Show - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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  1. Making pasta with a rolling pin? you do like to make it hard for yourself, don't you?

    I think there's a lot to be said about taking time over the creation of a meal, but it's definitely a frustrating business.

    The problem I have is just fitting everything in - say you start to cook something on day one that involves a lot of initial prep so that whatever it is can be left marinading overnight or takes up time on day one, which is usually evening 1 after a killer day at work anyway, that should have been used to cook something to eat straight away, resulting in a fairly crappy and thrown together affair that evening followed by a load more cooking the next evening and a decent meal at the end of it all.

    It's swings and roundabouts for me, but I like the challenge of producing something really decent, properly.

  2. You're crazy but I love you. Who makes noodles for stroganoff by hand? You're awesome. I continue to be obsessed with this book but will have to live vicariously through you for awhile as I should not be spendin $ on big fancy cookbooks right now!

  3. you had me and you lost me. i have a pasta attachment for my kitchen aid, it wasn't the pasta (kudos to you AND the guns)... but on the reduction and then braising ribs? yeah... after i make pasta, i want to EAT. but i do appreciate all the love that went in to this... and i bet your auntie did too.


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