For someone who’s not actually a vegetarian, I spend an awful lot of time cooking and eating like one. I just really love vegetables. If I’m at a restaurant where my dish has a choice of protein, chances are good I’ll be ordering tofu. Because I like it, not because it’s my only option. This has caused confusion on many occasions.

As I’ve been facing my food phobias, it’s become clear to me that I’ve been avoiding cooking meat, of all kinds, for most of my cooking life. I always told myself, I guess, that it was cheaper, healthier, more environmentally friendly, and less morally ambiguous to cook vegetarian—but that was rationalization, not a rationale. While those are all good reasons to be vegetarian, I’m just not a vegetarian. If I eat meat, I should be able to cook meat. (I should probably also be willing to hunt it myself, but that’s another story.) It’s time to face the beef.


And what better way to face the beef than with some of my beloved friends, pasta and vegetables?

Onions and mushrooms! I know how to cook you!

This recipe was delicious and surprisingly easy, even for a meat-cooking newbie like me. To cook the meat, you just brown the slices quickly and set them aside (meat at this stage is in the photo above); they’ll cook through later when you add them back to the pan with the veggies. Slices this thin cook through practically from the heat of looking at them longingly. The recipe calls for tossing them with the veggies for 2-3 minutes, but mine were looking pretty done after less than a minute in the pan. And thus I barely—but successfully—avoided one of the causes of my meat phobia: turning lovely tasty beef into gray slabs of awful.

It must be said that this dish, while wonderfully tasty, is perhaps less beauteous than one might hope. The result is kind of a pile of glop. But a beefy, rich, creamy, soul-satisfying pile of glop. I suspect I’ll be glopping it on a bed of egg noodles again and again this winter.

Beef strogaglopp

Beef stroganoff
Adapted from Milk by Anne Mendelson, via The Kitchn

1 pound filet mignon, beef sirloin, or beef tenderloin
1/4 cup flour
1 small onion, chopped fine
10 oz mushrooms (white button or cremini), cleaned and stemmed, then sliced thinly
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
powdered sage
salt and pepper
6 oz. egg noodles

Cut the meat into strips about 2 to 3 inches long and 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 inch thick. Put flour on plate and dredge strips, turning to coat lightly on all sides.

Heat 1 Tbs butter over high heat in large, heavy skillet. When it’s sizzling and fragrant, reduce heat to medium and add a few strips of meat (don’t crowd the pan). Brown the meat quickly on both sides (not cooking it through), remove to plate, and add a few more strips. As needed, add more butter to moisten the pan.

At around this point in the process, start the water for boiling the egg noodles and follow package directions.

When all the meat is done, add the onion to the pan and saute over medium heat, stirring, until translucent and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to release their juice, another 5 minutes or so. Raise the heat to high and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated.

Stir in the sherry and mustard; cook, stirring, over medium heat until the sauce is a little thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the browned meat with any juices and cook, stirring and tossing, until it is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the sour cream. (Apparently the sour cream will curdle if it is too cold or if the sauce boils, so you let it warm up for only a minute or two.) Add paprika, sage, salt, and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately on hot egg noodles, garnished with a bit of minced parsley or snipped dill.

Serves 3.