Beef Stroganov

1 large onion
4-5 T butter
2 lbs mushrooms, chopped
1 heaping T flour
3 heaping T sour cream
2 lbs well-marbled beef tenderloin
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

The most important thing to remember is that all the ingredients must be at room temperature. Even the sour cream should be left outside the refrigerator for a few hours before the dish is started; it won't turn too sour no matter how hot the day.

Several hours before the dish is to be served, slice the onion very thin and fry it gently in 2 T butter. Fry the chopped mushrooms separately in 2 T butter. When both are soft, combine them, sprinkle with flour, and mix well. When the mixture has cooled, gently stir in 3 heaping T sour cream. Let this mixture sit at least 2 hours; all afternoon if you prefer.

Approximately 1 hour before the dish is to be served, start cutting the meat with a well-sharpened knife, in thin strips lengthwise, then crosswise to make pieces 2" - 3" long. For this, it helps if the tenderloin is partially frozen in advance.

When the meat is cut, and 20 minutes prior to the serving of the dish, put the sour cream - mushroom - onion mixture to heat gently in a double boiler of hot but not boiling water. While it reheats, fry the meat strips rapidly in 1 or more T butter. The butter should be hot but not burning. Keep turning the meat with a spatula until it stops giving off juice (5-10 minutes). Remove it from the fire and allow it to cool for a few minutes before stirring it into the reheated sour cream - mushroom - onion combination. Add the juices from the pan and salt and pepper to taste. If there is not enough gravy, allow the mixture to cool a little, stir in additional sour cream, and reheat the dish gently before serving. Serve hot with rice on the side. Serves 6.

Adapted from The Russian Cookbook by Barbara Norman, this recipe makes the best Stroganov both she and I have ever tasted.

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