Beef Stout Stroganoff

Cooking with Beer by | Jun 2018 | Issue #132
Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Thinking back on flavors from my childhood, I wanted to rediscover stroganoff: Tender, succulent beef, earthy mushrooms, and sweet caramelized onions, all enveloped in a rich, slightly sour sauce, and poured over noodles or another starch. How could I re-create this classic dish while elevating it with beer into—dare I say—the ultimate beef stroganoff recipe? The beef used for stroganoff is all over the map. Many recipes suggest tenderloin, the expensive, underused muscle that is tender and velvety. The results are wonderful, yet cause the price of this dish to skyrocket. Other chefs like to use a chuck or sirloin cut, which can be tough, chewy, and unsatisfying if overcooked. But what if we add a step?

The Japanese use a mold called koji (Aspergillus oryzae) to make miso, soy sauce, sake, rice vinegar, and shio-koji, along with many other items. Shio-koji begins with cooked rice that has been inoculated with koji spores, then left to gather mold. This mold has a living enzyme that breaks down starches and proteins into sugars and amino acids, making the final foods easier to digest. After adding salt and water to the finished rice, this shio-koji is ready.

Using shio-koji as a marinade for the beef tenderizes the meat protein, increasing the umami factor. By applying this fermentation trick, we can use a cheaper cut of meat. And preparing this step a few days ahead of time makes it even easier to assemble the stroganoff.

An Oatmeal Stout contributes a roasty, earthy element to the sauce (that’s full of umami-rich mushrooms), while also adding a touch of bitterness balanced by the sweetness of caramelized onions and garlic. Meanwhile, the rich and fatty sour cream sauce tames any astringency from the roasted grains used in this beer style. I prefer maitake or Hen of the Woods mushrooms, which bring great texture and meaty flavor to the dish. A mix of mushrooms such as chanterelles, wood ear, shiitake, and crimini, can also add texture and earthy deliciousness.

These recipe tweaks infuse the finished stroganoff with layers of scrumptious flavor and texture, yielding a balanced yet complex version of a nostalgic comfort dish.

Beef Stout Stroganoff

Serves: 4 guests

Beef Ingredients

2 tbsp Oatmeal Stout, such as Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout
1 tbsp shio-koji (Made from scratch, or available at most Asian markets)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp thyme, dried
1 tsp mixed peppercorns, freshly cracked
1 lb top sirloin or hanger beef, cut into stir-fry strips

Vegetable and Sauce Ingredients

3 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, large, peeled and sliced
1 shallot, large, peeled and sliced
1 lb mushrooms  (maitake, crimini, Portobello, or shiitake)
1 tbsp white miso
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp soy sauce
10 oz Oatmeal Stout, such as Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout
1 cup sour cream, full fat
3 tbsp Italian leaf parsley (or chives), washed and chopped, plus more for garnish

Serving Ingredients

1 lb noodles (wide egg, pappardelle, or ramen) or gnocchi
2 lb mashed potatoes
4 cup cooked pearl barley pilaf

Beef Directions

In a bowl, combine the Stout, shio-koji, salt, thyme, and cracked peppercorns. Slice the beef into 1 inch long strips, as uniformly as possible (helping them to cook at the same rate). Add the meat to the shio-koji and toss to fully coat the surface area of the protein. Place into a sealable container and marinate in the refrigerator for 24–72 hours, allowing the enzymes to break down the proteins, resulting in increased umami and tenderness.

Vegetable and Sauce Directions

About two hours before serving, remove the marinated meat from the refrigerator, letting it warm to room temperature on the kitchen countertop. This will help the beef cook quicker and more evenly.

Pick out your complementing starch. If it’s pasta, fill a large pot with water, salt to taste, and place over high heat.

In a wide sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil, tilting the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Add the sliced onion and lightly season it with some of the salt. Sauté the onion, stirring frequently until transparent, about 7 minutes. Add the shallot to the onion and sauté for another 7 minutes.

Use this time to clean, de-stem, and slice the mushrooms. Add them to the pan, along with the remaining salt, continuing to cook the onions and shallots for another 6–7 minutes. The edges of the mushrooms should be brown. This slower cooking technique will evaporate moisture, concentrating the flavors and caramelizing the sugars in the vegetables to lend extra depth to the sauce. Add the miso, breaking it up with a spatula. Cook for another minute.

Move all the ingredients to one side of the pan. Add the remaining oil and then the meat and marinade to the open space in the pan. Let it cook for 2 minutes, caramelizing. Carefully stir the onions to prevent them from burning. Stir the steak and allow it to brown on its other side for 2–4 additional minutes, searing the outside. Start cooking the starch or have it ready at this point.

Increase the heat to high and pour in the soy sauce. Stir well to coat all the ingredients while reducing to a glaze, then deglaze the pan with the Oatmeal Stout. Then, using a spatula, scrape all the fond from the pan, dissolving it into the sauce. Reduce the Stout by half, cooking for 4–5 minutes. If you aren’t serving the sauce right away, turn the heat off to avoid overcooking the meat.

To Serve

With the heat off, add the sour cream to the Stout reduction. Cooking the sour cream can cause the sauce to break or curdle. Check the consistency of the sauce—it should be thick, but not too thick. If needed, thin the sauce with a tablespoon of sour cream or Stout. Stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley (or chives) and a few cracks of fresh peppercorns. Add salt to taste.

If using pasta, toss the noodles in a few tablespoons of butter and the remaining tablespoon of parsley. Place a healthy portion onto each plate, then ladle the rich stroganoff sauce over the starch. Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley or chopped chives and serve right away.