This cream-sauce-and-beef affair became a wildly popular party dish in the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s. Surprisingly—for it seems so much like an American invention—it really has roots in Russian cuisine, going back to at least the 18th century. There are many different ways to approach this much-anthologized dish, but the central question is this: do you cook the beef quickly, or do you stew it? James Beard came down firmly on the side of quick-cooking, and so do I; to me, it’s what gives the dish its distinction. In order to pull this off, however, you need really tender meat—hence the use of filet mignon in the following recipe.
Makes 6 main-course servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 pounds beef tenderloin, or filet mignon, cut into thin, 1-inch-long strips
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces small white mushrooms, quartered
5 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 (12-ounce) package extra-wide egg noodles
1. In a large skillet over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Season half the beef generously with salt and pepper, and cook, without stirring, until well-browned on one side and still pink on the other, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Repeat with the remaining oil and beef. Drain beef and reserve.
2. Return the skillet to the heat and lower to medium-high. Add 1/2 cup of the butter and, when the foaming begins to subside, add the mushrooms and onions. Cook, stirring, until browned and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, mustard, juice, parsley, and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
4. Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Put the noodles back in their cooking pot, and toss with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter, and the reserved cooking liquid. Keep warm.
5. Re-heat the beef in the sour cream sauce over medium heat just until the beef is warm. Divide the noodles among six plates and top with the beef mixture. Serve immediately.