JEFF TIEDEMAN: Comfort on a cold dayBeef stroganoff and grilled cheese sandwich fit the bill.
It’s been pretty hard to complain about the weather this winter. We’ve had just a smattering of snowfall — in town, you can see the grass in some places, and fields are mostly black in the countryside — and temperatures generally have been pretty mild.
But there have been a few cold days, and it looks as if we could see some below-zero readings this weekend.
And it’s those kinds of days when I’m inclined to fix something that’s filling as well as comforting.
And that’s exactly what I did about a week and a half ago.
I had a couple of medium-sized pieces of round steak in the refrigerator that we had planned to feed to Sassy, our then-ailing 12-year-old Labrador/golden retriever cross, but she refused to eat them.
Her loss was our gain, though, in the form of a tasty beef stroganoff, one of my favorites dishes. (I can’t wait to try the hearty mushroom stroganoff at Noodles and Company.)
A little background
Stroganoff is a Russian dish in which beef, onions and mushrooms are mixed in a sour cream sauce and served over noodles. And it is a classic comfort food, complete with protein, starch and veggies.
The dish dates back to the 19th century and became popular in the U.S. after World War II, when service members and Russian immigrants returning from the war brought it stateside. Beef stroganoff also was a favorite of former presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
I had tried my hand at stroganoff several times over the years — mostly using venison or elk, which is a good way to use wild game. But it never had turned out as good as my latest effort.
I think what made this one so good was that it was a combination of two recipes that each contained different favorite ingredients of mine (Worcestershire sauce, cooking sherry, tomato paste, broth and cream of mushroom soup).
As with most stroganoff recipes, the two I chose from contained a lot of fat and calories. But I was able to slim my version down a bit by just making a few changes.
Instead of a stick of butter to brown the onion and garlic in, I used just 2 tablespoons. Some beef broth was substituted for part of the cup of half-and-half that was called for, and I used light sour cream and reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup.
Grilled cheese, too
When chatting with one of my friends recently, he said a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup is one of the most satisfying meals he can think have when the weather turns nasty.
I agreed with him and said that he was in good company.
Several former presidents have counted grilled cheese sandwiches among their favorites.
George W. Bush likes grilled cheese sandwiches made with Kraft singles and white bread. Two of the Carter family’s sandwich favorites included country ham with Cheddar cheese and grilled Cheddar with bacon and tomato.
And a typical luncheon in the Kennedy family’s quarters on the occasional days when there was no state function often featured grilled cheese sandwiches.
I guess it just goes to show you that while we don’t always see eye to eye with our country’s leaders, we do have one thing in common — comfort foods.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.