Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bœuf (Beef) Stroganoff on your French Menu?

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated March 2018
French menus may offer Bœuf Stroganoff, Bœuf Stroganov, Emincé de Bœuf Stroganoff, or Filet de Bœuf Façon Stroganov. English language menus may offer Beef Stroganoff or Beef Stroganov.
Despite this dish’s Russian name, its creation would seem to be distinctly French. Thin slices of beef are cut from the fillet and accompanied by fried onions and mushrooms prepared in butter and then covered with a white wine, paprika, and crème fraiche sauce lightly flavored with mustard,  The dish will be served with rice or thin dumplings on the side.
One look at the ingredients in the dish noted above, and you see France written all over the recipe; however, the chef who created this dish did not leave his signature. The arguments over the origins of this dish point to Russian cooking methods that are very different.
An otherwise very knowledgeable French Maitre D’ advised me that this dish was named for a famous Russian diplomat, Count Pavel Stroganoff, in 1890. However, when I checked up on Count Pavel Stroganoff, I discovered that this renowned member of the Stroganoff family died in 1817; that would have been long before the dish was created.
French chefs only became important for the Russian aristocracy after Csar Alexander I hired that most famous of French chefs Antonin Carême in 1817. After that date the most probable Stroganov to hire a French chef and have a dish name after himself was Sergei Grigoriyevich Stroganov (1794–1882).  Sergei Stroganov founded the Moscow Arts and Industrial Institute in 1825 and was the governor general of Moscow from 1859–1860. He seems the most suitable candidate. Unfortunately, I cannot find out who his chef was.
Sergei Grigoriyevich Stroganov (1794–1882)
By the 1870’s, there were no male Stroganoffs, outside of the royal family, to carry on the name, so Sergei Grigoriyevich Stroganov probably does hold the honor for Beef Stroganoff.
Today’s French chefs use crème fraiche while modern Russian recipes indicate the use of sour cream. Sour cream is not available in every French supermarket; just as crème fraiche is rarely seen in Russia and would have been completely unavailable in the 1800s.  French chef’s working in Russia one hundred and fifty years ago would have used sour cream. When they returned home in the absence of sour cream, the traditional crème fraiche would have been used.
Inside the Stroganoff Palace.
St Petersburg, Russia.
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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