My Mother’s Cookbook; Recipes from Professionals: Beef Stroganoff, Yorkshire Pudding, Corn Sticks, Pushover Popovers
My mother regularly clipped recipes from newspapers and magazines for cooking ideas that appealed to her. She also had a collection of cookbooks that filled the open cubby of the old Hoosier Cabinet that had been in her kitchen since long before she lived there. She used this assortment of recipes to compare ingredients and processes for a certain dish, extrapolating what "sounded best" to use.
Home cooks inadvertently make recipes their own in this way, with no intention of infringing on an author's proprietary rights. For this reason, copyrights or patents on recipes tend to be ineffective. Some cooks, blessed with keen palettes, can identify the components of almost any food or drink they've tasted. They have only to experiment with proportions, in their own kitchen, to concoct a delicious facsimile of the original.The obvious way to avoid suspicion of pirating another cook's creation is to attribute the source. My mother did this throughout her cookbook, regardless of whether the recipe came from a relative, close friend, acquaintance, restaurant, cookbook, newspaper, or magazine. I've done the same for the recipes included in this series.
The popularity of beef stroganoff soared in the mid-twentieth century. Mom started serving the dish when I was in college, and she passed the recipe on to me when I began to cook regularly. A sophisticated but simple dish to prepare, it became one of my favorites.
Beef Stroganoff (Fanny Farmer Cookbook, 1959 edition)
2 pounds beef sirloin
1 tablespoon minced onion
4 tablespoons butter (divided use)
one-half pound white mushrooms, washed well and sliced
one-half pint sour cream
salt and dash of nutmeg
Cut beef in one- by two-inch strips. Cook onion in two tablespoons butter until soft. Add the beef and brown quickly on medium-high heat. Set aside.
In another skillet, melt remaining two tablespoons of butter. Brown mushrooms on medium-high heat for about five minutes. Season with salt and nutmeg.
Combine mushrooms with beef and onion; add the sour cream. Heat to a slight simmer; taste for seasoning, adding more nutmeg, if desired. Serve with white, brown, or wild rice. Serves six.
Part of the cooking mystique relies on the creation of a welcoming ambience around the dinner table. This includes arranging an attractive table and presenting the food with a relaxed flair that belies the work involved in preparing it. Guests should be enticed by mysterious aromas wafting from the kitchen and come to the table primed for a good meal.
Yorkshire pudding requires carefully orchestrated last-minute preparation, but the results add an impressive accompaniment to beef rib roast. This luxurious dish dates from eighteenth century England, when cooks learned to bake a pancake-like batter in the hot drippings of mutton or beef as it roasted on an open fire. The pudding bakes to a golden brown crown and makes a natural partner to the meat.
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