Ain’t No Mountain Stroganoff! Or should that be Motown Stroganoff?
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We live by a very strict code of conduct at Cabernet Towers, central to which, other than our robust jazz-handing rules*, is the principle that a song must have been used in a professional theatrical stage production to become a valid target for a pun project (although we have been known to bend this rule on occasion). We are, therefore, eternally grateful to the phenomenon of the juke-box musical for opening up a whole portfolio of rock and pop songs, ripe for punnage.
*Jazz-handing must only be conducted in non-cooking times (health and safety, especially when handling knives) and non-blogging times (makes typing super-hard).
This leads us to segue as smoothly as a Marvin Gaye ballad to Motown: The Musical, the 2014 Broadway and current West End hit, retelling Berry Gordy’s founding of Motown records (and the hits they recorded), based on his autobiography, The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown. The show uses a gathering of the Motown stars for the 25th anniversary celebration of the record label as a framing device to tell the Gordy’s story in flashbacks. Featuring the Motown back-catalogue of hits, the show includes well know songs from The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas and The Supremes, to name but a few.
Oh baby there ain’t no mountain high enough,
Ain’t no valley low enough,
Ain’t no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough was originally a hit for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967, but nowadays the 1970 Diana Ross version (as featured in the show) is equally well-known, if not more-so. The song has had diverse uses over the years (other than as a perennial radio ear-worm) including advertisements, recent political campaigns and movie soundtracks (the Gaye version on Guardians Of The Galaxy and the Ross version on, erm, Chicken Little).
It is a little-known and possibly made-up fact that the original Marvin Gaye version originally included a food-related chorus which has served as inspiration for this dish:
Ain’t no mountain stroganoff
Ain’t no turkey dry enough
Ain’t no berry sloe enough
To keep me from eating with you
The earliest published beef stroganoff recipe dates from the 1871 edition Elena Molokhovet’s classic Russian cookery book, A Gift For Young Housewives. The recipe evolved over time, eventually spreading to the West following the Second World War. Traditionally, the dish was served with crisp potato straws, although rice became more usual in the westernised versions of the fifties and sixties and, nowadays, egg noodles are often considered the “classic” accompaniment.
The trick with this recipe is to keep the beef from over-cooking. Recipes often tend to suggest cooking the sauce and the beef, often already cut into strips, together. However, I find it best to cook them separately and combine at the end. In fact, I cook the beef as a steak and then slice it up once seared and rested. Remember that you will be stirring the beef through a hot sauce, so rare is a good place to aim for. If you don’t have brandy (or don’t want to cook with your prized VSOP cognac), you could replace with a generous glass of white wine (and less water) although the flavour won’t be quite the same. You could use sour cream instead of creme fraiche, but careful it doesn’t split.
Fry the sliced onion in the oil until softened and then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a minute or two. Add the brandy and allow the alcohol to boil off – or flambé it if you are happy to do so. Add the creme fraiche, allowing it to melt, then the paprika and nutmeg, mustard, beef stock concentrate and 100ml hot water (use more if needed). Keep the sauce warm while you cook the meat.
Cook the seasoned steaks (I use rump steaks and, although I know this is steak sacrilege, trim the fat off first when cooking them for this dish). Once they are done to your liking, move them to a warm plate and allow to rest for five minutes. After they have rested, pour any meat juice into your now reheated sauce and check seasoning one last time. Slice the steak into strips and stir through the sauce. Serve immediately with rice (or whatever else you may prefer) and a dusting of paprika and black pepper – and a crisp green salad with a vinaigrette dressing.
- 1 onion, sliced
- Oil for frying
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed or grated
- A handful of white mushrooms, chopped
- 2 tbs brandy
- 200g creme fraiche
- 400-500g rump steak
- 1 tbs beef stock concentrate
- 2 tsp paprika
- ½ to 1 tsp grated nutmeg
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 200ml water
- Salt and pepper
- Rice and salad, for serving
- Fry the onion in the oil until softened and then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a minute or two.
- Add the brandy and allow the alcohol to boil off - or flambé it if you are happy to do so. Add the creme fraiche, allowing it to melt, then the paprika and nutmeg, mustard, beef stock concentrate and 100ml hot water (use more if needed). Keep the sauce warm while you cook the meat.
- Cook the seasoned steaks. Once they are to your liking, move them to a warm plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- Once rested, pour any meat juice into your now reheated sauce and check seasoning one last time. Slice the steak into strips and stir through the sauce.
- Serve immediately with rice and a dusting of paprika and black pepper - and a crisp green salad with a vinaigrette dressing.