Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Walk on the Wild Side of Stroganoff...(or, Stroganoff Safari)

This time, we will be taking a trip down the stroganoff path. However, I will admit right now that the recipe I’m gonna post here includes a McCormack’s Stroganoff seasoning packet. I know what you’re thinking—you’re thinking that’s cheating, and it doesn’t really count as cooking if you use a seasoning packet.


Okay, good. Now that we’ve set some boundaries, we can continue. So, put on your Russian ear-flap hat, do a shot of vodka, and say до свидания (goodbye) to boring stroganoff recipes, because we’re gonna go rogue! We’re not satisfied with boring old beef stroganoff—no way. We’re gonna make…

…Buffalo stroganoff.

Yes, you heard right. Buffalo. As in, “give me a home where the buffalo roam” and as in the big creatures the Native Americans used to eat before we took away their land and natural resources and killed the wild ranging herds they ate.

Now, don’t get all wimpy on me. I’m not asking you to eat bats or monkey brains or Taco Bell. If it’s good enough for the Native Americans, it’s good enough for you—in fact, it’s very good for you, in many ways.

I’ll knock the one that I know is most important to you out of the way first. “Ew, buffalo—what does it taste like? It can’t possibly taste good!!” Wrong! Buffalo tastes just like high-quality beef. Buffalo are related to cows, so this stands to reason. It isn’t like eating venison or rabbit, which taste gamey and…different. I promise you right now, if I served this to you and you didn’t know better, you’d swear it was really good beef.

Now, most people at this point will say “then why not just eat beef?” Excellent question! Thanks so much for asking it, cause that’s just where I was gonna go next.

Going back to my first blog post, I wrote about the evils of the industrialized farming complex. Possibly the most disturbing part of the many, many disturbing issues with industrialized farming is how they produce beef. Cows are herbivores, who are built to be amazing processors of grass; grass is not easy to digest, but cows have a system of four stomachs that allows them to do this very efficiently. But, when you are raising several thousands of cows at once (or more), finding enough growing grass for them to eat is…well…inconvenient (read: expensive). So, industrial beef farmers solve this by feeding cows other things. When they are done slaughtering a cow (or other animals), they take the leftover bits, grind them up, and feed this to other cows. This is problematic for two main reasons; one, cows are not carnivores, let alone cannibals, and so do not digest this easily, and two, this is how cows get mad cow disease, which is then passed on to the humans who eat them. They get the disease from eating the nervous system pieces-parts of other cows and other animals that are ground up in the mix. Yum!

But this is only part of their diet. Because of other dysfunctions in the industrialized farming complex, the U.S. produces more corn that it can begin to use. So, the farmers had an epiphany—let’s feed the corn to the cows!! Well, turned out there was kind of a problem with that: cows can’t digest corn.

But this is the land of Yankee ingenuity. What do you mean cows can’t digest corn??!! Ridiculous, how dare they not digest corn! We simply don’t accept that. So, we’re gonna feed them corn anyway. And when they get sick, which they will, we’ll pump them full of antibiotics and hormones to keep them on artificial life support. And then we’ll slaughter them long before we would have otherwise, because their systems can only take that abuse for so long before they die. And cows that die before we kill them do not make us money. You know, pesky health codes and all of that.

These unnatural feeding practices have many consequences. Some are not immediately disturbing—for example, that beef is much less lean that it was 50 years ago, because the new diet marbles the beef more extensively. This means that when you eat the same steak your grandpa did, you are getting more fat and fewer nutrients. But others are deeply disturbing: eating all of those antibiotics and hormones impacts our systems, in ways that we don’t even fully understand yet. And let’s not forget the mad cow disease. Or, the cruelly-treated (corn-sickness is miserable for them), prematurely-slaughtered cows.

So what is the alternative? Well, one way to go is to eat grass-fed beef. This can be pretty darn expensive unless you can find the beef on sale. You can also eat buffalo/bison, which tastes like beef, and is actually much leaner naturally than beef is. This can also be expensive unless you can find the meat on sale. Of course, you can stop eating red meat. I don’t particularly care for that one, since I’m a beef addict from way back; I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure my first utterance was ‘I can has cheezeburger?’ A lovely compromise is to cut back on beef, and according to our doctors, this is better for us, anyway. So my husband and I have settled on a blended model: we can’t eat grass-fed beef or buffalo all the time, because it’s too expensive. So, we get it on sale when we can, eat red meat less often, and sometimes have regular beef when we have to (when eating out, can’t find it on sale, etc.). And rather than just eat beef less often we try to stretch it and the alternatives more than we would have previously when we do make it…and this recipe demonstrates one way to do this, by putting in more mushrooms than the original recipe calls for, and correspondingly less meat than the original called for.

So, let’s review Mishka’s propaganda: Why eat buffalo? Because it won’t kill you nearly as fast as beef, or screw with your immune system and hormones like beef, and you won’t get mad cow disease from it. Oh, and it tastes just as good, if not better, than beef. Sign me up.

The last hurdle in place is finding buffalo, and finding it at a reasonable price. I was completely blissed out when I recently discovered ground buffalo meat at Target, of all places. At full price, it will put a strain on your budget (approx. $5.99 a lb). But, it apparently periodically goes on sale for $2.99 a lb, which is not very much more than 90/10 ground beef. So if you keep an eye out, you can substitute it for beef a bit here and there without too much of a stretch.

Okay, well, by now I hope that I’ve convinced you to keep an open mind about buffalo, even if I didn’t quite convince you to try it right away. So, in the following recipe feel free to put beef right back in to replace the buffalo. Just don’t blame me if you grow extra boobs, develop antibiotic immunity, or get mad cow disease.

One important caveat about cooking buffalo. Because it is so much leaner than beef, it can dry out quickly if you aren’t careful. So, if you buy buffalo steak or make buffalo burgers on the grill, remember to shorten your cooking time. In the case of this recipe, you will sautee mushrooms in the same pan while you are browning the meat; this will keep enough liquid in the pan to keep the buffalo from drying out.

Buffalo ‘if-cows-can-do-it-so-can-we’ Stroganoff (pun connecting back to bad introductory joke intended)....

1 packet McCormack’s stroganoff seasoning
2 tbsp. Olive oil
Approx ½ to 1 pound ground buffalo meat
8-10 cups sliced mushrooms
¾ cup water
2 tbsp white or red wine (I prefer red, and I prefer to have the total liquid, water + wine = ¾ cup, so the sauce is thicker)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste (but keep in mind the stroganoff is meant to be peppery)
1 cup/8 oz. low-fat sour cream
1 lb package of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions

1) Heat approx. 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet.

2) Combine mushrooms and buffalo meat in the skillet. As you sautee the mushrooms, break the meat into smaller pieces, down to the size you desire. Cook together until buffalo is no longer pink.

3) Combine wine, water, and seasoning packet into the skillet. Heat until the mixture boils, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

4) Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream.

5) Serve over cooked egg noodles.

Note: Another way to stretch this recipe is to use less of the stroganoff mixture over more noodles. I love noodles, so this works wonderfully for me.

I have to send a shout out to Kandice for introducing me to the McCormack stroganoff packet, and making me one heck of a good plate of beef stroganoff. You rock!!

By the way, if you like a blog entry, let me know it! It can be lonely on this side of the blog

I’ll sign off for now, saying: хороший аппетит!
(or, bon appétit!)

© Michelle M. Chouinard 2007 All rights reserved.

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