Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Estrogonofe - Brazil's love affair with Beef Stroganoff

In its Russian homeland the dish of cubed beef cooked in a cream- and mushroom-based sauce called Beef Stroganoff dates back to the middle part of the 19th Century. The first known recipe for the dish can be found in a 1861 Russian cookbook by Elena Molokhovets called "A Gift to the Young Housewife."

It wasn't until the 1950s, though, that Stroganoff found popularity outside Russia. In that postwar decade, the dish became a symbol of international sophistication and gastronomic luxury in restaurants and at fancy dinner tables around the world. It enjoyed huge popularity in the USA, in Europe and Asia, and also in Brazil, where it became established as part of the national cuisine.

Although Stroganoff can still be found occasionally in North American and Europe, it no longer has the cachet it once enjoyed, and is sometimes treated almost ironically. Not in Brazil, though. Here the dish has become Brazilianized and is still served with pride by dinner-party hostesses and found at almost every buffet table in the land. The name has been adapted to Brazilian tongues, becoming Estrononofe, and the dish has been adapted to Brazilian palates, principally by adding additional ingredients to the sauce.

The original Stroganoff (the 19th century version) consisted of beef strips sauced with prepared mustard and bouillon, finished with a touch of sour cream. There were no mushrooms or onions involved. In its 1950s worldwide breakout, mushrooms and onions were generally added, the mustard was dropped, and the sauce became primarily a cream sauce made with sour cream. Today's Brazilian estroganofe is likely to contain, in addition, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire Sauce (called English Sauce "molho inglês" in Portuguese). As sour cream is generally not available in Brazil, creme de leite, as similar product, is used in its place.

In Brazil the traditional side dishes for estroganofe are white rice and packaged shoestring potatoes. It is generally not served with egg noodles as it might be in the USA or in Europe.

I'll post a traditional Brazilian recipe for estroganofe in the next post here on Flavors of Brazil.

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