Monday, March 5, 2018

Recipes: Aunt Helen's Stroganoff

Recently my cousin Shelly asked if I had the recipe for stroganoff that her Grandmother, my Aunt Helen Melat Steffee, used to make. Not only do I have it, but it is one of the few recipes I can make by memory. Aunt Helen first cooked the tasty stroganoff for me when I moved to the DC area for college in 1984. When I visited her on the weekends at her townhouse in Rockville, Maryland, the stroganoff was a recurring dinner staple.

This particular recipe was from a 1970s-era subscription deal from Better Homes and Gardens in which every month a packet of recipes would arrive in the mail (for the low, low monthly price of $9.95, or whatever that translates into 1970s dollars). The initial delivery came with a plastic container for the laminated recipe cards. She had a couple dozen recipes in that box, but there were only two recipes that I remember her making, one was the stroganoff and the other was a chicken and rice dish with peas and ham. The stroganoff was so good that I copied the recipe and began to make it myself. I really do not know how authentic it is to "real" stroganoff, but it is my go to recipe for it. The few times that I have ordered it at a restaurant have always left me disappointed.

So Shelly, here is the recipe... Bon Appetit!

2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 lbs. beef stew meet, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons shortening (I use vegetable or olive oil)
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 4 oz. can sliced mushrooms (I use fresh mushrooms)
1 tablespoon beef bouillon (I use beef broth in place of the water and bouillon)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 drops red pepper sauce (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup sour cream

Cooked egg noodles

Combine the flour and salt and coat the stew meat, set aside.
In a large skillet, heat half the oil and sauté the onions and garlic.
Once the onions become translucent and have softened without browning, remove from skillet and set aside.
Add the remain oil and cook the beef until browned on all sides.
Once the beef is browned, return the onions and garlic to the skillet and add the water, tomato sauce, mushrooms, bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until beef is tender, about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally; add water if necessary.
Once the beef is tender turn off the heat and stir in sour cream.
Serve over egg noodles.

Friday, February 23, 2018

...while her name is still spoken: Great-Grandma Effie Hoffman

Photo was taken on Grandma Hoffman's 80th birthday
in 1969 at Grandma Melat's home in Oil City.
February 23rd is Great-grandma Effie Hoffman's birthday. I would not say that I knew her well, but she was most definitely a part of my growing up. When I was born she was 85 years old and she died when she was 93 and I was 17. I remember her as a quiet, thin, frail woman with a pleasant smile. Even though I always lived within 5 miles of her, I saw her occasionally throughout the each year, mostly at holidays and birthdays. This photograph of her with me, my sister Kim, and cousins Cordie, Lee, and Alecia is unusual for two reasons. One is that Grandma Hoffman was not known to be the warm, cuddly grandmother and there are not many (any other) picture of us with her. And two, I do not remember her laughing... my bet is Lee had something to do with that.

My earliest recollection of her was when I was around 5 or 6. I was spending the afternoon at Grandma Melat's home on Riverside Drive in Oil City and Grandma Hoffman, her mother, was visiting. The three of us were in the sunroom on the side of the house. Grandma Melat was sitting in her place on the red and green tweed couch at one end of the room and Grandma Hoffman was sitting in a matching chair on the opposite side of the room. I was playing on the floor between them with a teddy bear that had a blue satin ribbon tied in a bow around its neck. The ribbon came untied and I asked Grandma Hoffman to put it back on. Instead of tying it on herself she proceeded to teach me how to tie the bow. I don't remember how long it took me to learn the task, but when I left there that day not only could I tie the ribbon around the neck of that bear, but I could tie my shoelaces

Another memorable interaction with her took place just a couple years before she passed away. I had finished compiling a family history of her family and I had brought it up to show her daughter, my Aunt Ruth, at their house on Charlton Street in Oil City. By then Grandma Hoffman was frail and her only interaction with us when we would visit was a pleasant smile as she sat quietly with us in the room. At Aunt Ruth's encouragement, I put the book in her lap and knelt beside her. As I explained what the book was and flipped through the pages, she would tap the pictures on the pages with her finger, looking at me with a big smiling eyes, acknowledging that she recognized the faces of her family in the pictures.

With fond memories...