Noodles and Co is one of the few chain restaurants I just fucking love, surprising exactly no one who has ever seen my Instagram feed. Despite serving mostly pasta, it's maybe the only restaurant I can think of that doesn't even reference "Italian" on its menu, instead dividing it up into American and Mediterranean, which is tbh a hell of a lot more accurate. In Chicago, this was my warm little oasis outside of the Southport brown line stop, where I'd place an order on the internet, trudge down into the snow under the tracks to pick it up, and try to make it back just as the next train pulled up. What I ordered depended entirely on how I was feeling when I originally boarded.
- "I want my mom" = Wisconsin mac and cheese with chicken
- "I wish it were spring" = pesto cavatappi
- "I'm going to die of this cold probably" = chicken noodle soup with extra soup
- "I need to be healthy but my day was garbage" = whole grain tuscan linguine with parmesan chicken
- "This winter is endless and I may never feel warm again" = mushroom stroganoff
Last Thursday was foggy and cold (66°) in LA, meaning it was a Stroganoff kind of night. Stroganoff for some reason varies a lot depending on who writes the recipe, and the versions I've made with Worcestershire have always sucked. So I decided to track down the thing I really wanted and make it: the Noodles and Co way. On their menu, this dish is referred to as "Mushroom stroganoff with marinated steak."
← definitely steak chunks
they look p. tender actually
I was pleased to find an "official" recipe on a blog with an amazing title, noodlesandcompanyathome.blogspot.com, that apparently specializes exclusively in re-doing fast casual chain classics. I bought the sirloin tips it listed as the meat source. I cooked them exactly as the recipe suggested, in beef broth until tender. As I stood there wafting meat grease, I started to get the feeling that this isn't the thing I remember and it used to be different and now I need to know why.
What I remembered was fall-apart tender beef that you could softly slice with a plastic fork and scoop onto a noodle. The mushrooms were meaty and chunky; the sauce was velvety and sort of cheesy and tangy. And for the most part, the taste here was okay. But the steak was tough and sad and felt very... square? The sauce was thin, and not clingy enough (sidenote: actually one instance where that's an aspirational quality!). It lacked that long, slow, fork-tender vibe. I hate to waste calories on anything other than what I intend, and especially on the rare occasion I follow directions, I expect my results to be almost painfully exact. So I bothered my boyfriend all night with suggestions about what could be wrong with it. He said "maybe it should be... shreddier."
And so began an obsessive compulsive meltdown to prove that, at one point, the beef WAS shreddier, which led me deep into the bowels of Yelp user photos c. 2007 from now-closed Noodles & Co locations with 3 stars. But I found it.
(honestly now that I look at it I should prob make the wisconsin mac sometime too)
I don't care that they changed the menu. I care that I was right.
Stroganoff in general is one of those dishes that, because it has no "authentic" origin beyond allegedly being named for some czarist Russian family (probably by Americans), can be modified as much as you want and still be technically accurate. Apparently the braise method is a totally valid and underutilized way to make this dish, apparently as a way to save money, which is negated by the fact that I used a grass-fed chuck roast cubed for me at Whole Foods. Also valid is the lack of Worcestershire, as well as the mixture of both cream AND sour cream to make a looser, creamier, less-brown sauce. Acceptable topics run a range of "nothing" to the Noodles and Co classic, shredded asiago cheese. It will not win a beauty contest or a thin contest for all of the above reasons.
However, according to this article, despite how genetically-altered this dish can be before really qualifying as "inauthentic", the author of this article would "probably draw the line at the addition of habanero salsas, or herbes de Provence." And yet, here we are, dumping in a full tablespoon of those herbes in here, regretting nothing, and I have to say I can't imagine Stroganoff tasting like Stroganoff without it. Your mileage may vary.
And here you have the only existing recipe for the 2007-era version of Braised Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff via Noodles and Company, and it is a flawless representation of a time that the internet forgot. Perfect for the person in your life who hates updating their phone software and/or still listens to music from their oldest iPod playlist in the car.
Effortful time: 30 minutes
Total time: 3 hours (most of it during the braise — a nice Sunday project!)
Serves: 4-6 (we got about 5 servings)
- 10 oz extra-wide egg noodles
- 2 tablespoons high-heat oil, like safflower or avocado
- 1 1/4 lbs. beef chuck, or similar braising beef, cubed
- 1 1/2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 2 cups beef broth, preferably grass-fed
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 14 oz small cremini mushrooms, quartered
- 1/3 cup cream
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
- Shaved Asiago cheese, for serving
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- On high heat, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil in a large, heavy pan (one big enough to hold the entire dish at the end — I used a 3.5qt cast iron braiser).
- Cube the beef (or do as I do, and ask your butcher to do it for you — I used 1" cubes). Salt and pepper the beef and add to the pan, leaving space around each piece. Brown on all sides, without cooking fully through. My pan was big enough to do this in a single batch.
- Leaving the heat on high, toss the flour over the beef. Cook 1 more minute, until all the white is cooked out. Deglaze with sherry, scraping up the cooked flour and beefy bits. Pour in broth and stir in herbes de provence. Cover and put in the oven for 2.5 hours.
- 2.5 hours? Toss in that load of towels skulking on your floor! Paint and allow your nails to fully dry for once! Shower and moisturize! Catch up on episodes of television from 8 years ago! Furminate your cat! Organize your lentils! Go buy the mushrooms you forgot earlier! Or whatever! You do you! Because you've got 2.5 hours!
- Ok, time's up. Remove the pot and check it out: It should fall apart basically by looking at it. Cover and let cool while you do the next steps. This is also where you start boiling your pasta water.
- While the water boils, heat a sauté pan over high heat (sorry, 3 pot meal happening here). Add the quartered shrooms, add salt to taste, and saute until they've released their liquid and shrank a bit. Add the onions and continue to sauté until onions are lightly caramelized and mushrooms are well-browned, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Water should be boiling. Add your pasta. If using the extra-wide egg noodles and you plan to toss them with the sauce, I highly recommend you undercook them by about 2 minutes LESS than the minimum package directions.
- Add cooked mushrooms, onions, and garlic to the beef pan. It's up to you if you want to shred the beef a bit more here — I did. Return this pan to a low simmer.
- Microwave the regular cream for about :20 to get it up to not-cold. Stir the sour cream into the beef mixture until evenly combined. Then add the warmed cream and give a few more stirs. Taste and season if needed.
- You have two options now: you can either scoop the finished pasta (I didn't bother draining) from the water and directly into the skillet, or you can serve this sauce over the noodles. Either way, it helps to add a small amount of pasta water to the beef skillet before you serve.
- Congratulate yourself with a nice wintery cabernet: you just achieved time travel AND resurrection, all in one night.