This was one of my favorite dishes as a kid, a less-expensive version of the classic dish created and named for a Count Stroganov in late 19th-century Russia. Very popular in America during the 60s and 70s, the original recipe for Beef Stroganoff called for thin sliced of pricey beef fillet. Although my mom used meatballs instead, it seemed luxurious to me. Eventually my mom (and my aunt Jean and my grandmother) stopped making it, maybe because it finally seemed too old fashioned. By the time I wanted to demonstrate it on my show, Beef Stroganoff was so antique that none of my relatives could come up with a recipe — and all I remembered of it were the bouillon cubes, tomato paste and cultivated mushrooms.
When I re-created the recipe, I lost the bouillon cubes (too chemical-tasting to me now) and the tomato paste but kept the cultivated mushrooms — although you would get a more elegant dish if you used such flavorful mushrooms as shiitakes or chanterelles. The ground beef of choice is chuck because it has the most flavor (and the most fat, too, alas). If you want to make a lighter version of this dish, you can substitute ground sirloin or ground round and low-fat sour cream.
Combine the chuck, half of the chopped onion, the garlic, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, egg yolks, and water in a large bowl. Mix well and form meatballs that measure about 1-inch in diameter. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, shaking and turning, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Don't crowd the pan; work in batches, if necessary. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Pour off any excess fat from the skillet, leaving 3 tablespoons in the pan and add the remaining onion. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the liquid they give off has evaporated, 7 to 10 minutes. Pour in the sherry, increase the heat to high, and boil until almost all the liquid they give off has evaporated. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.
Rub the butter with the flour in a small bowl until it forms a smooth paste. Pinch off pea-sized pieces and add little by little to the boiling sauce, whisking constantly for 3 minutes. Add the meatballs, stir in the dill, and sour cream, season with salt and pepper, and cook over low heat until the meatballs are just heated through. Serve hot.
Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton, Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, Broadway Books, 2002