I just started watching The Blacklist and I. Can’t. Stop. The writing on this show is great and I love contemplating whether or not someone is “good” or “bad” after every episode. Great suspense, great dark humor, tons of food references and it has James Spader; I can’t think of anything missing!
For those of you that are unfamiliar with this show it is about Raymond “Red” Reddington, a former Navy officer turned high-profile criminal who, after eluding capture for decades, tells the FBI that he has a list of the most dangerous criminals in the world that he has compiled over the years and is willing to inform on their operations in exchange for immunity. However, he insists on working only with a rookie FBI agent by the name of Elizabeth Keen. Once Elizabeth starts working with Red her whole world becomes this surreal situation where the people she thought she knew are strangers and the people she is just encountering have been on the sidelines of her life for longer than she knows. The viewer has no idea who is meaning to do her harm or help her; we also have no idea regarding Red’s intentions for working only with Elizabeth. (At least as far as I have watched it!)
Raymond Reddington spent his criminal years globetrotting around the world and has been to his fair share of exotic locales. He has also enjoyed a wide spectrum of delicious food. However, the dish I have chosen to write about in terms of this show is one that is pretty common and not exactly exotic: Beef Stroganoff. Originating in Russia and popular in almost every region of the world, Beef Stroganoff is featured in one of the most memorable scenes of The Blacklist to date.
During the first season, in the episode “The Good Samaritan Killer” Red is still looking for the leak in the FBI. He discovers that money had been transferred into an agent’s bank account and goes to investigate the banker that handled the money. The scene is set up so that the banker arrives home to find his wife drinking wine, hanging out and cooking Beef Stroganoff for Red. If that isn’t bizarre enough, when Red fails to get the information he is seeking and shoots the banker in the leg the wife reacts by screaming hysterically and insisting that they call a doctor. Things get kicked up a notch when an exasperated Red threatens to put her in the closet if she doesn’t stop; he ends up cramming her in the closet. After Janice continues to yell from the closet an even more irritated Red tells her in a strangely non threatening way that he will shoot through the closet door if she doesn’t stop yelling. Finally, Red leaves with the information he wanted but not before yelling, “Janice, my sincerest apologies. I’ll take a rain check on the Stroganoff. It smells delicious!” Wtf?
Obviously, the scene is memorable because of its absurdity and that is one of the reasons why it is important. It’s significant because it marks a major moment in the show where the writers realized that they could make this dark or make it dark humor; they went the humor route. The scene mirrors one from the film Taken where Liam Neeson’s character is trying to get information and the scene goes the route of dark, bloody and intense; when the same sort of scene presented itself in The Backlist we get humor. This is because Red’s character is happy, full of life and he is just as good at making friends as he is at making enemies. By utilizing Red’s personality the writers were able to reach their objective for the scene (getting the information) but in a fun and unpredictable way. The “Stroganoff Scene” actually changed the course of the show.
This scene is also significant because it hints at the lengths that Red will go to in order to tie up loose ends but also demonstrates his sense of fair play. He is a man willing to befriend the wife of his target, use lies and persuasion in addition to violence. This man was just one small part of the equation and Red spends a great deal of energy getting the information he wants. He is able to get the information from the banker without harming Janice at all and without causing any unnecessary damage. This scene is indicative of Red’s style in these types of matters, he is thorough, efficient, and totally charming. This scene is where Red becomes the anti-hero that viewers really applaud.
I was excited to make this dish because like Janice, I already had a recipe that I have used for years that I make when “company” comes over. I wrote the recipe using round steak and that is what I actually used this time but I have previously made this with all sorts of cuts including stew beef. So use whatever you are comfortable with.
Cooking the mushrooms right in the pan after the meat has been removed allows you to deglaze the pan with the mushroom juices. This really helps blend the flavors of the dish. Adding the onions to the skillet when the mushrooms have had time to start breaking down is the key to avoiding overdone onions and underdone mushrooms. This way, they finish at the same time making the texture of the dish really great.
One key to the sauce for this dish is to let the sour cream warm up a bit on the counter before adding it to the skillet. Doing this helps to temper the sauce so its less grainy and integrates better with the other ingredients. After whisking the sauce together you add all the other components back in and it’s Stroganoff magic.
This dish is one of my favorites because it’s simple; alternatively I am loving The Blacklist because of the complexities. I am delighted that both could come together for this post. I may make another batch to eat while I binge watch the next season of The Blacklist this weekend.
1-1.5 pds Round steak
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 (10.5 oz.) can of cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
8oz egg noodles cooked.
- Cut the steak into thin strips against the grain. Coat with salt, pepper and flour.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Brown the meat and set aside.
- Reduce heat to low. Add the mushrooms and cook 1-2 minutes. Add onions and continue cooking until done.
- Add Worcestershire sauce, soup and sour cream. Whisk together to blend, making sure you get all leftover browned bits off bottom of skillet.
- Bring to a boil, simmer 10 minutes.
- Add the meat back in and the egg noodles. Stir to coat. Serve.