As a kid growing up in a large family, I saw a lot of casseroles, sauces, and gravies. Mom made steak pies, beef and noodle casseroles, chicken and noodle casseroles, crust-topped, biscuit-topped, corn flake or cracker-topped. As an adult, they’re the foods I gravitate to when it starts getting cold – and they’re the ones I find easiest to make.

It wasn’t necessarily always so. I’d call her up and ask how she did something and she was always very vague about ingredients or cooking methods, times, and temperatures. It could be frustrating when I couldn’t quite replicate things. It finally dawned on me that she was vague about things because she always made things slightly different, usually based on what she had on hand. She didn’t have a recipe, per se, she had a concept that was built upon with whatever she had at hand. They were the same, yet ever-so-slightly different.

I so understand it now, because that’s exactly how I cook. The most difficult part of cooking for me is writing down what I did – trying to explain it. As did my mother before me, I put things in a pot, taste, add something, taste, add something… and continue until I like the result or I run out of things to add. And sometimes it’s difficult to remember that I’m the abnormal one – most people want a detailed recipe with detailed instructions.

It’s hard to do!

Today I picked up a whole beef eye of the round. After cutting it into steaks and a roast, I took the small end pieces and cut them up for what I thought would be a beef stroganoff over noodles. I started off by cooking off a small onion and about a quarter-pound of mushrooms. I took them out of the pan and added the beef.  When it was slightly browned, I added the onions and mushrooms back with a hefty splash of red wine. This was when stroganoff became beef and mushrooms.

When the wine cooked down, I added about two cups of beef broth and let that cook down a bit. I added the requisite salt and pepper, and a pinch of thyme. Looking back, I didn’t add any garlic. Unusual, for me.

I then thickened it with a bit of a flour and butter paste – a beurre manié. It’s fun tossing off French cooking terms.

It came together well, had lots of flavor and worked well with extra-wide egg noodles. The dollop of sour cream was the cherry on top.