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PortWatch

January 29, 2014

A healthy burger to nosh during the Sochi Games

Hunkering down to watch sports on TV usually involves grabbing the traditional grub — chicken wings, sliders, nachos, that sort of stuff.

But with the Olympics in Russia looming, I thought it might be fun to turn instead to a classic of Russian cuisine, namely, beef stroganoff. A rich dish with a noble birthright (scholars disagree about which particular Count Stroganov the dish is named for), beef stroganoff was a staple at America’s tonier restaurants during the ’60s and ’70s.

The standard recipe calls for thinly sliced beef with a sauce of sauteed mushrooms and sour cream. But I’ve engineered a healthy version that delivers luxurious flavor using lean ground beef and low-fat sour cream. The obvious appeal of lean ground beef is that it cuts the fat. And if you can find 100 percent grass-fed ground beef, you’ll be using an ingredient that’s good for the environment, too.

Either way, you’ll need to do something to counterbalance the tendency of lean ground beef to turn into a dry burger. My usual solution is to reach for sauteed onions or shredded carrots or cabbage. But this time, out of respect for traditional stroganoff, it made sense to go with mushrooms.

My first pass, using sauteed, fresh mushrooms, resulted in burgers that were crumbly. The second pass, using soaked, dried mushrooms, worked out much better. Dried mushrooms — soaked in chicken broth, water or wine — bring two assets to any recipe: the mushrooms themselves and the instant (and deeply flavorful) sauce provided by the liquid in which the mushrooms are soaked.

Teamed up with some caramelized onions, the mushrooms made the burgers nice and moist. The veggies also added bulk. Now the burgers weren’t just moist, they were plump and substantial, qualities that don’t apply to the standard quarter-pounder.

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