This recipe is my version of a dish that has taken many forms since its creation in Russia in the mid-19th century, presumably by the French chef of a noble family. In addition to the basic ingredients — steak, mushrooms, onion, cream and mustard — some versions call for beef broth, flour, tomato paste, paprika and, in France, even white wine or cognac.
I prefer to go the simpler route, sticking to the basics. As the beef is cooked very quickly, the key to success is to start with a lean, tender, high-quality cut: filet if you can afford it, and otherwise tenderloin or, in France, onglet de boeuf (hanger steak) or harder to find but excellent cuts such as poire, merlan or araignée (no English-language equivalents).
The recipe can be prepared in 20 minutes or less. The quantities below will serve 3 people
1 pound (500 g) high-quality steak
1/2 pound (250 g) mushrooms
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. butter
1/2 cup (10 cl) crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh dill for garnish
Have the butcher cut the beef into steaks about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick.
Using a very sharp knife, slice the steaks crosswise into very thin strips. This is easier if you place the meat in the freezer for about 10 minutes before you begin.
Rinse the mushrooms, cut off the bottoms and slice thinly. Peel and mince the shallots.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. butter to sizzling. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 1 minute. Now add the mushrooms. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until they have released their juices. Turn the heat down as low as possible — just enough to keep the pan warm while you cook the beef.
In a separate skillet, heat the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. butter over very high heat. Add the beef and sauté, stirring, until it has just browned, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and grind on some pepper.
Add the beef slices and their juices to the shallots and mushrooms, and turn up the heat. Add the cream, stirring to blend. Add the mustard, stir again, taste and add more salt and pepper as necessary.
Serve piping hot over rice or noodles, adding some fresh dill for garnish. Serves 3.