I got this recipe from an elderly couple in a tiny restaurant on the Volga. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant but I do remember that inside the inn was authentic history. The couple claimed to be direct descendants of the real Count Stroganov. Over the fireplace in the main dining room was a huge portrait of the count. I was the only “Amerikanski” this couple had seen so when I made a big deal of how delicious the meal was, they gave me this recipe, along with some “Ruski” history. Beef Stroganoff – translated into English – was named for a noted Russian gourmand, Count Pavel Stroganov, who flourished in the Gay Nineties of the last century. He was a dignitary at the Court of Tsar Alexander III and a member of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. No one knows if the Count himself invented the recipe which has immortalized him, or if his chef conjured it up. The Count’s name is virtually unknown in the annals of Russian military history. However, lovers of fine food know the name Stroganov throughout the world. The only Stroganov mentioned anywhere in Russian military history is one peasant-born fighter who helped Ivan the terrible conquer the vast territory of Siberia. There are several versions of Beef Stroganoff known throughout the world, but below is the classic Russian recipe. I have included two others that are just as tasty but a little easier to prepare and the ingredients would be better obtainable. The secret of the sauce is the mustard in it. Even this classic recipe for Beef Stroganoff has undergone changes during the past 20 years. In the south of Russia, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste has crept into the sauce. Or a few cooked mushrooms, sliced may be added. In the United States, we add both. The result is tasty, but it isn’t the real beef Stroganoff. My friends in the Ministry of health even prefer to leave the mustard out of the sauce. They substitute a few drops of lemon juice. I met one couple who prefers a few drops of a strong mushroom ketchup, known as “mushroom essence” in Russia.