Phelan's Favorite Meal

By Aaron Phelan

On Halloween nobody likes to cook. Everyone wants to partake in the festivities of the season. Sitting outside on Halloween night, distributing candy to excited children and mischievous teens, usually requires a small fire or a pile of blankets to keep warm. My fellow Ohioans know what I’m talking about. The colder weather makes me crave things like soup or stew to warm me up from the inside. I would compare the feeling I get after this kind of comfort food meal is similar to accomplishing a goal. It makes me feel fulfilled in way that can’t completely be explained. Like a memory playing out in real time. The feeling from the best times in my life come from this upcoming recipe. My grandpa comes to mind.

We call him Papa. Papa was a man who made food that fed our souls, not just the rumbling in our stomachs. His love, energy and good intentions were always palpable in every bite. He was no five-star chef by any means but in our family Papa was the king of the breakfast, lunch and dinner (Papa would call dinner, supper) table. Papa is one of the best people I have ever known. He made things like Swiss Steak, London Broil, Chilli Spaghetti, Beef Stew and Beef Stroganoff. The most amazing thing is that he never missed. He always hit the spot and with ten ingredients or less. He is my full inspiration. I have favorite chefs, restaurants and cuisines but nothing inspires me more than recreating dishes that he would make so effortlessly. His love for food made me love food. His love for music made me love music. His love for family made me love my family more than anything in the world.

There were times when I was a kid when my brother and I would ask if we could go spend the night at Nana and Papa’s. Part of it was the food. Most of it was the quality time with the greatest set of grandparents anyone could ask for. This is where my love for this dish comes from. If we were super lucky my brother and I would be able to knock on Nana and Papa’s door, on an autumn evening, and when the door opened, we would smell Beef Stroganoff on the stove. I would be so excited. Excited to eat supper then watch The Amazing Race or some other TV show while slurping down my favorite dessert of melted vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup out of a bowl with a built in straw. The miniature poodle, with attitude, attitude named Sarah would be napping in the bay window behind me as the sun was setting. Those fall nights are what Beef Stroganoff is to me. This is my favorite food and I love cooking it in the fall, Halloween time particularly. I had many great Halloween nights at nana and Papa’s house.

This is probably not a classical Beef Stroganoff recipe and I don’t care. When we went over classic German recipes in culinary school I tuned them out because I had already found the only German-style recipe I care about. And here it is. My take on Papa’s Beef Stroganoff:

Beef Stroganoff


Stew Meat/1 Lb

Olive Oil/2 Oz.

Garlic/1 Clove

White Mushrooms/1 Tablespoon

Heavy Cream/1 Tablespoon

Sour Cream/2 Cups

Extra Wide Egg Noodles/12 Cups

Beef Stock/16 Oz.

Flour/2 Oz.

Salt/To Taste

Pepper/To Taste


  1. Get all of the ingredients out and chop the mushrooms to whatever size you like. I think the smaller the better.
  2. Cut the meat into ½ inch cubes. Who am I kidding? Just buy the meat already cut.
  3. You will need a medium sized pot, a knife, and a big spoon. So get that out before you start cooking.
  4. Fill a pot with salted water.
  5. Get that salted water up to a boil and cook the pasta.
  6. When the noodles are done; strain them and run them under cold water until they are cold so they don’t turn to mush.
  7. You can toss them in a little oil to keep them from sticking.
  8. Now get that pot back on the stove over medium-high heat.
  9. Salt and pepper all of the beef.
  10. Then toss the beef and half the flour together.
  11. Add the oil to the pan.
  12. When the oil starts to smoke add the meat. Get a nice crust on the meat.
  13. When the meat has is nice and browned add the rest of the flour. Give it a nice stir.
  14. Then add the beef stock.
  15. On medium-low heat let that simmer for 20 minutes. Simmer means slow bubbling. The bubbles should be small.
  16. After 20 minutes add the cream.
  17. Stir the sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  18. After 10 minutes add the sour cream. Stir it up and make sure you taste it.
  19. Then add more salt or pepper, if its bland, a little bit at a time until the flavors are boosted.
  20. Ladle the meat and sauce over the noodles.
  21. Eat up!

Photo Credit: Sydney Schmitz