Friday, October 07, 2005

What have you been up to Rose?

I'm resting here in my living room with the Food Network on in the background. This week has been exhausting: my first exam of the semester, Rosh Hashanah, all the work I had to make up because of the holiday and battling a bad head cold through all of it. I had little time or energy to cook this week, so after a nice sleep last night I was ready to cook something exciting, something with a bit of a kick.

Since returning to the US last month, I've been slowly catching up on the latest issues of Cook's Illustrated. The Thai Chili Beef recipe (July/August 2005) sounded both simple and tasty with the "kick" I was looking for. I had ordered the blade steak last week from Fresh Direct as well as having bought and freezed a handful of jalapeño chiles at a local farmer's market.

Making this dish was fairly simple, although I realize I need to get a new garlic press ASAP (I accidently put my old aluminum one in the dishwasher. Oops!), I'm just not very good (or quick) at mincing garlic the old-fashioned way. I love cilantro in just about any Asian dish (and Mexican for that matter) and there's lots of it in this recipe.

One of the best things about recipes from Cook's Illustrated is that they have been tested so many times so that the kinks have been worked out and it's all explained in clear and simple language (which isn't always the case with many recipes in magazines and even the most well-known cookbooks).

To accompany the beef dish, I made both Chinese white rice (I think jasmine rice would have been better, but I've run out of it) and another recipe from the same issue of Cook's Illustrated: Mango and Sweet Pepper Salsa with Toasted Pepitas. The sweetness of the mango and the acidic kick of the lime juice plays really well against the Asian chili-garlic paste in the beef recipe. The pepitas add a nice crunchy texture to the soft mango and of course I added lots of cilantro.

So I'm rested and well fed. The best way to end a very busy week.

Stir-Fried Thai-Style Beef with Chiles and Shallots serves 4 with rice

(adapted from Cook's Illustrated-July/August 2005)

Beef and Marinade
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 lb. blade steaks, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch thick strips (against the grain)

2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tbsp. Asian chili-garlic paste
3 med. garlic cloves, minced or pressed thru garlic press (about 1 tbsp.)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 serrano or jalapeño chiles, halved, seeds and ribs removed, chiles cut crosswise 1/8 inch thick
3 med. shallots, trimmed of ends, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and layers separated
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, large leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup roughly chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
Lime wedges for serving

1. For the Beef and Marinade: Combine coriander, white pepper, brown sugar, and fish sauce in large bowl. Add beef, toss well to combine; marinate 15 minutes.

2. For the Stir-fry: In small bowl, stir together fish sauce, vinegar, water, brown sugar, and chili-garlic paste until sugar dissolves; set aside. In small bowl, mix garlic with 1 tsp. oil; set aside. Heat 3 tsp. oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking; add beef to skillet in even layer. [Here's where I changed up the recipe a bit because it didn't want to cook the beef in batches like the recipe called for.] Cook without stirring, until well browned, about 2-3 minutes, then stir and continue cooking until beef is browned around edges and no longer pink in the center, about 30 seconds to a minute. Transfer beef to medium bowl.

3. After transferring the beef to the bowl, reduce heat to medium; add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to now-empty skillet and swirl to coat. Add chiles and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until begining to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Push chile-shallot mixture to sides of skillet to clear center; add garlic to clearing and cook, mashing mixture with spoon, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir to combine garlic with chile-shallot mixture. Add fish sauce mixture to skillet; increase heat to high and cook until slightly reduced and thickened, about 30 seconds. Return beef and any accumulated juices to skillet, toss well to combine and coat with sauce, stir in half of mint and cilantro; serve immediately, sprinkling individual servings with portion of peanuts and remaining herbs, and passing lime wedges separately.

UPDATE: Calling me around 4pm,, right around when I cooked this dish, my good friend D.B. called to invite me to a Nada Surf concert at the Bowery Ballroom later that evening. The ticket was her treat and dinner was mine. I packed the beef, peanuts, herbs, lime wedges, and mango salsa in separate containers and headed to her place on the East Side. We dined nicely in her living room watching the Food Network, no less, and catching up on 'girl stuff'. The concert was great, even with the weird 50 something guy rocking back and forth into D.B. A delicious and fabulous night in NYC.


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