Mongolian Beef

This is probably the easiest Chinese stir-fry dish to make and it might be my favorite, if I had to pick a favorite.  There’s something about the simple marriage of tender sliced beef and green onions that excites me.  Soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic is the only extra flavor you need to make this a spectacular dish. 

I like to top the dish with chili garlic paste (Sambal Oelek) and cilantro.  Just a little dab of chili garlic paste brightens the flavor and, if you are anything like me, you might even add a big dollop of Sambal Oelek. 

This is the sort of dish that I can taste, just by imagining it.  Rich, beefy lusciousness that is so satisfying!

Ingredients:

3 Tbs cooking oil

1 1/2 Tbs ginger, minced

4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 lb flank steak, or any other lean cut of beef

1/3 cup cornstarch

2 green onions , sliced

Chili garlic paste, as much as you like 🙂

¼ cup cilantro

Directions:

Slice the beef into thin pieces, no more than a quarter inch thick, and toss with cornstarch.  Set aside.

I’ve made hundreds of stir-fry beef dishes and I’ve made them many different ways.  If I just tossed the beef strips in the wok without powdering them in starch first, the beef juices would cook out and sit at the bottom of the wok.  The meat would steam in the juices, instead of frying, which would cause the beef to become tough and I would eventually have to add cornstarch or flour to the meat juices to thicken the sauce.  Dusting the beef prior to stir-frying helps tenderize the beef as it cooks and the juice that runs out is absorbed by the cornstarch, which means that the meat, itself acts as a thickener for the sauce that is added later.  Trust me on this. 

Slice and chop the ginger and chop the garlic.   Set aside.

Cut the roots off of the green onions and cut the onions into 2” pieces.  Separate the white parts from the green stems.  The white pieces will be used at the beginning of the stir-fry and the green parts will be added near the end of the stir-fry.

Heat oil in a wok at low-medium heat. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the white parts of the green onion and stir for two minutes. 

Remove the onion, ginger and garlic and reserve.

One at a time, add soy sauce, water and brown sugar to the wok and boil for about 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove the sauce to a bowl and set aside.

Place a tablespoon of oil in the wok and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Cook to medium rare.  Over-cooking the beef will make the meat tough and dry. 

Return the sauce to the wok and turn the heat to high.  Stir-fry for about 30 seconds, just to coat the meat.  Add both parts of the green onions, ginger and garlic and stir-fry for another minute.

Add some steamed jasmine rice to individual serving bowls.

Add the beef and onions to the bowls. 

Top with cilantro and Sambal Oelek. 

This is as good as it gets!

Back in the Saddle Again

I’m still reeling after last week’s epic gumbo battle so please forgive me if I babble for a bit.  For those of you who want to cut to the chase and see today’s recipe, scroll down until you find “Chicken Enchiladas”, in large, friendly letters.  But, know that you are missing all of the fun and I pity you.

When I was young, and by young I mean elementary school age, I recall that many home cooked meals featured Hamburger Helper or Cream of Mushroom soup.  I don’t know if it was because so many working parents didn’t have time to make dinner or if it was just clever marketing agents influencing those parents, but the fact was that those products found an indelible niche in American cuisine.

Campbell’s puts out about a zillion different kinds of soup but I swear I can only remember three from my childhood.  Tomato soup, Cream of Mushroom soup and Chicken Noodle soup.  Okay, to be fair, there was Chicken & Stars, but that was really just chicken soup with star shaped pasta, and it was marketed to parents of finicky and/or sick children.   

Cream of Mushroom soup took center stage, back in the 1970’s.  It found its way in many recipes.  The ubiquitous green bean casserole is a testament to the long-lasting power of Cream of Mushroom soup.  If you don’t have green bean casserole every Thanksgiving then,…well, you’re just not a real American. 

Cream of Mushroom soup, “America’s béchamel” 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not bashing Cream of Mushroom soup.  Cream of *Whatever* soup is instant béchamel in a can, and that’s a marvelous thing.

I remember having homemade chicken enchiladas for the first time.  I was 17 years old and having fun, hanging out with a friend.  His mother made us chicken enchiladas with Cream of Mushroom soup and canned green chiles.  Canned green chiles, back then, didn’t have clever graphics printed on the label, showing a thermometer indicating the “heat” of the chiles.  Canned green chiles were just that…canned green chiles.  They were hot and spicy, and that’s all you needed to know.  I loved those enchiladas. Thank you and bless you, Ginger!

But, when I discovered that I could make my own thickener from scratch, I felt a sudden rush, indeed, I felt a sense of empowerment!  I realized that I could thicken sauces or soups and have total control of flavors and textures!  A pad or two of butter and a spoonful or two of flour was the key that opened the door to an endless array of sauces.

For this recipe I used homemade green sauce and I made a homemade sauce from a simple roux and chicken stock.  If you want to use canned green chiles and cream of mushroom soup, that’s fine with me.  Just make sure you do it with love.

Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts (mine started out frozen)

2 ½ cups chicken stock

4 or 5 garlic cloves

½ onion, chopped

10 to 12 oz green chile sauce

½ cup sour cream

8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded

2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs flour

10 corn tortillas

¼ cup cooking oil

Directions:

Boil the chicken in water until the chicken is fork tender.  Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

While the chicken simmers, puree ½ cup chicken stock, green sauce and garlic cloves in a blender. 

Add the pureed sauce to a small skillet and simmer on low heat, to mellow the garlic, for 15 minutes.

Add the chopped onions to the skillet and simmer for another 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Add ¼ cup cooking oil to pan and set heat to low.  Soften each of the tortillas in the oil for a few seconds and remove to a plate.

Wipe the skillet clean.  Start a roux by adding the butter to the pan and set the heat to medium/low.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.

Once the roux is smooth, add the remaining chicken stock.  Set heat to medium/high and whisk until the sauce has thickened. 

Add the green chile mixture and whisk for a minute.

Pour about one cup of the sauce into a bowl.  Leave the remaining sauce in the skillet and turn the heat off. 

Lay the cooked chicken on a clean work surface and smash with the broad side of a knife.  The chicken will break and fan out, making it easy to shred.  Shred the chicken by hand.

Add the chicken to the cheese and mix by hand.

Lay the tortillas on a work surface and add the chicken and cheese.  Roll the enchiladas and place in an oven-proof skillet, containing some of the sauce.  Once all of the enchiladas are in the skillet, pour the remaining sauce over them.

Bake in a 350° oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve warm with rice or fried potatoes and guacamole salad.

Quick Pizza

I came down with a cold the other day and I promptly crawled into bed.  That’s my preferred remedy for nearly all illnesses.  I dreamed about making a pizza.  When I awoke, some hours later, I made that pizza.  I recently picked up some garlic naan at my local Indian market and I knew it would be perfect for the occasion.  Naan is an Asian flatbread, similar to pita, in case you are not familiar with it. 

Naan is typically oval shaped, about  6” x 8”, which makes a perfect individual serving.

Prep time: 5 minutes.  Bake time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

1 naan flatbread

2 oz tomato paste

1 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced

8 to 10 pepperoni slices

A dash of garlic salt

A dash of red pepper flakes

Directions:

Smear the tomato paste on the naan.  Add the sliced cheese and pepperoni.

Bake in a 375° oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

Remove from the oven and scatter a little garlic salt and red chili flakes on top.

I used some leftover Chihuahua cheese, instead of Mozzarella.