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!

Grapefruit – Four Ways

My favorite sort of days evolve and flow in natural, unpredictable ways.  I don’t always plan meals ahead of time, and even when I do, my instincts guide me when it actually comes time to cook. 

1. Segmented Grapefruit

I saw some nice looking grapefruit at the store recently.  Even though they weren’t bonafide Texas Ruby Red grapefruit, they were large and ripe and I thought they would make a nice addition to the next day’s breakfast.

I like grapefruit but I don’t like the white, bitter pith and I don’t like the membranes between the segments.  I wasn’t a big fan of grapefruit until I discovered that I could cut away the parts that I didn’t like!  I started by cutting the top and bottom off, just to the point where I could see the fruit beneath.  Then I used a sharp kitchen knife to spiral cut the rind, deeply enough to get beneath the pith.  Then I cut the segments, sliding the knife along the sides of the membrane, leaving nothing but pristine segments.  This takes some practice but it’s definitely worth the effort.

2. Citrus Aromatic

I decided to use the grapefruit rinds to make a citrus aromatic on the stovetop.  It’s an easy thing to do and it makes the entire house smell fantastic.  I heated a pot of water and added some star anise, a cinnamon stick and a crushed nutmeg seed.  Just as I was about to toss the grapefruit rinds into the pot I had an idea.  I could use the rinds to make candied ginger and still use the top and bottom pieces of the grapefruit for the aromatic pot.

3.  Candied Grapefruit Peels

Once the aromatic pot was simmering, I sliced the grapefruit rinds into thin strips. I boiled the rinds three times in water, to remove some of the bitterness and then I made a simple syrup, using 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.  I brought the syrup to a boil while whisking.

I added the cut grapefruit rinds to the syrup and simmered them at low heat for about 20 minutes.  Once the rinds turned  translucent, I moved them to a wire rack to dry for about 4 hours.  On a dry day, they might have dried in an hour but the humidity was high and they took most of the day to dry.  After a few hours I dredged the pieces in sugar and then I returned them to the rack.  An hour later, I tossed them in sugar again and let them finish drying on the wire rack.

I was left with 1 cup of grapefruit flavored simple syrup.  Being the frugal sort of cook that I am, I devised a plan to use the syrup. 

 4.  Sweet and Sour Chicken

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup cornstarch

2 lbs chicken thighs, skinned and deboned

1 cup cooking oil

For the sauce:

1 cup simple syrup (from the candied grapefruit)

1 cup ketchup

1 ½ Tbs soy sauce

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

1 tsp rice vinegar

For the stir-fry:

1 Tbs cooking oil

½ tsp sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 Tbs fresh ginger, minced

½ lb broccoli florets

3 green onions, chopped

2 large carrots, sliced diagonally

2 large, mild jalapeños, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup cilantro

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch and flour.  Whisk to combine.  Remove half of the flour mixture and set aside. 

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and debone.  Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Add the chicken to the bowl containing half of the cornstarch and flour.  Toss to coat the chicken.  Leave the chicken in the flour dredge for 10 minutes.

Prepare a wok by adding  1 cup of cooking oil and set the heat to high.

Add remaining flour to the chicken and toss to coat. 

Add the chicken to the hot oil, a little at a time.  Fry the chicken until crispy, golden brown. 

Remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm.

Remove the oil from the wok and wipe the wok clean with a paper towel. 

Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Add 1 Tbs cooking oil and ½ tsp sesame oil to a hot wok.  Add the garlic and ginger and simmer for a few seconds. 

Add the vegetables and stir-fry until the vegetables are tender.   Remove the vegetables to a bowl and keep warm.

Add the sauce to the wok at medium heat.  Once the sauce begins to bubble, add the chicken and stir to coat. 

Add the vegetables and stir to combine.  Turn out to a large serving bowl.

Top with cilantro and serve in bowls with steamed jasmine rice.

Happy Holidays!