Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vietnamese beef salad

Last night’s dinner was spectacular. The sounds we make when such pleasurable food passes between our lips would cause a hooker blush.

As I’ve said before, it is not my intention to simply parrot recipes. I want to share with you things that I have contributed to substantially enough to justify your going to the time and trouble to try something new.

Over the years one of our favorite summer delectations has been a Vietnamese-style beef salad. The recipe comes right out of an issue of “Eating Well” from May/June 1998. Peter has seen to it that we’ve saved every “Eating Well,” “Bon Appetit,” “Gourmet,” and “Cook’s Illustrated” over the years. He even remembers more or less where our favorite things are within these excellent publications.

In the past it has always been my task to prepare the beef while he puts together the dressing. I think last night was the first time I did the whole thing myself. The serendipity came when I made a mistake by taking steps before reading the recipe completely.

One of the ingredients called for is lemongrass. Our neighborhood Safeway, which upgraded itself to a “life style” store over recent months, now carries nearly anything we want. Lemongrass is one exception. The produce guy told Peter that it dries out so quickly that they’ve decided not to carry it. He showed him a tube of lemongrass paste that he claims is a very good, long lasting product. So that’s what we used. It wasn’t as good as the real thing, but it did the trick.

The battle plan includes reducing some stock with the lemongrass and some shallot before adding the rest of the ingredients. That’s the part I didn’t read. I put everything in the sauce pan at once. The result, I think, was actually a more intensely flavored dressing. The original recipe calls for you to discard the solids. I saw no reason to do that.

Our other variation was in not using flank steak, as is called for, but flatiron steak instead. Flatiron is a cut that hasn’t always been available. Wikipedia describes it best:

"The flat iron steak is a cut of steak from the shoulder of a steer, also known as the Teres Major. Whole, this muscle is known as Infraspinatus, and one may see this displayed in some butcher shops and meat markets as a "top blade" roast. Steaks that are cross cut from this muscle are called top blade steaks or patio steaks. As a whole cut of meat it usually weighs around 2 to 3 lbs, is located adjacent to the heart of the shoulder clod, under the seven bone. The entire top blade usually yields 4 steaks, between 8 to 12oz. each. Restaurants, particularly upscale, have recently begun serving flat iron steaks on their menus. Especially popular are flat irons from Wagyu beef, as a way for chefs to offer more affordable and profitable dishes featuring Wagyu or Kobe beef. In the normal grades, marinade is required to achieve tenderness on par with more expensive cuts, such as ribeye or strip steak."

The truth is, our flatiron last night was about 23 oz., more than the recipe called for. I cut the steak down, saving the extra ounces for some cheesesteak sandwiches in a day or so. Also, the marinade for the meat seemed very skimpy. I doubled it.

I find flatiron steak to be more tender than other striated cuts such as flank and hangar steaks. Also, I found the steak in the sale bin at King Soopers for half price, namely just over $4.00.

Vietnamese beef salad

2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp hot chile oil
1 12 oz. flatiron steak, trimmed of sinew and fat
4 cups baby spinach
4 cups watercress, stems trimmed off
½ cucumber, peeled seeded and sliced thin
1 carrot, julienned or grated
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
Lemongrass vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Combine lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and chile oil. Marinate the steak in this mixture for 4-8 hours, turning it occasionally. This can be done most easily by using a 1 gallon zip-lock freezer bag, but a flat glass baking dish would serve as well.

Prepare your grill (or in my case, the stovetop grill). Grill the steak over medium high heat for 4 minutes on side one and 3 minutes on side two. This yields rare meat, so adjust your cooking time accordingly if you want it more well done. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest 5-10 minutes (I found 5 to be enough). Slice thinly on the diagonal, across the grain.

In a large bowl, combine watercress, spinach, carrot, cucumber, mint and cilantro. Toss with ½ of the dressing. Arrange the steak on top of the greens and spoon the remainder of the dressing over it.

Lemongrass vinaigrette

¾ cup beef or chicken broth (low sodium)
2 tbsp lemongrass, chopped finely if fresh
4 tbsp chopped shallot
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 tsp hot chile oil
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

Place all ingredients, except the cilantro and mint, in a saucepan, bring it to a simmer and let it go 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely. Stir in the cilantro and lime.

No comments:

Blog Archive

Tuesday Tag-Along

Tuesday Tag-Along

Foodie BlogRoll