Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Actual Cook(book)ing: Edward Lee's Lime Beef Salad

I managed to get off to a decent start on my New Year's intention to cook at least one recipe a week from one of the cookbooks I've accumulated over the last few years. I didn't count the first, partial week of the year, part of which I spent on the road (traveling home from Florida) in any case, but I managed to cook something during the first full week of the year... just barely... on Saturday.

Inspired by Top Chef alum Edward Lee's appearance as a guest judge on The Taste, I decided to cook something from his cookbook, Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a Southern Kitchen. Because I'm home alone for a bit while my wife is taking care of some family business, the Pulled Pork Shoulder in Black BBQ Sauce (page 116) seemed excessively massive, as did the Brined Pork Chops With Peach-Ginger Glaze (page 110). Finally I settled on the Lime Beef Salad (page 50), which seemed like a manageable amount of food, and something that would make for good leftovers.

It's essentially a cabbage and mango salad with accents of tomato, mint, jalapeno, and black sesame seeds, topped with a lime-ginger Asian vinaigrette and thin strips of sirloin lightly cooked in a simmering ginger-garlic broth.

I followed the recipe nearly exactly, except that I didn't use all of the mango — just because it started to look like an exceptionally big pile of mango as I was cutting it into matchsticks — and I substituted 1 1/8 tsp of maple syrup for the brown sugar (because all the brown sugar in the house turned out to be solid as a rock).

The process is straightforward:
  • Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl, cover, and put in the fridge to chill. 
  • Cut up the cabbage, mango, pepper, and other ingredients for the salad, toss together in a bowl, and put that, covered, in the fridge, too.
  • Bring the water, ginger knob, garlic clove, and salt to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • While the water is simmering, cut the beef into strips and pound it paper thin (I thought this would trip me up, but it turned out to be dead easy. I used sheets of plastic wrap and a bit of water, as I recalled seeing on Good Eats.)
  • Get the cold vinaigrette out, lightly cook the beef strips in the simmering water (for 10 seconds or less, depending on how rare you want it), and drop them immediately into the vinaigrette.
  • Add the vinaigrette and beef to the salad and toss to combine.
  • Portion the salad and top with chopped cilantro and peanuts.

The recipe says it serves 4, and I suppose that's right as an appetizer salad; as an entree, I had a full plate and a second helping, and  had enough left over for a decent lunch.

You could serve the salad and vinaigrette — bright, sweet, spicy, and gingery — as an appetizer salad without any beef at all, or double (or more) the amount of beef for a more substantial entree. I loved this dish, and I'm sure I'll fix it again!

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