Friday, February 09, 2007

Chinese Ginger Beef

A couple of years ago, I was browsing in a remainder store called Non-Imperialist, Unoppressive Books and could not resist blowing a fin on this ridiculous little giftie item, thinking it would be a good thing on hand for one of those last-minute invitations to celebrate the birthday of someone I know insufficiently well to determine if her insistence on “no presents” is sincere. How thoughtful of me! Unfortunately, no one in New York City would have any context for appreciating this gift, a Chinese restaurant experience for two, served up in a carry-out container. Presumably, any New Yorker who craves a pair of fortune cookies, a Chinese menu, and some informative paper placemats, can just toddle to Chinatown, or one of the ill-tempered neighborhood take-aways and TCB with a minimum of fuss. Maybe I should send it to my friend Andrea, who, last I heard, was living in a broken-down school bus in a field in northern Vermont. Or better yet, “the troops”, especially if the care package they’re gunning for would contain foot powder and a subscription to Maxim.

Anyway, even those of us with a healthy folder of active Chinese menus sometimes find the craving to dirty our own pans is nearly as great as the one for some:

Chinese Ginger Beef
Get out your non-reactive bowl , or perhaps a bowl-sized, formerly-anondized Calphalon stockpot whose lifetime warranty has been voided due to flagrant repeat abuse.

1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of vermouth (the ill-stocked liquor cabinet’s sherry!)
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
Many healthy grindings of fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of sugar
and 3 cloves worth of finely chopped garlic

Slice1 pound of beef steak across the grain into thin strips, such as you might find in a dish ordered in a Chinese restaurant. Slide them into that boozily aromatic soy bath. Massage them a bit with your fingers. If it helps, pretend that they’re paying you a hundred bucks an hour for this exotic spa treatment. Then excuse yourself, telling them to concentrate on their breathing, and that you’ll check back in 30 minutes. If you’re really digging on this game, you can spend that half hour bitching about your “client” to the delightfully cynical Polish manicurist. You can do this lolling on your back, or you can curry favor by accomplishing some side work you’re going to have to do anyway, specifically:

Peeling and slivering a couple thumbs’ worth of fresh ginger
Slicing six scallions into inch-long sections of pipe. (No scallions? No sweat. Brocolli smells better anyway, at least going in...)

Ding! Time’s up. After a brief squeezing for maximum lymphatic drainage, help the beef up out of its bath and into a terry cloth robe. Give it a magazine to browse while you set up for the next phase of the treatment .

Naturally you will have reserved the marinade, now fortified with your client’s personal juices. To this add:
2 teaspoons of cornstarch
2/3 cup of chicken stock
and 1&1/2 tablespoons of that oyster sauce that’s been hanging out in the back of the cabinet since before the birth of your youngest child, now six.

Retrieve the largest of your battered Calphalon pans, or better yet, your wok, fire up 2 tablespoons of peanut oil to a temperature most infernal, dump in the ginger and the beef and stir like hell.

30 seconds later, add the scallions and the fortified marinade and cook for two minutes, stirring all the while.

Oh mercy, I’m powering down and catching the F train to East Broadway because I can’t wait for the time it’d take to cook me up a batch of this wonderful dish. Or maybe I’ll just stay home and figure out a use for the rest of that vermouth. You, on the other hand, can serve it up over rice, with a twinkling of toasted sesame seeds.


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