Friday, May 28, 2010

Thai Steak Salad with Fresh Herbs

        This salad looks a picture of Spring.  And it’s as tasty as it is beautiful to look at.  And healthy too!  It gives you half your daily servings of fruits and vegetables, the tomato being the fruit.  It’s also low in both calories and fat.  I adapted it from a recipe in Everyday Food so it’s quick and easy.  Good grief, never mind cooking it, we should canonize it!

        The Thai Flavors in this dish really do combine the sweet and salty, the sour and the spicy—the four essentials of Thai cooking.  Wth each bite you experience them in combination and individually.  The lettuce is very important to this dish and not just for that glorious bed of color that frames everything you put on it.  It’s fundamental to the recipe’s success. 

When I buy Bibb or Boston lettuce, I spring for the hydroponically grown variety—which, here in my supermarket comes from Quebec (so you know it’s good!)  It’s certainly more expensive than a standard head of Bibb lettuce but I find I’m throwing half of the latter out – the leaves are bruised, the lettuce is minute.  Even when the summer comes,  I still appreciate that I can tear off leaves at a time, leave the rest in the fridge for days on end and it stays in perfect shape.  It is actually alive in its "clamshell". 

The second technique I used in making this dish came from the most recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated (March April 2010).  In the “Notes from Readers” section, there was a question asked about dry-aging steak  at home.  The Cook’s Illustrated people replicated commercial dry-aging in a home refrigerator.  What dry-aging does is concentrate the fat, increasingly the meaty flavor as the meat dries. It also breaks down muscle proteins so you get a dense, more tender texture.  What commercial dry-aging also does is add hefty sums of money to the cost of steak. 

        The home drying process is very easy.  You wrap a rib eye or, in this case, a New York Strip steak in layers of cheesecloth and put the meat on a wire rack in the coldest part of your refrigerator (generally at the back).  Four days later you have something that looks really quite awful-- like a accident victim.  But when you cook this meat you have something that approximates the flavor you might have paid double for.  It’s worth a try.  As long as you don’t scare someone to death wondering what on earth that bandaged item is in the fridge.  So here’s the recipe.  Hold onto it and I think you’ve got something the perfect for the grill later in the season.

Recipe for Thai Beef Salad

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp fish sauce

2 tsp. sugar

1 12 ounce New York Strip Steak

1 head of Bibb or Boston Lettuce

1 cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced ¼ inch thick

1 cup of Grape or Cherry tomatoes, halved.

2 carrots, shaved with a vegetable peeler

¼ cup Fresh Mint Leaves

1/4 cup Fresh Basil Leaves

1. In a glass loaf pan, combine the soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Add the steak, turning to coat it on all sides.  Marinate it for 15 minutes at room temperature. (Or you can leave it overnight in the refrigerator.)

2. Prepare the vegetables as the steak marinates. 

3. Prepare the Ginger Lime Dressing (Recipe follows)

4  Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat.  Remove the steak from the bowl, reduce the heat to medium high and cook until the outside is dark brown – about 3 – 5 minutes for medium rare—flipping it once.  Add the reserved marinade to the skillet and cook 15 seconds, turning the steak to coat it.  Transfer the steak to a cutting board, let rest 5 minutes, the thinly slice against the grain.

5. In a large bowl, toss together the cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, and mint.  
    Add the dressing and the steak and toss to combine.
6. Cover plates with Bibb lettuce leaves.  Arrange salad atop.  Serve at once.

Recipe for Ginger Lime Dressing

     In a bowl, stir together 2 teaspoons each of fish sauce, toasted sesame oil and sugar, 1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh Ginger, 1 small minced jalapeno and 2 tablespoons of lime juice.

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