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Beef Salad

Beef salad / Asian-style / Thai-beef-salad / Thai-cooking / Salad-recipe

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Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit-La CoffeeMelodie Suite
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The concept of the "Balance of Three" was applied in the cooking of this decicious dish.

--Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit--

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Beef salad Pradichaya Style

We have had a lot of snow in my part of the country. My husband, my sons, and even I had our share of shoveling. Everything seems white everywhere I look, even the food. As the weather got colder the children made frequent requests for hearty, feel-good soup. Tonight, I had enough of the blah color and decided to make something that would have the color of spring in it. We went to a farmer's market before the first snow storm and I still had a nice head of Romaine lettuce along with mint leaves and mushrooms. We ran out quickly to pick up a pack of freshly cut beef flank. Alright, I'm ready to make beef salad -my spring color dish- to lift up the spirits around the house even if only for a little while!

If you would like to break out of winter's blues, try this recipe for delicious beef salad with Pradichaya's own dressing. Cooking this dish calls for a little bit of Thai, some Chinese, but most definitely an Asian flare and the Thai concept of the balance of three.

My Ingredients

I was not in a fancy mood, and preferred to keep things simple. I bought 4 pounds of beef flank, which is great for making beef salad. It's mostly lean meat and barely has fat on it. Of course, I would have to make it tender, or my children would file a complaint! I cut the meat across the length and turned two long strips into twelve rectangular pieces of beef.

The first thing that needed to be done was to marinate the beef. I may be very organized and plan ahead when it comes to work, but when it comes to food I act spontaneously and more according to my mood and food situation! I understand that some recipes may want you to marinate your beef for an hour or two - or more, for a larger meal. But my beef flank will marinate however long it takes me to prepare everything else.

I looked around my kitchen for ingredients and grabbed a handful of cilantro roots. (How predictable, right?) I soaked them in water and gave them a really good scrub. Then, I took half a bulb of garlic, rinsed them in water and pounded them in my famous mortar and pestle. The skin came off very easily and all I had to do was to get rid of them. Then, I put in cilantro roots and added one teaspoon of black pepper and grinded all three ingredients until they blended well and sent out a wonderful aroma!

On looking for my next ingredient I came across a pack of sea salt - the kind that came with frozen pretzels (I'm not kidding you, this is why I am not a real chef - I act so much on impulse!) All kidding aside, put in about two teaspoons of salt, alright! I poured the whole packet of (pretzel) salt in the mortar (which was about two teaspoons). And, because I am all about the "balance" of things -not yang and yin, but more like a triad, three- sided, three-corner kind of balance, I added one tablespoon of sugar. Naturally, I pounded everything until all was mixed well together.

None of these would do a good job at tenderizing the lean beef flank. I grabbed my not-a-secret-anymore weapon - the apple cider vinegar- and poured about half a cup into the mix.

I tasted it and felt that it wasn't quite right. I looked around some more, and, ding!!!! I've had an idea!!!

My Thai-made Chinese ingredients were smiling to me!! I reached for the yellow bottle of "Thin Soy Sauce" (See-ew kao) and green bottle of "Sweet" or Black Soy Sauce (See-ew dumm). This would not be about the salty or the sweet taste of each soy sauce (sea salt and sugar already took care of that department), but it would be all about the almost heavenly aroma that would make this dish so divine once the two sauces mixed and reacted with the apple cider vinegar. Ah...there go my not-a-secret-anymore ingredients!!! I added two tablespoons of sweet soy sauce and three tablespoons of thin soy sauce.

Here comes the fun part: I put all the beef flank pieces in a large bowl and poured in my marinade. I used my hand to make sure that the sauce made its way inside each piece of beef. I kneaded and kneaded and kneaded.

This is when other recipes will say, "let it sit for two hours". If you have the time, you may want to do that just to make sure that the power of soy sauces and apple cider vinegar will really soften your beef. I didn't have the time, and I was very confident that the marinade would do the work just fine under these circumstances. I moved on to prepare other ingredients.

I soaked and scrubbed the mushrooms, did the same thing to the Romaine lettuce, and cut the leaves. I soaked mint leaves and pulled them off the stems. Then, I drained and put cut lettuce and mint in a large salad bowl. I pre- heated the frying pan (medium-high) with some Olivio margarine in it while asking my beloved husband to cook Thai jasmine rice in the rice cooker.

The pan heated and I laid the beef in one by one. I could fry only six slices of beef at a time. With an inch of thickness on each slice, it would take about five minutes on each side, so I set the timer in case I got side-tracked. Please do not cover: it would turn your beef flank into "chicken-color look-alike" flank. It will sizzle and it will splash, so if you'd rather not get tiny burn spots on your hands and arms you can add a little butter or margarine to stop the splashing.

When the pan was hot to the point that the beef started to blacken, it was time to turn down the heat. But please don't forget to bring the heat back up when you start your second batch.

Some pieces are thinner than others, and I took them out before the timer went off with the thinnest one out first, and started slicing with a little slant. Always go against the grain, even when you have to keep turning the piece and slice from all angles. I made my slices rather thick - about one centimeter, or half an inch.

When you finish slicing the beef, rest it on a plate or in a bowl: do not put it on the salad yet.

At this time I added a little Olivio margarine in the pan and sauteed all the mushrooms. I then poured beef juice from the slicing back into the pan, put the heat on medium and added thin soy sauce, sweet soy sauce and apple cider vinegar. The most commonsense thing to do was to use the same ratio among the ingredients as I previously used for the marinating sauce. The ideal flavor is the balance of "three Ss" - sweet-sour-salty. If the aroma is perfect, but you feel that it could be a little more salty, add salt, not thin soy sauce. If you need more sweet flavor, add stevia or sweet 'n' low instead of sugar. When the mushrooms were cooked in bubbly sauce and the sauce tasted perfectly with all three-Ss present, I turned off the heat and put the mushrooms on the bed of salad.

I drizzled some dressing sauce in the salad and added the beef, drizzled in some more dressing and put the rest of it in a bowl. By now the rice was cooked. I served the beef salad with rice and drizzled more sauce on top. Some of my kids used the dressing as dipping sauce. The meal was delicious and very satisfying. We sat around our kitchen table looking out on the fifteen-inch snow-covered backyard and reflected, "Life is good".

Warm regards, and, make every cooking day a Chef-Me-NOT!!! day!

Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit
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