Tuesday, May 26, 2015

vietnamese steak.

While Tyler and I continue to stare longingly at our neighbors backyard (which he never ever uses except to sit on his door step and smoke cigarettes), I continue to dream up ways that make us feel as if we are eating al-fresco even if all we are really doing is sitting in our kitchen. This means relying heavily on my cast-iron skillet which is the closest thing I have to a grill.

A good well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is the work-horse of the kitchen.  I cook hamburgers and asparagus in it and have made many cakes and cornbreads it as well.  It works brilliantly in many applications but when it comes to searing steaks, that's where it really shines.   It gives the steak a perfectly crusty exterior and that crusty exterior is what makes a steak worth eating.  

This Vietnamese version is absurdly perfect as we head into summer. It's tart and a little spicy and it manages to work with just about any vegetable you pair it with - lettuce (for hand-held wraps) radishes, shaved asparagus, the list goes on. It's also just as happy with rice as it is with noodles which means you can make it and then choose your own dinner adventure which is my favorite kind of dinner.  

Vietnamese Steak with Cucumber Salad
Recipe from the NYTimes

My reading skills are apparently lacking as I dumped all of the marinade over the steak.  Only after re-reading the instructions did I realize my mistake.  I couldn't bring myself to let the marinade go to waste, so when the steak was done marinating I dumped the marinade in a pot and boiled it for about 60 seconds.  I actually think the mistake was to my benefit as the marinade thickened up ever so slightly which helped to coat the steak and the rice.   The choice is yours.  

Serves 4 -6

½ cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon packed lime zest
⅓ cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 large jalapeño, seeds and veins removed if desired, minced (or 1 tablespoon of Sriracha)
1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 small seedless English cucumber, thinly sliced (or other vegetable of your choice)
1 large bunch of radishes, thinly sliced (or other vegetable of your choice)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vegetable, peanut or olive oil (optional)
Cooked rice noodles or rice, for serving (optional)
Sesame seeds or crushed roasted peanuts, for serving (optional)
Fresh mint leaves or cilantro, for serving (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic and jalapeño. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the flank steak and let marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Let meat come to room temperature before cooking if necessary. 

Combine the cucumber, radishes and scallions. Pour in just enough of the marinade sauce to coat.
Light the grill or heat the broiler to high. Pat steak dry with paper towels.

If grilling, cook until done to taste, about 3 minutes per side for rare. If broiling, heat a 10-inch skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Add oil to pan and sear the meat for 2 minutes. Flip meat and immediately transfer pan directly to top shelf of oven and broil for 2 to 3 minutes for rare, or longer for more well-done meat. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes covered in foil.

Thinly slice steak and serve over cooked rice noodles or rice if desired, and top with the cucumber salad. Garnish with sesame seeds and peanuts and plenty of herbs if using and serve with remaining marinade as a sauce.

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