There is a certain swell in amateur cooking blogs on the internet as of late, and I, for one, fucking love most of them. I'm certainly no top-grade chef, but I must admit to being an accomplished cook. Today, I cooked up something that really doesn't have a name-- it's just another dish that I made up in my head. Suffice it to say that the influence is neo-Thai, with some "gecko" blended in. Here's the recipe, for those who might be interested (and please forgive my awful kitchen, I work with what I've got):
- Creamy Peanut-butter- I used Jif, and it worked perfectly- but you can use whatever you'd like. One caveat: don't use organic peanut butter. The oils will break down the reduction you're about to make, and you want some of that sweetness that non-organic stuff provides.
- Unsalted, roasted peanuts- Pretty simple. Trust me, you don't want to use salted ones.
- One large green bell pepper- I know I've pictured two, but I decided to go with one in the end. It added just the right consistency to the whole mix. You don't have to use green, but I like green the most for their color.
- Swanson's Beef Broth- I went with the low sodium kind, since I didn't want the saltiness to ruin the delicate flavor of the peanuts. Just like anything else, it's up to you. But I definitely recommend the Swanson brand.
- Deli Mustard- You know the stuff. Don't go with anything too strong, you just want that tangy-ness in the background.
- House of Tsang Bangkok Padang Peanut Sauce- This stuff is awesome. It is what inspired this dish. It's not as sweet as I'd like it to be, but it's got a lot of wonderful flavor. I don't recommend trying anything else, because you can never go wrong with pretty much anything from House of Tsang. You can find it in the International Aisle in your local Meijer, Farmer Jacks, etc. Trust me, it's pretty popular stuff.
- House of Tsang Wok Oil- Every time I use this stuff, I commit a mortal sin. It's just that good. I can't explain it. Imagine having a threesome with some delicious, light vegetable oil and some fresh ginger root. You're getting there. There might be a replacement/alternative to this stuff, but I don't really give a damn. Use it, and you'll be one happy cook.
- Ground ginger- A lot of it. Just use the stuff off the spice rack, you elitist bitch.
- Grade A Top Round cut steak- Try and get something not too thick, unless you want to butterfly it. I ended up cutting mine into about 1-1.5 cm cubes, which was a good idea in the end because they weren't too big to pick up with a spoon along with some peanuts. You want a bit of awesomeness in every bite, and that means smaller ingredients sometimes. You'll want about a pound and a half steak. Mine was 1.42 pounds, and it was a little too much, but I was working with smaller pans. If I had something larger to work with, it would have been perfect. And dude, stick with the boneless.
Begin by warming a medium saucepan. Once warm, add a healthy amount of stock. I used a little less than half of the bottle I bought, and it was the perfect amount. Keep in mind that a lot of this is going to disappear. Add a good spoonful of deli mustard, and about 3/4 of a cup of peanut butter. Stir and break up the peanut butter to help it dissolve. Add about 1/4 cup of of the Padang sauce, and start stirring. Don't try and make it all dissolve at once, just let it happen. Stir for a minute or so, then cover. Don't forget to come back and stir it every few minutes, to make sure you don't get any chunks.
Now the secret to that sauce is to not let it get too hot. If you burn it, it'll taste pretty damn gross. Keep your burner on nothing more than a medium setting. You'll want to see light, bubbling, but not a roaring boil.
After about 10 minutes, it's time to add the unsalted peanuts to the sauce. Peanuts have a wonderful ability to soak up anything they're placed in (I learned this in Beijing, where they eat boiled, salted peanuts all the time, and damn are they good when soft) so you're going to infuse the peanut sauce into the actual peanuts. I used about half of the jar I bought. You want to add as many peanuts as you can while they're all still able to be completely submerged in the sauce without any coaxing. Here's a pretty good picture that might give you a sense of what you're trying to accomplish:
Lookin good. Start your rice. I used 1.5 cups of dry rice. This recipe made enough for probably 3-4 people, so you might want to use 2 cups of dry rice at the most.
Check the sauce. Any chunks? Make sure it's a nice brown color like above. If it looks iffy, try adding a little more peanut butter. It was at this point that I wished I had some corn starch to thicken the sauce a little. I didn't have any on hand, so I winged it. You can cheat and use corn starch, or go traditional and just allow the sauce to cook at a nice low temperature for as long as possible. In the end, I probably had it cooking for one hour. At this point, you also will want to add a nice amount of ground ginger to the sauce, stirring it in. I used about 2 Tsp. of it and stirred it in slowly.
Cut your beef and peppers. Cut your peppers normally, then in half. Trust me, this was the perfect size. I'll demonstrate:
不太大，不太小。You know what I mean. Now warm up a frying pan, we're going to add some ginger kick to the beef and peppers.
We're going to make a nice frying oil out of my three favorite ingredients: the Tsang twins and the ground ginger. Here's a picture if you still can't find any of that House of Tsang sauce. If you can't find it at your local market, ask to speak to a manager. They have the ability to special order it for you. Trust me, they do. I worked in a locally owned grocery store for over two years. Make sure you have the name and spelling right, and this picture might help too. A worker who spends all day facing those shelves you shop off of might be able to recognize it. Here's the picture:
Add enough wok oil to cover the frying pan. You're going to want to use a large one, trust me. You'll see. Add a dash of the Padang sauce. Not too much, just for some peanut flavor. Now add a good amount of ground ginger. Don't be stingy: ginger is one of the most amazing flavors out there, and you deserve to taste it. Get the oil nice and hot, and then throw a little more than half of your beef in. Cook thoroughly. You'll notice that you have more juice in the end than you started with. Drain this juice. Do not add it to your sauce. You'll be sorry. It'll weaken the thickness of the sauce, and add a gross oily, fatty, beefy taste to it. Not what you want at all. I recommend using a turkey baster (like a large syringe) to suck the juice from the pan before dumping the beef into the sauce.
A warning: Make sure your sauce is ready for the final ingredients. Is it thick enough? Did it reduce enough to concentrate those flavors you want so badly? Do your peanuts look like this?
A little see-through. Getting soft on the outside. Oh yeah, that's how I like it. They should easily crumble into halves.
If you think your sauce is ready, then add the beef to the mix. If not, set it aside, it'll get warmed back up later.
Make another batch of the cooking oil, same as before. The second time around I opted not to add any Padang sauce to the mix, just on a whim. It's really up to you.
This time, you're going to cook the rest of the beef and your peppers together. Add the beef first and let it brown up a little bit, then add the peppers. Again, cook thoroughly, and don't forget to drain any oil from the pan before you add the peppers and remaining beef to the sauce.
When your sauce is ready, and everything's in there, cover it. You've probably adjusted the heat on the sauce a few times, so make sure it's back on medium. Right in the center. Stir occasionally. We're going to all the beef to soak up that sauce. Cook the whole deal for another 10-15 minutes, keep covered, and stir occasionally. At this point, things should look very uniform together. Not too much of one thing or another.
The rice was probably done a while ago. Hope you didn't fuck it up.
Put a pad of rice on a plate, and spoon a nice helping of the mixture on top. Serve immediately. I recommend some warm soy milk, or a nice cold Tsingtao. Whatever tickles your fancy really, but a nice cold Tsingtao (Qingdao) really does hit the spot with this stuff.
Voilá, Neo-Thai Peanut+Ginger Beef Dinner for you and your stars!
Eat well, and good luck in the kitchen.