Category Archives: Beef Dishes

Thai Beef Noodle Stir-Fry

For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” I just managed to catch up on this week’s episode. I’ve been a fan of his ever since The Naked Chef was first shown in the United States. What I enjoy is his basic philosophy that anyone can cook even the most basic dishes and that it is about good simple flavors coming together with easy culinary techniques.
For a while, I’ve been reading about the work that he’s done in the UK on trying to improve school lunches. I know we have Chicken Nuggets, but they had something called Turkey Twizzlers. I’m not sure I even want to imagine the stuff that goes into these, but you can do an online search for photos and information on them. I was wondering if the same type of program was going to be done here, as our school lunches have never been anything to get really excited about nutritionally either. One teacher has even taken to blogging about it, photos and all.

This past week, it was kind of exciting to see Jamie win over enough folks to get 1,000 people on board for his cooking demos in downtown Huntington, WV (even the lunch ladies came!). I totally loved the flash mob of Marshall University students that helped to get it going. If those could be spread out across the United States, would we all rally around to eat better? It also made me crave the noodle dish that he had everyone make.

So, I went on a mission to track everything down to try to make it. I think it was worth all the effort and prep work in the end. I’ve made a few adjustments and clarified the instructions somewhat to create what I think is an easy-to-follow and tasty (having downed a whole plate of it for lunch today) Thai Beef Noodle Stir-Fry. I’m also looking forward to having some great leftovers next week!

For this recipe, getting your setup (mis en place) ready in advance is key. Chopping the vegetables and savory items does take time, but in the end the cooking part isn’t very long, so prep is very important.

The noodles were brown rice udon ones, which I found at Whole Foods. I couldn’t find the egg ones which were listed in the original recipe. I also took extra time to cut the peppers, carrots, and snow peas into strips to match the noodles. This had the added advantage of all the items taking equal time to cook. As I don’t really like baby corn, I omitted it. I also left out the bean sprouts, as I couldn’t see what I do with the enormous bag of them I found at the store.

Thai Beef Noodle Stir-Fry
Serving size: makes 4 generous portions
Prep time: at least 30 minutes to chop and prep ingredients, 10 minutes cooking time

8.8 oz bag Brown Rice Udon Noodles (or rice noodles)
2 cloves Garlic, finely minced
2 small thin Red Chili Peppers, sliced
1 tsp. freshly grated Ginger
1 lb. Beef Sirloin, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch slices*
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and cut into thin slices (julienne)
2 Carrots, cut into thin slices (julienne)
1/2 lb. Snow Peas, cut into slices
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 tsp. toasted Sesame Oil
juice of 1/2 Lime, plus additional lime wedges
3 Scallions, cut into thin rounds
1 Tbsp Cilantro, finely chopped
Put pan of water on to boil for noodles. While this is heating up, begin cutting up the next seven ingredients. [The vegetables, garlic, and ginger could be prepared in advance, wrapped up, and kept in the fridge until you are ready to begin cooking. If you put these items in small bowls or in plastic bags by ingredient (as was done on the show) you could have your children work with you to add each of them to the pan as you cook together.]
When the water has boiled, add the noodles. Cook per the instructions on the packet. Once they are finished, drain the noodles and set aside. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, chili, and ginger and cook for one minute. Add the beef and cook for 2-3 minutes until the meat has begun to brown. Drizzle 1 tsp. of the sesame oil, the juice of 1/2 lime, and a pinch of salt. Stir to create a sauce. Pour contents of pan into a bowl and set aside.
Heat up the additional 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil in the same pan as was used to cook the meat. Put the red peppers, carrots, and snow peas into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until soft but still crisp. Toss in a pinch of salt and stir. Add the cooked noodles to the vegetables. Drizzle the additional 1 tsp. of sesame oil over the noodles and toss everything together to incorporate. Cook for one minute more. Put noodles and vegetables onto individual plates or into a large serving bowl.
Return the meat to the pan. Add scallions and cilantro and stir to incorporate. Cook for a minute to heat the meat through. Pour the meat and all the juices on top of the noodles. Serve with lime wedges.
*To make this vegetarian, you could skip the meat and put in cubes of firm tofu, cooked in the same style as the meat, with the same flavorings to keep the Thai spirit of the dish.
Buon appetito!
Kitchen Witch Tip:
Jamie Oliver also gave me the best tip for peeling ginger (not personally, to clarify, but via his show). Since I tried it, I haven’t wasted the extra amounts that slicing off the outer layer causes. Take a spoon, turn it over, and use the edge of it to scrape off the peel of the ginger. You’ll be left with thin shavings of the brown papery outside and a clean bright piece of fresh ginger to grate or slice up as needed for the recipe.
[For a tip on working with cilantro, check out the post on leftovers and scroll to the Kitchen Witch Tip at the bottom of the post.]

Ragu alla Bolognese

Yesterday, it was freezing outside. Today it has been warmer but is wet and miserable. I guess we can’t win on the weekend front in the Northeast. The only plus side is that this means the weather has been perfect for baking and for making hearty meals.
I’d had a craving for a Ragu alla Bolognese. This rich, slow-cooked meat sauce is the basis for many a wonderful dish in Bologna, Italy. One recipe that I’ve found to be pretty reliable in taste and texture is from Claudia Roden’s The Good Food of Italy. I have used several recipes out of this cookbook over the years. Her rendition of this classic meat sauce is the one that I have used to make my own Lasagna Bolognese (omitting the mushrooms).
Although two hours or so of cooking time might seem like unnecessary labor for a pasta sauce, this is no ordinary thing to pull together. On a day when it was too cold to venture far from the apartment, having to watch this cook away on the stovetop was a great excuse for going nowhere. The vegetables get to meld together before adding the meat, then the wine, then slowly simmering everything in stock. The flavors take time to build and meld into meaty richness combined with a backnote of tang from the tomato paste. The cream at the end emphasizes the velvety nature of this sauce on your tongue, like wrapping yourself in a blanket on a cold night while sitting on the sofa.


The finished sauce in the pan might not look like much to the unaccustomed eye, but when it is poured over garganelli, the truth comes out. Dusted with parmesan, this was my lunch today, as I watched it continue to pour outside of my window. My stomach was full and my soul was satisfied, even if I couldn’t actually be in Italy.
Buon appetito!

Post Number 100 – Marinated Flank Steak Recipe

I know that the blog has been a bit dormant lately. It’s been a combination of a few things: some family stuff, some other personal things, and the usual time constraints. There’s been the added wrinkle of massive amounts of stress, chaos and confusion at work as well, given that I’m still working in banking, which have sort of sucked away my creative energy. The situation with layoffs is as awful as it sounds in the press. New York is a company town in a lot of ways, and our industry drives lots of others as well, which makes it even more difficult when things start to turn downward.

The other thing I realized was that this is my #100 post! Wow. I’d wanted to do something spectacular, but it’s a bit difficult to make fireworks come out of the computer when you load the page. So, I combined the holiday weekend, a bit of fiddling around with the blog layout and look (not as much as I would like to do, but I’m not at all a technogeek), and another recipe from the card file. This is for a flank steak marinade, the origins of which are uncertain.

The usual accompaniments for this meal when I was growing up were peas from a can (not Grandma’s peas) and Uncle Ben’s wild rice. The other key item at the table, which is vitally important in the creation of the distinct memory I have of eating this, was our cat, who, for some reason, liked peas. She liked steak, too, and often climbed up on the booth where we kids sat to eat our dinner in the kitchen every night to help herself brazenly to a chunk of the steak. We could also usually convince her to eat some of our peas. This was the best pet ever, and, sadly, she is no longer with us.*

Steak is generally considered to be a big treat, meal-wise, and never more so than in these more fiscally conservative times. I don’t really buy that much meat in general. When I went to the counter to ask the butcher for some of the steak behind the glass (we do still have neighborhood butchers in New York City), I was told that I’d have to buy it by the piece. I braced myself for the numbers on the scale and walked away with a 1.5 pound hunk of flank steak that cost almost as much as a weekly unlimited Metrocard (a good point of reference for these kinds of things).

I’d tried making some recipe with this same piece of meat a few years ago and hadn’t had much success. My first call, then, was to the best reference source I have: my mom. She told me a little trick of hers as well as instructed me to make sure I marinaded the meat for enough time to tenderize it. As I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a botched version of this dish from her hands, I decided to listen to her.

As I sliced into the cooked meat, the aromas brought all of these memories flooding back to me. It really is amazing at the strong link that smells have with the timelines of our life. This recipe is definitely one that I would recommend for those barbecues that you might have lined up this summer, and you might even end up with leftovers enough for lunch during the week. The peas and rice are definitely optional; I ate it with a steamed artichoke.

*I don’t think that my mother realized this about the cat, but she did know that my little brother shoved his peas down the part of the booth where the seat met the back.

Marinade for Flank Steak

Prep Time: 2-3 hours to marinade the meat plus 20-30 minutes cooking time
Serves: 2 pound steak would feed 4-5 adults

Ingredients: (for 2-3 pounds of meat)
3/4 c. dry red wine
1/2 c. soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
1/4 c. tomato ketchup
flank steak

Mix all ingredients together except the meat. Place the meat in a baking dish and cut slashes into each side of the meat, careful not to cut all the way through. [This is scoring the meat and is my mother’s trick to allow the marinade to absorb better into the steak.] Pour the liquid over it. Place in refrigerator for 2-3 hours to marinate, turning from one side to the other about every 30 minutes or so.

Heat barbecue grill or broiler. Remove meat from baking dish and either place on the hot grill or in a grill pan, depending upon the method of cooking being used. You can test doneness with a meat thermometer or by guesswork. I generally use the latter. When cooked to your liking, remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve in the same direction as the scoring and serve.

Ahhh, a nice caramelization on the outside
And some lovely medium-done pieces on the inside

Buon appetito!

Inside-Out Cheeseburgers

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been a little bit sidetracked from posting. I’d traveled over Easter weekend and had picked up a couple of food magazines that I don’t normally buy. Then, it seemed like my regular culinary reading pile just seemed to grow of its own volition. It got a bit overwhelming so I decided to plow through all of it.

This sort of took me off of my previously-stated goal of recreating the recipes with which I grew up, and also highlighted an interesting dilemma for me. There’s so much new stuff and different recipes out there it’s some times hard to stay on focus. One of Epicurious‘ bloggers pointed out this week that, for most people, there seems to be a “rotation” of meals on a regular basis. With this reliance on the quick, simple and familiar, it does get a bit daunting to try to slot in something a bit more daring.

But, this week, I decided to return to the recipe card file once again. I picked something that was on the Epicurious blogger’s proposed list for the American family meals merry-go-round, but that has a little twist. This recipe was on a pre-printed card that came with the box and was one that I learned to make when I was still a pre-teen. It’s simple and the gooey insides make for a great surprise for those who aren’t expecting it.

Inside-Out Cheeseburgers

Prep time: 30 minutes, including cooking time
Serving size: 6 burgers, 1 per person

Shredded cheddar cheese (or your favorite kind)
1 lb. ground beef
2 T. minced onion
1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
1/4 c. milk
2 tsp. prepared mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. horseradish (not in sauce)

Mix together by hand (yes, get your hands into it!) all the ingredients except the cheese. Divide meat mixture into 12 patties. Put 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese on 6 of the patties.

Top those with the other 6 patties and press together to seal around the edges. On heated grill, griddle or fry pan, cook the burgers for 4-5 minutes per side. You can also cook for 3 or so minutes per side for color and then put in the oven to cook the rest of the way and make sure the cheese has melted.

Serve on toasted hamburger buns.

Buon appetito!

Meatballs & Spaghetti like Mom Made

When I checked in on Is My Blog Burning to see what upcoming blog roundups were happening, one caught my eye in particular. Serge the Concierge is hosting one asking for meatball recipes. This gave me the perfect excuse to dig out another recipe from my index card file.

Again, the handwriting on this card indicates that I probably copied it down to take it to college with me. It came from a copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook that is my mother’s. I loved to look at this cookbook when I was a child, leafing through its pages and looking at all the photos of the platters of food. The drawings are a little dated and sort of “Father Knows Best” or “Pleasantville,” but the sentiment of the warmth of home-cooked food eaten as a family still remains – with the lady of the house preparing it, of course.

The recipe on the card is slightly different from that in the cookbook. My mom had made adjustments to spread this out for a large family. She also eliminated the hamburger/pork combination and just used hamburger. The recipe amounts weren’t quite doubled. After testing the cookbook version this past weekend, I actually think that my mom’s proportions are better and tastier.

For the sauce, I also made some changes. I’m not sure about you, but I wasn’t going to spend the time sieving two large cans of tomatoes (per the original instructions) when I can get my hands on great Italian-style passata di pomodoro (make sure no sugar is added). I did use tomato paste and also added a can of finely chopped tomatoes as well. In the hour-long cooking time for the sauce, these will mostly break down and will add a great texture to the sauce. Up here, this is referred to as “gravy.”

This is still a great dish to have on hand and the leftovers are fantastic. Making meatballs is a great activity to get your children, uhem, more “involved” with their food. Have them help out making them. In my family there was also the One Giant Meatball that was made from the last of the meat. Put that on a pile of spaghetti with a little gravy, dust with some freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, and let the kids belt out “On Top of Spaghetti” at the top of their lungs (clean version of course)!

Kitchen Witch Tip

My mother always made meatballs for this dish by putting them into disposable broiler trays and cooking them in the oven. I’ve followed this tip many times with several meatball recipes that call for frying them first and then adding them to the sauce. This has a few advantages. The original recipe for this calls for frying the meatballs in oil. Why add all that extra fat?

Cooked in the trays, the fat in the meat itself helps the meatballs to cook and stay moist, all while keeping their shape. It also is easier to clean those pans instead of scraping lots of bits of meat off of a skillet. You may need to turn them each once for more even browning, but that isn’t a requirement as they’ll all just get put into the sauce anyway to finish cooking. Adding the accumulated juices from the cooking pans is optional, as that will also add extra fat to the sauce, but it does have great flavor.

Buon appetito!

Marinated Flank Steak

This week in The New York Times, Frank Bruni re-reviews Peter Luger, the venerable steakhouse in New York City. This is a dining institution, revered in the hearts of many a carnivore and heralded as the standard-bearer of the genre, not least because of its imitators. It is held in the same esteem for some as a representative of the Big Apple along with The Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, subway breakdowns, street fairs, and Central Park. While Mr. Bruni found much to like about this 120-year-old eatery, he did downgrade it by one star from the previous review, which had given it three.

I vividly remember my one and only trip there several years ago, which made my tastebuds dance again as I read the article. It was the most wonderful steak I have ever eaten, seriously. The experience was just as Mr. Bruni had described his best trip to be. We had a very cute Irish waiter who was a great server, even the gruffness of the more senior waiter who was supervising our section was part and parcel of the ritual. Tomato salad to start, one order of Porterhouse rare and one medium, creamed spinach, red wine. I think I was still digesting my dinner the next day but it was so worth it.

The atmosphere was very old-school. While waiting for our party to gather, we hung out in the bar area. Everything about the place was all bare-bones dark wood, emanating testosterone and deal-making. Our group increased the quotient of women in the entire restaurant by about 4-fold. Someone must have had a sense of humor though, because in order to make it to the ladies room, it was necessary to pass a table of 3 priests enjoying their dinners.

While even Eater agreed that a downgrade was worthy, it was interesting to read the review, nonetheless, and my mouth was watering at the descriptions of Mr. Bruni’s trips. Could I please have such a worthy job to do! I’ll even put my hand up to do a comparison of Luger’s versus other steakhouses in town. Does anyone want to come with me? Oh, I know there’s at least a few of you readers who do.

Buon appetito!