Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shaking Beef

It's not about frightened cows or rockabilly bovines, but a famous dish from Vietnam that is one of my all-time faves. It is often included in the Vietnamese classic Bo Bay Mon, or Beef Cooked Seven Ways (Seven Courses of Beef), and you can get it in Austin at both Sunflower and Soleil (which also offers the full Beef 7 Ways), and it is excellent at both places. The version I had a Soleil last week was especially rich and tender. Sometimes you might find it listed as "Vietnamese Beef" on some of the more Americanized menus, if you can find it at all. Following is a great recipe for the dish taken from the cookbook I wrote with Art Meyer: The Appetizer Atlas. It cooks in a couple of minutes and is a fantastic summer dish, or a cool season salad.

Sautéed Beef on Watercress
"Shaking Beef"
Bo Luc Lac

Serves 8 as an appetizer (3 ounces of beef per person), or 3 to 4 as an entree

This warm beef salad gets its colorful name from the action of the beef cubes as they dance in the sizzling oil in the skillet. It is a dish seldom found on Vietnamese restaurants menus in the U.S., and illustrates the French influence on the cuisine of Vietnam by the use of olive oil. In Vietnam this dish is most often served at home as an evening appetizer to accompany drinks, with a small dish of mixed salt and pepper accompanying, to which lemon or lime juice has been added, for dipping the beef cubes.

1 pound lean rib eye or sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 stalk (bottom half) lemongrass, sliced very thin, chopped very finely in an electric spice grinder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chile paste, e.g. sambal oelek, or similar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the Salad:
1 large sweet onion, halved, paper-thin slices (1015Y onions, or similar, are preferred)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced finely
Sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups watercress, rinsed, drained, heavy stems removed

Advance Preparation
1, Combine the lemon grass, soy sauce, chile paste, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil. Mix well.
2. Place the beef cubes in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the beef cubes, toss well, and allow to marinate for 1 hour.
3. Marinate the onions in the vinegar, sugar, garlic, black pepper and olive oil. Allow the onions to marinate for 1 hour.

Cooking Method
4. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium high heat, Add the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and sauté seconds.
5. Add the beef cubes with their marinade. Sauté quickly, searing the outside. Cook medium rare.

6. Toss the watercress with the onion mixture. Pour the hot beef with the pan juices over the watercress salad and serve immediately. Accompany with a small side dish of equal amounts of finely ground sea salt and black pepper to which a small amount of fresh lime or lemon juice has been added.

Chef Notes- Be careful not to burn the garlic when cooking the beef. Add the hot beef immediately before service to prevent the watercress from wilting. Beef or lamb tenderloin may be substituted for the beef ribeye, if seared only to the point of rare. Pork tenderloin may be substituted for the beef if cooked to the point of medium.