Last week Elisa Giommi, owner of Mangetout Cafe, suggested that I try a different preparation for the samples of Four Mile River Farm meats I serve up at Fiddleheads every Saturday. "Slice the beef in thin strips and grill it immediately for each customer; like for fajitas..."
I bristled automatically at the word 'fajitas'. I'm indifferent to "Mexican cuisine" in general, thanks to the sloppy offerings of a certain Big-Chain-Purveyor-of-Fake-Mexican-Cuisine during my formative years.
"...or Korean..." she continued, and that seed landed in very fertile soil. *
A bit of googling (is that a verb?) brought me to a recipe for bulgogi on My Korean Kitchen . All of the ingredients I used were from Fiddleheads, including a ripe bosc pear. I made a few small adjustments to the recipe: I substituted freshly-grated organic ginger for the powdered ginger; rapadura sugar and honey stood in for the brown sugar. Most significantly, I used about 2 pounds of FMRF top round rather than the sirloin the recipe calls for. The leanest cut that FMRF sells at the co-op, and therefore one of the cheapest cuts, top round is, in my opinion, a very underrated cut. It has a very silky texture when you cut it into thin strips and can be more flavorful than some of the more expensive cuts. Using top round also allows you to economize without seeming to do so; you can serve this recipe to your guests and no apologies. (Besides, you really do want to save that sirloin for the grill, preferably over hardwood or coals. Trust me.)
But would the recipe work on a practical sense in the busy "theater" of the co-op? For that's really what the FMRF booth at the co-op is, and indeed any kitchen - a theater. I've read a lot and even written about cooking being an act of sharing and an act of love, but it's also a drama being played out. In this case, though, the cook (me) and the customers/eaters on the other side of the table take on the roles of performer and spectator interchangeably. I flung the strips into the hot pan with a flourish, a good bit of fun, then listened to the gratifying and repeated exclamation and moans: "Oh my god! What is the recipe?" And then the freezer was emptied of top round - and sirloin tip, or any cut that would fit the bill.
So yes, it worked very nicely indeed.
Bulgogi (Marinated Korean Beef)
(adapted from My Korean Kitchen)
2 pounds good-quality and VERY fresh top round beefsteak
5 T soy sauce (I used gluten-free)
3-1/2 T rapadura (or other raw) sugar
1-2 tea honey
1-1/2 T rice vinegar (I used white)
2 T grated onion
4 T coarsely grated pear (1/2 average-sized bosc from FH = 4 T)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 T freshly grated gingeroot, or to taste
black pepper to taste
dash of cayenne powder
handful of raw white sesame seeds
2 T - 1/4 cup sesame oil (to add at last moment)
canola or other light oil (for pan)
Rinse thawed beef, pat dry, then slice into thin slices across the grain, about 1/4" thick, give or take (no, don't pull out your ruler, just go by feel). Mix together all ingredients for marinade (don't include the oils); tasting and adjusting as you go to your liking. (More soy sauce? More ginger? etc) Add the beef strips, stir to coat thoroughly, and leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour (or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator).
Heat your wok or non-stick skillet (if you're using an electric skillet and have a temperature adjustment dial on it, turn it to 325-350 degrees F.) Add a little bit of canola, just enough to coat pan surface; while heating add some sesame oil to the beef and marinade and stir again to coat. When the pan is just hot, fling the strips of beef in with a flourish and a smile. (Presentation is most important here; it's all in the wrist.) Sear (browned, not burned), for perhaps 30 seconds or so on the one side; flip and sear on the other for just a few seconds more, until none of the meat looks visibly "raw".
Take out of the pan and serve immediately; it's at it's best when hot. You can wrap it in softened rice paper, or wrap in lettuce leaves for less fuss and bother, with matchsticks of sauteed daikon radish, and/or cucumber or other crisp raw vegetables. You can also serve over rice or noodles, if you like.
The original recipe calls for a dipping sauce. You don't need it and you won't miss it.
*I freely admit never having experience the genuine article when it comes to Mexican cuisine. On the other hand, repeated exposure to cans of fake "chinese" food from the big-box retailers, or bad meals at questionable "oriental" restaurants, has only increased my appreciation for lovingly-prepared shrimp pad thai, it's mound of soft rice noodles topped with crunchy peanuts; vegetables spring rolls in soft wrappers and served with a gingered dipping sauce; hearty beef pho with fresh basil; and I would mainline tom kha gai (Thai coconut soup) straight into my vein except for the pleasures my mouth would be missing out on. No, I don't understand it either; some things in life are simply not to be questioned.
/recipe-archive.htmlPrintable pdf files of the recipes on this blog can be found on our Recipe Archive Page.
Text and photos copyright 2011-2013 Janice Janostak unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.