As I mentioned previously, I have an entire freezer filled with frozen meat, mostly beef. At the same time, we have been struck with an unusual heat wave here in Berkeley, the kind that makes for ubiquitous mentions of global warming and armageddon. The kind that makes cooking indoors unbearable, chasing me to our outdoor grill.
So. Infinite beef. Heat wave. Grill.
The first night of the heat wave, I made Korean bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef) for a potluck writers’ meeting. We ate it wrapped in red lettuce leaves while dining al fresco. The combination of meat and lettuce in big crunch was very refreshing, with a balance of hot and cool sensations. (We also had delicious lumpia and carrot sushi rice and other various yummy dishes).
The second night, we did the obvious: we grilled steaks marinated in Korean bbq marinade for dinner. But without getting too repetitive, what could I cook the third night using beef and a grill? (and remember, I am limiting myself to the contents of my freezer: a bunch of steaks, really)
I flipped through my recipe books, facing grilled steak recipe after grilled steak recipe. I began to lose hope–and then my eyes fell upon Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World, a huge tome of collected recipes. I’d bought it on sale, on a lark, consumed with curiosity about what indeed WERE considered “the best recipes in the world.” Plus, it actually included more than a handful of Korean dishes in the collection. So I decided to reward that–you know, positive reinforcement and all.
I had yet to cook something out of it…but it seemed like it had the most potential to provide me with an out of the ordinary grilled beef recipe. There it was: Grilled Lemongrass beef (I had just bought some lemongrass at the farmer’s market earlier that day). As I read the recipe, I imagined the flavors melding on my tongue, and then I realized there was something missing, something cool. Cold rice noodles! I scrounged up some Korean rice noodles, and cooked them up. The rice noodles cook quickly, shortening stove time ( a good thing in this heat). I rinsed them until they were cold–they were a perfect foil to the spicy beef.
“Where did the steak go?” Ari asked, when I assembled dinner.
“This,” I waved towards the bowl, “Is the steak.”
And that was the last word he spoke the rest of the meal because he (and I) got busy chowing down.
Grilled Lemongrass Beef (adapted from Michael Bittman’s “The Best Recipes in the World”)
- 1.5 to 2 pounds beef tenderloin or boneless sirloin (I used rib eye steak)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 large or 4 medium shallots, roughly chopped (I used half an onion)
- 2 largic garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 small dried chile, or to taste (I used a tablespoon of Korean red hot pepper flakes)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1 tablespoon sugar (I used 2 tablespoons of Limeade)
- 2 tablespoons nam pla (I used 2 tablespoons soy sauce)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Freeze the beef for 30-60 minues (I chilled it in the freezer) to facilitate slicing. Meanwhile, combine all the remaining ingredients in a small food processor and blend to a paste, stopping the machine to stir down the sides of necessary.
- When the beef is semifrozen (I didn’t wait for this it was okay), slice it as thinly as you can. Marinate it for as little as 20 minutes and as long as ovenright in the spice paste (if the paste is too thick, thin it with a bit more nam pla or soy sauce).
- Start a charcoal or gas grill; the fire should be quite hot and the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. You can skewer the beef slices, using it as you would a needle to weave once or twice through the meat but I didn’t do it, I just threw the beef straight onto the grill. Grill quickly, about 1 minute per side, until nicely browned. Serve hot with cold noodles and some sweet chilli sauce.