Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chinese Beef with Asparagus

Other than the obvious vegetable substitution, there really is no difference between this dish and the more familiar beef with broccoli. I just like asparagus better.

(serves two adults and two children)

1 lb New York strip steak
1 lb asparagus
2-inch piece fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
3 (or more) green onions
2 Tbs peanut oil

The Marinade
1 Tbs rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs cornstarch
½ tsp sugar

The Sauce
¼ c chicken broth
1 Tbs hoisin sauce
1 Tbs oyster sauce
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 tsp sugar

1. Trim the steak of excess fat. Halve it lengthwise and slice each half thinly to yield bite-size pieces. Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl, add the beef slices, and mix well. Set aside.

2. Trim the asparagus and slice them into inch-long lengths. Peel and julienne the ginger. Peel the garlic and chop it coarsely. Trim the green onions and slice them into half-inch lengths.

3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

4. Heat the peanut oil in a wok (or large cast-iron skillet) over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the ginger, garlic, and white parts of the green onions. Stir-fry until the ginger and garlic become fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry until it's just cooked through, about another 1-2 minutes depending on the thickness of the beef slices. Remove from the wok.

5. Adding a little more oil if necessary, stir-fry the asparagus until it turns a darker green, about 1 minute. Add a scant ¼ cup of water and cover the wok immediately. Steam the asparagus for 3 minutes, then remove the cover and let the remaining water evaporate.

6. Add the sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken. Add the green parts of the green onions and return the cooked beef. Toss to combine. Once the beef has reheated, serve immediately.

• You can also use flank steak for this dish, but I prefer the tenderness of a nicely marbled strip steak.

• Some people deal with the woody ends of asparagus by peeling them to expose the tender core. I rarely have the patience for this, so I use a more brutal method: snapping off the ends of the spears. Tradition holds that a spear will naturally bend (and, if you apply enough force, break) at the spot where the tender tip of the shoot toughens and becomes woody.

• I cook this dish in a wok, and you should, too. Woks are remarkably easy to use (and clean) once you get the hang of them. But if you don’t have one, you can also use a large cast-iron skillet. Remember to let the pan heat first before adding the oil.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Potato Pizza

Once I open a package of yeast, I like to use the whole things. That's why this recipe yields two large pies. If you'd like a little variety, halve the potato topping and use something else for the second pie. I recommend caramelized onions, crumbled Gorgonzola, and olive oil steeped with chopped fresh rosemary. Even easier is ricotta cheese flavored with basil pesto.

(serves a crowd)

The Dough
500 grams flour (about 3¾ cups)
1 pkg active dry yeast
¾ tsp sugar
¾ tsp kosher salt
olive oil

The Topping
3 Tbs kosher salt
5 lb potatoes
2 medium onions, chopped
⅔ c olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs fresh rosemary

1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add 1⅓ cups room-temperature water. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough is well blended. (It will be a little sticky.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.

2. Dissolve the 3 tablespoons of salt in 2 quarts water to make a brine. Using a food processor fitted with a slicing blade, slice the potatoes thinly. Soak the potato slices in the brine until they wilt, about 1½ hours.

3. Using a spatula to scrape as necessary, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. After forming a rough ball, cut the dough in half and separate the two resulting pieces by 3–4 inches. Cover with a moistened kitchen towel and let rise again for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Drain the potatoes in a colander, pressing down with your hands to force out any excess moisture. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the chopped onion, olive oil, and pepper. Toss to combine.

6. Using olive oil, lightly coat  two 13- by 18-inch rimmed baking sheets. Remove the kitchen towel from the dough. Place one of the dough pieces in the center of a baking sheet, inverting it as you go so that the moist side of the dough (the one contacting the wet towel) is facing down and the dry, floured side is facing up. Using your fingers, press the dough out to fill the pan. If any holes develop, pinch them closed. Repeat with the second piece of dough and second baking sheet.

7. Spread the potato mixture over the prepared crusts. (Place a little extra around the edges because they cook more quickly.) Sprinkle evenly with the rosemary.

8. Bake until the crusts pull away from the pan sides and the potatoes are golden brown, about 25–30 minutes.

• It takes a little practice to get the hang of spreading out the dough to fill the pan. The key is maintaining an even thickness. Fortunately, the stickiness of the dough makes it simple to mend tears.