Crispy Orange BeefLet me first say that we are not beef people. You’ll notice I rarely post/prepare beefy recipes. I do eat it here and there. I do enjoy it when I eat it. Also, I rarely deep fry. And yet…I was intrigued by Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for “Crispy Orange Beef,” in its January/February 2013 issue (recipe below). Something about the promise of crispy meat and orange zest pulled me in. But I knew it would be exacting work -- it is Cook’s Illustrated, after all…

Crispy Orange Beef
Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2013
Serves 4

1.63 lbs. hanger steak
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
6 Tbsp. cornstarch
10 (3-in.) strips orange peel (1 1/2 temple oranges)
1/4 cup juice (less than 1 temple orange)
3 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. marsala wine
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
3 cups canola oil
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 scallions, sliced thin on bias

Cut beef along the grain into approximately 2 1/2- to 3-inch-wide strips. Slice each piece against the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Toss beef with 1 Tbsp. soy sauce in bowl. Add cornstarch and toss until evenly coated. Spread beef in single layer on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Transfer sheet to freezer until meat is very firm but not completely frozen, about 45 minutes.

Whisk remaining 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, orange juice, molasses, sherry, vinegar, and sesame oil in bowl.

Line second rimmed baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Heat vegetable oil in large Dutch oven over a medium heat until oil registers 375 degrees. Carefully add one-third of beef and fry, stirring occasionally to keep beef from sticking together, until golden grown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Using spider, transfer meat to paper towel-lined sheet. Return oil to 375 degrees and repeat twice more with remaining beef. After frying, reserve 2 Tbsp. frying oil.

Heat reserved oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add orange peel and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, until about half of orange peel is golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is beginning to brown, about 45 seconds. Add soy sauce mixture and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until slightly thickened, about 45 seconds. Add beef and scallions and toss. Transfer to platter and serve immediately.

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Important (“exacting”) step #1: cut the beef into precise lengths, then toss the strips with some soy sauce, then coat them in cornstarch, then place them on a rack on a baking sheet in the freezer. This involves manipulating and managing the space in your freezer (at least it did for me!).

Next agonizing step: I filled my Dutch oven with 3 cups canola oil, then waited for its temperature to reach 375 degrees F. The chilled beef needs to be fried in three separate batches, and you need to wait for your oil to return to 375 degrees, each time. This is a lot of waiting around, waiting for that temperature to rise. And you need to make sure that your meat doesn’t freeze solid while you’re waiting. More than 45 minutes will pass while you’re waiting. I had to keep pulling the beef out of the freezer to halt its freezing. The pacing here is a challenge.

The sticky sauce was easy enough to pull together: the umami of soy sauce, the sweetness of orange juice and molasses and marsala, the tartness of rice vinegar, and the boldness of toasted sesame oil. The garlic and ginger balanced perfectly with the orange flavor. I liked the jalapeño and the red pepper flakes and how my mouth filled with all the flavors of the sauce and the beef. The beef texture, sure enough, was not soggy. I served this with brown rice. My youngest diner loved this beef.

Braised Kale with Oyster Sauce and Crisp ShallotsI also made Ottolenghi’s “Braised Kale with Oyster Sauce and Crisp Shallots,” because I  consider ourselves kale people and I regarded this as a no-fail recipe. My discovery, here, was the magic of frizzled shallots. I want them now, all the time, frizzled and set atop everything.

Convert your metric measurements, if need be. Know that 2 bunches of kale will do (14.13 oz. total). Also, 3 fat shallots will equal the necessary 5 oz. and 5.13 oz. oil (little more than a half cup) will be needed to fry the shallots. I did blanch the kale, as the recipe says to do, although I hate filling a pot with water and taking up my valuable stove-top space (especially when I’m deep-frying beef strips at the same time!). Anyway, the sauce for the kale includes my adored toasted sesame oil and also oyster sauce. The oyster sauce, I’m afraid, was too subtle here to compete with all the “kaleness.” Make no mistake: the winning element of this kale dish was its frizzled shallots. You’ll want to eat a bowl full of these. See what happens to you.

Hanger Steak (1.63 lbs.) = $19.36
Temple Oranges (2) = $1.08
Purple Kale (2 bunches) = $4.64

PREP TIMES: more than 2 hours of of beef and sauce prep and waiting for oil temperature to rise; quickly blanch kale, then carefully fry shallots in batches (15 minutes or so)
sticky orange sauce + garlic and ginger, along with the tingles of jalapeño and red pepper flakes, perfectly complement crispy fried beef; frizzled shallots will make anything taste wonderful

Next time, I will open up Small Plates & Sweet Treats, by Aran Goyoga, to make the “Potato, Salmon & Pea Fritters with Pea Shoot Mayonnaise” (recipe below). I’ll also make the “Sicilian Cauliflower & Black Olive Gratin,” from The New York Times. Come back to my site soon, to see another wonderful meal.

Potato, Salmon & Pea Fritters with Pea Shoot Mayonnaise
Small Plates & Sweet Treats
Makes 10 cakes

2 medium russet potatoes (1 1/2 lbs.), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed but left whole
2 sprigs thyme
8 oz. salmon
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. or more olive oil

Pea Shoot Mayonnaise
Makes 1 cup

1 egg
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pea shoots, stems removed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup grapeseed oil

Make the mayonnaise: In a food processor, combine the egg, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pea shoots. Slowly, with the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil, followed by the grapeseed oil. It will create an emulsion. Chill the mayonnaise until ready to use.

Make the fritters: Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover them with water and bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook for 9 minutes or until you can easily insert the tip of a knife into the center. Drain the water and let the potatoes cool in the pan.

Meanwhile, place the coconut milk, vegetable broth, garlic, and thyme in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil. Turn the heat off and let it steep for 10 minutes. Bring back to a simmer. Add the salmon, cover the pan, and cook over low heat (do not let it boil), flipping halfway through, until the salmon is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the salmon from the poaching liquid and remove the skin. Discard the poaching liquid. Transfer the salmon to a small bowl and flake with a fork.

Defrost the frozen peas in the microwave. In a medium bowl, mash the potatoes and the defrosted peas with a fork. Add the salmon, eggs, salt, pepper, and parsley and mix to combine.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Remove 1/3-cup portions of the salmon mixture and form them into patties. Cook the patties in batches, flipping halfway through, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add an additional olive oil as needed. Serve with the Pea Shoot Mayonnaise.