"Top Chef" watchers: Think all the way back to Season 9. The cheftestants were hot and grumpy in Texas. Paul Qui won, and one chef seemed to get off more ornery one-liners than the others: Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville.
Turns out he's a very nice guy, and he has a new cookbook out next month -- "Smoke & Pickles: Recipes From a Southern Kitchen" -- that had us reaching for Post-it Notes.
This is his take on a crunchy, tangy, savory salad. It calls for a small amount of meat that, he writes, "satisfies the carnivore in you." A few ounces of beef are pounded thin and given a pho-like treatment before being dressed and added to the salad. He is right; it's all you need here.
Tips from the chef include using the cilantro stems as well as leaves, and finding a good-quality fish sauce, because that's what adds real depth to the vinaigrette.
Don't be scared off by the number of ingredients listed below. The dish comes together fast enough if you have average knife skills. We left out one or two elements to save time, but you'll taste the essence of what he was after. Use toasted white sesame seeds if you don't have black ones on hand.
Lee suggests serving this with a glass of gruner veltliner.
- For the beef and salad
- 8 cups water
- Small knob fresh ginger root
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 small bunch cilantro
- 1 small red Thai chili pepper or jalapeno pepper
- 1 slightly underripe mango
- 8 ounces green cabbage (from 1/2 head)
- About 6 fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seed (may substitute toasted white sesame seed)
- One 5-ounce piece boneless eye round or lean sirloin steak
- 1 tablespoon roasted unsalted peanuts, for garnish
- For the vinaigrette
- 3 limes
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger root
- 1 1/2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons good-quality fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce (thicker and darker than regular soy sauce; may substitute low-sodium soy sauce)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the beef and salad: Combine the water, ginger, garlic and salt in a small pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, transfer the following ingredients to a large mixing bowl as you prep them: Finely chop the cilantro, including its tender stems. Seed the pepper, then finely chop it. Peel the mango; cut around the pit to create thin matchsticks. Cut the cabbage into very thin strips. Chop the mint. Add the sesame seed and toss to incorporate.
Cut the beef crosswise into 8 thin slices. Working with a few at a time, lay the slices flat between two pieces of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin or pan to pound the meat until it is paper-thin. Repeat with all of the slices.
For the vinaigrette: Squeeze 5 tablespoons of juice from the limes, letting it fall into a medium bowl. Peel and grate 2 teaspoons of ginger and add it to the bowl, along with the brown sugar, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and pepper. Whisk together until well incorporated; cover and refrigerate.
Drop a few slices of the beef at a time into the hot-water broth; cook for about 10 seconds, until the meat loses its raw look, then use chopsticks or tongs to transfer to the bowl of chilled vinaigrette, turning to coat. Repeat to cook all of the meat.
Add all of the beef and vinaigrette to the salad in the bowl and toss to combine well. Divide among individual plates.
Chop the peanuts, then use them to garnish the salad portions. Serve right away.
Adapted from "Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen," by Edward Lee (Artisan, May 2013).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.