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Hunan Beef

iconicon
The Best of Craig Claiborne:
More than 1,000 Recipes from His
New York Times Food Columns
and Four of His Classic Cookbooks icon

by Craig Claiborne with Pierre Franey,
1999, Times Books/Random House

Alibris 

“Keen observers of Chinese food served in America have often noted that
the dominant number of beef dishes specify flank steak. ‘What in the name
of heavens happens to the rest of the beef?’ We took the occasion of a visit
to our kitchen of one of New York’s finest Chinese chefs to find out.
The chef was Wen Dah Tai, better known as Uncle Tai, and he told us over
a cup of tea that the remainder of a cow was in no sense wasted or ignored
in the Chinese kitchen. The fillet is always cut into neat cubes and used in
high-class banquet dishes; the shin of beef, the juiciest part, goes into a
cold appetizer, five-flavored beef; and the rest of the animal goes into
casserole dishes.
We also learned that hot Hunanese cooking is not only a professional
outlet, it is a predilection for the chef. It is empirically true that spicy
food pleases the body and appetite in hot, humid climates, and Hunan is
such a place. East Hampton must be too, judging by our predilection.”

Yield: 4 to 8 servings

1 1/2 pounds flank steak
2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dry Sherry
1 egg white
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons peanut,
vegetable, or corn oil
2 scallions, cut into 1/2-inch lengths,
about 1/3 cup
3 tablespoons dried orange
peel (see note)
3 thin slices fresh ginger, cut
into 1/2-inch cubes
1 long, thin, fresh hot red pepper,
chopped, optional
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
10 dried small hot red pepper pods

1. Place the flank steak on a flat surface and, holding a sharp knife parallel
to the beef, slice it in half widthwise. Cut each half into very thin strips,
about 1/4 inch each. There should be about 4 cups loosely packed.
2. Place the beef in a mixing bowl and add 2/3 cup water blended with
the baking soda. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 1 hour. When
ready to cook, rinse the beef thoroughly under cold running water.
Drain thoroughly and pat dry.
3. To the meat add the salt, 1 tablespoon of the Sherry, and the egg white.
Stir in a circular motion until the white is bubble. Add 1 1/2 table-
spoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of oil. Stir to blend.
4. Combine the scallions, dried orange peel, fresh ginger, and fresh red
pepper, if used. Set aside.
5. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of Sherry, the soy sauce, sugar,
the remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch blended with the remaining
3 tablespoons of water, the sesame oil, and chicken broth. Stir to blend.
6. Heat the remaining 4 cups of oil in a wok or skillet and, when it is
almost smoking, add the beef. Cook for about 45 seconds. stirring
constantly, and scoop it out. Drain the meat well, but leave the oil
in the wok, continuously heating. Return the meat to the wok and
cook over high heat for about 15 seconds, stirring. Drain once more.
Return the meat a third time to the hot oil and cook, stirring. Drain
the meat. The purpose of this is to make the meat crisp on the out-
side but retain its juiciness within.
7. Drain the wok completely. Return 2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok
and add the hot pepper pods. Stirring over high heat until brown and
almost blackened, about 30 seconds. Remove. Add the scallion mix-
ture and stir. Add the beef and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10
seconds. Add the wine mixture, stirring, and cook for about 15
seconds, until piping hot and the meat is well coated.

Note:
Dried orange peel is available in many Asian grocery and spice stores.
It may be made at home, however, by peeling an orange, eliminating as
much of the white pithy part as possible. The peel is cut into pieces, place
on a baking sheet, and baked in a 200-degree [F] oven until dried. It may
be stored for months in an airtight container.
 

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