Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thai Beef Noodle Stir-Fry

For the past few weeks, I've been watching "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." I just managed to catch up on this week's episode. I've been a fan of his ever since The Naked Chef was first shown in the United States. What I enjoy is his basic philosophy that anyone can cook even the most basic dishes and that it is about good simple flavors coming together with easy culinary techniques.

For a while, I've been reading about the work that he's done in the UK on trying to improve school lunches. I know we have Chicken Nuggets, but they had something called Turkey Twizzlers. I'm not sure I even want to imagine the stuff that goes into these, but you can do an online search for photos and information on them. I was wondering if the same type of program was going to be done here, as our school lunches have never been anything to get really excited about nutritionally either. One teacher has even taken to blogging about it, photos and all.

This past week, it was kind of exciting to see Jamie win over enough folks to get 1,000 people on board for his cooking demos in downtown Huntington, WV (even the lunch ladies came!). I totally loved the flash mob of Marshall University students that helped to get it going. If those could be spread out across the United States, would we all rally around to eat better? It also made me crave the noodle dish that he had everyone make.


So, I went on a mission to track everything down to try to make it. I think it was worth all the effort and prep work in the end. I've made a few adjustments and clarified the instructions somewhat to create what I think is an easy-to-follow and tasty (having downed a whole plate of it for lunch today) Thai Beef Noodle Stir-Fry. I'm also looking forward to having some great leftovers next week!

For this recipe, getting your setup (mis en place) ready in advance is key. Chopping the vegetables and savory items does take time, but in the end the cooking part isn't very long, so prep is very important.

This gorgeous red beef is from the Union Square Greenmarket. It is produced in Pennsylvania, so it isn't exactly super local, but I like the idea of buying from smaller producers. They also have bison meat, so that might be one of my next purchases from them.


The noodles were brown rice udon ones, which I found at Whole Foods. I couldn't find the egg ones which were listed in the original recipe. I also took extra time to cut the peppers, carrots, and snow peas into strips to match the noodles. This had the added advantage of all the items taking equal time to cook. As I don't really like baby corn, I omitted it. I also left out the bean sprouts, as I couldn't see what I do with the enormous bag of them I found at the store.

The beef on its second round in the pan, sprinkled with spring onions and chopped cilantro. The perfume of it cooking was fragrant and filled my small apartment with wonderful aromas.

The final product: chewy noodles, crispy vegetables, and hearty beef all wrapped in garlic, ginger, cilantro, and a kick of heat from the peppers. What a great, filling lunch!

Thai Beef Noodle Stir-Fry

Serving size: makes 4 generous portions
Prep time: at least 30 minutes to chop and prep ingredients, 10 minutes cooking time

Ingredients:
8.8 oz bag brown rice udon noodles (or rice noodles)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 small thin red chili peppers, sliced
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 lb. beef sirloin, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch slices*
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into thin slices (julienne)
2 carrots, cut into thin slices (julienne)
1/2 lb. snow peas, cut into slices
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
juice of 1/2 lime, plus additional lime wedges
3 scallions, cut into thin rounds
1 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
salt

Assembly:
Put pan of water on to boil for noodles. While this is heating up, begin cutting up the next seven ingredients. [The vegetables, garlic, and ginger could be prepared in advance, wrapped up, and kept in the fridge until you are ready to begin cooking. If you put these items in small bowls or in plastic bags by ingredient (as was done on the show) you could have your children work with you to add each of them to the pan as you cook together.]

When the water has boiled, add the noodles. Cook per the instructions on the packet. Once they are finished, drain the noodles and set aside. In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, chili, and ginger and cook for one minute. Add the beef and cook for 2-3 minutes until the meat has begun to brown. Drizzle 1 tsp. of the sesame oil, the juice of 1/2 lime, and a pinch of salt. Stir to create a sauce. Pour contents of pan into a bowl and set aside.

Heat up the additional 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil in the same pan as was used to cook the meat. Put the red peppers, carrots, and snow peas into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until soft but still crisp. Toss in a pinch of salt and stir. Add the cooked noodles to the vegetables. Drizzle the additional 1 tsp. of sesame oil over the noodles and toss everything together to incorporate. Cook for one minute more. Put noodles and vegetables onto individual plates or into a large serving bowl.

Return the meat to the pan. Add scallions and cilantro and stir to incorporate. Cook for a minute to heat the meat through. Pour the meat and all the juices on top of the noodles. Serve with lime wedges.

*To make this vegetarian, you could skip the meat and put in cubes of firm tofu, cooked in the same style as the meat, with the same flavorings to keep the Thai spirit of the dish.

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Jamie Oliver also gave me the best tip for peeling ginger (not personally, to clarify, but via his show). Since I tried it, I haven't wasted the extra amounts that slicing off the outer layer causes. Take a spoon, turn it over, and use the edge of it to scrape off the peel of the ginger. You'll be left with thin shavings of the brown papery outside and a clean bright piece of fresh ginger to grate or slice up as needed for the recipe.

[For a tip on working with cilantro, check out the post on leftovers and scroll to the Kitchen Witch Tip at the bottom of the post.]

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