"CHINESE" BEEF STIR-FRY
After a heated online discussion a while back about the devolution of Chinese culinary classics into American-style comfort food, I'm reluctant to post this one up as "Chinese" without quote marks around the geographical adjective.
I'll say up front that I brought my experience as a cook of Northern European ancestry with a strange penchant for Italian cookery to this Asian-inspired dish, and in any case, I fashioned it out of my head without reference to cookbooks, Chinese or otherwise.
But I made it with respect, and with a world-fusion interpretation of Chinese cookery as inspiration, and I hope the result isn't, er, "embarrassing."
I started with a couple of small filet mignons left over from a tray of them I bought in the about-to-expire meat department a while back and then froze for later use. While the rice was cooking, I let the meat thaw just enough to cut, then sliced it into stir-fry pieces (about 1 inch by 1 inch square by 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick).
For the veggie component, I cut one small onion into squares (halved along the equator, then each half sliced into eight wedges and separated), and cut one small green pepper into similar-size squares. Washed and set aside about 20 large spinach leaves, stems removed but left whole.
I made a flavoring mix with 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sweet Sherry, 1 teaspoon each finely minced garlic and fresh ginger and a good shake of dried red-pepper flakes.
Also prepared and set aside 3/4 cup beef broth and 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water.
The stirfry was quick and straightforward: Fire up the wok over high heat until it's very hot, then drizzle in 2 tablespoons peanut oil and heat until it's almost smoking. Throw in the onion and green pepper squares and toss-fry until they're bright green and crisp and the kitchen if full of that delicious hot-wok smell. Add the flavoring mix and continue stir-frying for a moment or so; then add the beef and stir-fry just until it loses its raw pink color. Take care, as these thin slices will cook very quickly, and you don't want them to overcook. Pour in the broth, stir once or twice, turn the heat down to medium, add the cornstarch and stir until it thickens. Turn the heat down to low; dump the spinach leaves on top and cover the wok, cooking for a moment more, just long enough to wilt the spinach.
As I said, I can't say that it's ethnic Chinese. But I hope that if I served it to a Chinese gourmet, he or she would understand the philosophy of it and be pleased.