Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Chinese-Style Steak

When I first started cooking as a hobby, there were two things that motivated me.  First, it was Italian cuisine.  This was due to my food-based trip through Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, which I took back in 2006.  However, the other source of motivation came from the other side of the world ... it was the original Iron Chef.

Iron Chef was a cooking competition show produced by Fuji Television.  Each episode generally pitted two of the three (and later four) Japanese Iron Chefs in an one-hour cooking battle focused around a secret ingredient.  The Iron Chefs were Japanese chefs who represent the pinnacle of a cuisine: Hiroyuke Sakai, who was Iron Chef French; Chen Kenichi, who was Iron Chef Chinese; and Rokusaburo Michiba, who was the original Iron Chef Japanese.  (Masahiro was later succeeded by Koumei Nakamura and Masahiro Morimoto as Iron Chef Japanese.)  The fourth Iron Chef was Masahiko Kobe, Iron Chef Italian.  

Iron Chef Chen Kenichi
While I enjoyed watching all of the Iron Chefs produce creative dishes, the one chef who I always seemed to root for the most was Iron Chef Kenichi.  The official records of the Iron Chef reveal that Chef Kenichi had the most losses of any Iron Chef, but that did not matter to me.  Chef Kenichi brought a Sichuan-inspired flair to his dishes, which earned him the nickname, "The Szechuan Sage." His dishes always left me hungry and his cooking inspired me to dabble with Chinese cuisine.  

Long after the show ended, and the reruns stopped, I came across Chen Kenichi's cookbook, Iron Chef Chen's Knockout Chinese.  While the book has sat on a shelf for a very long time, I have been wanting to make a dish from its recipes.   I paged through it one day and found a recipe for "Chinese-Style Steak."  Chef Chen writes that this was his favorite recipe as a child.  "If my mother said, 'Steak for dinner tonight,'" he recounts, "my head would be filled with mouth-watering visions all day at school."  The chef would head "straight home on those days" for that steak dinner.  

With that background, I thought that would be a good recipe for one of my Steak Nights. The recipe is incredibly easy to make.  That simplicity seems quite ironic for a chef who made some very complex recipes during his Iron Chef Battles.  In the end, this is just another lesson that has been become a theme in my cooking adventures.  Simplicity can be perfection.

(One last note: I did not have any watercress for the garnish.  But, who needs greens?  Steak and onions is a meal in and of itself!)

Recipe from Chen Kenichi, 
Iron Chef Chen's Knockout Chinese, pp. 58-59
Serves 1

1 cut beef tenderloin
Dash each salt and pepper
1 onion
Beef tallow or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sake
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Watercress, for garnish

1.  Prepare the beef and onion.  Score meat diagonally along the surface of the beef and season with salt and pepper.  Thinly slice the onion against the grain.

2.  Cook the beef.  Melt the beef tallow in a wok and add  steak.  Grill on both sides to desired level of doneness and remove from the wok.  Use remaining fat in pan to saute onions.  Add the sake and soy sauce.  

3.  Finish the dish.  Cut steak into bite-size strips, top with sauteed onions and garnish plate with watercress. 


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