Today’s Recipes: Slow Roasted Sesame Salmon, Beef Chow Fun, and Chinese Long Bean Salad with Tangerines and Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette.
Probably my favorite form of take-out, Chinese food has been a standard for me for most of my life. I know that when I have to work an extra long day, I can swing by my local restaurant and get delicious, healthy food to take home and enjoy. Whenever I move to a new location, one of the first things I look for is a great Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood. If I’m lucky, there will be one very nearby. Today’s selections can be a wonderful Chinese meal for you and your family. Some super healthy salmon roasted with a spicy savory sauce, a green bean salad tossed with a fresh tangerine-infused vinaigrette, and fat noodles with thinly sliced beef … tangerine is considered very lucky for the Chinese New Year. I’m in heaven!
Do you know the difference between a salmon steak and filet? While both are tasty and can be used interchangeably most of the time, occasionally a recipe will specify one cut over the other. The filet runs the length of the fish. There are two on each fish, one on either side of the backbone. They are thick near the spine and taper to their edge. The filets are carefully separated from the ribs leaving a boneless piece – however, there are usually small bones still imbedded in the meat, so always run your fingers across all the surfaces, and remove any bones you feel. You can use regular needle-nose pliers that you keep especially for this purpose, or you can buy Fish Tweezers designed for this purpose. Individual filets are cut from the full filet, usually in about 6 ounce portions.
A salmon steak on the other hand, is cut perpendicular to the filet and includes a section of both filets with the bones in the center. It looks like the letter “U.” I think leaving the fish on the bones gives it more flavor and an extra lusciousness. Once cooked, it is very easy to carefully separate the filet portions from the spine and ribs. But as with all fish, always eat slowly and carefully chew each bite. You don’t want to swallow a bone by mistake! If you do (and I have on occasion) don’t panic. Eat some bread or drink a carbonated beverage to dislodge it. That’s why there is always a hunk of bread on the table at seafood restaurants.
Beef Chow Fun is one of my favorites and I usually take an extra order to go because it reheats so beautifully. Chow Fun is usually made with rice noodles, cut about 1/2-inch wide for a noodle that is similar to the Italian pappardelle (pap-are-del-ee). In chow fun, the meat is sliced paper-thin and marinated with a mixture containing cornstarch. This helps give it the tender and sometimes almost slippery texture. Many people on the Internet think this comes from a coating of lard or oil, but it is the cornstarch. You can make this with any type of meat you like, but beef is the most common on American menus.
Chow fun noodles are often sold in 1-pound packages, either pre-cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips, or in a stack of sheets. If you need to cut them yourself, pull out a ruler and measure off the widths, making a small slit on one end of the stack. Using a metal ruler allows you to wash it easily. I keep one in my kitchen drawer to be used only with food items. Then, if you want to be really exact, use the ruler as a straight-edge to guide your knife as you cut the stack into strips. A pizza cutter or pastry/pasta wheel is especially easy to use for tasks like this.
Bean sprouts are often found in the produce section of grocery stores, but if yours doesn’t carry them, they will be available at an Asian grocery store. They are the crunchy, tender edible shoots of germinated beans. Always wash sprouts before consuming them. I prefer to trim off the “threads” and bean ends, leaving the white stem to eat.
Sometimes recipes call specifically for light or dark soy sauces. It is often a choice of esthetics. While both start out with the same ingredients, light soy sauce (not “lite” as in low sodium) is thinner, lighter in color, and tastes saltier. Dark soy sauce has molasses or caramel added to give the sauce a darker color and a slightly sweeter flavor. The sugar balances the salt resulting in the impression of a less salty sauce. The sodium content is the same. In America is it difficult to find light soy sauce in regular grocery stores, so if the recipe calls for light, go ahead and use your regular dark soy. The flavor will be nearly the same but the sauce will have a darker color.
You may have seen Tamari sauce being sold in the same area. Tamari is a Japanese sauce, also made from fermented soy beans, but it is thicker, darker, and richer than regular soy sauce. Some prefer its flavor. It has a smoother, less salty flavor than soy sauce. Buy a small bottle and do a side-by-side tasting to see which you prefer. I keep both on hand and use them based on the flavor I am looking for in the final dish.
Chinese Long Beans, sometimes called yard beans or yard long beans, can be a wonderful addition to your choice of vegetables and a nice change from typical American string beans. A little chewy and hearty, their color can vary from pale green to a deep forest green, but the flavor remains the same. While they can grow up to 3 feet in length, you want to look for beans that are no longer than about 16-inches so that they will be young and tender. You want to look for beans that have no black spots, are flexible but not limp, and do not look dry. They readily absorb flavor and cooking them with a sauce can enhance their flavor. They are softer than regular green beans, so you want to add them later in the cooking process.
In today’s recipe, the long beans are paired with a bright vinaigrette made with tangerine juice. If you can’t find tangerines, mandarin or navel oranges will also work, but the flavor will be slightly different. The vinaigrette is made with an unusual ingredient – a thickened stock – which allows you to reduce the amount of oil used and create a healthier alternative to traditional vinaigrettes. Also, because of the thickened stock, this sauce actually coats foods better. Use a full-flavored stock, preferably homemade, for and incredible depth and balanced vinaigrette. I’m sure you will love this!
Segmenting an orange or other citrus fruit is easy, but a bit tedious. If you are the impatient kind, you can peel the fruit and cut it into cubes to add to the salad, and then use additional tangerines for their juice. To segment the tangerine, peel it, and holding it in one hand over a bowl to catch the juices, carefully cut on either side of the membrane that runs between each segment. Cut just to the center of the orange, but not through it. If you are right handed, the first cut will be on the right side of the membrane, then move your knife to the other side of the segment and cut it away from the membrane on the right. If you angle your knife slightly on the second slice, the segment will slide out easily. It will get trickier as you get further around the tangerine, so you may want to buy twice the amount called for and only cut as far as you are comfortable with. Once you have the segments separated, squeeze the membrane to extract all the juice. There is a good visual guide at this site.
So now that you are an expert on soy sauces, types of noodles, long beans, and how to segment citrus fruits, let’s get you to the recipes! Bon Appetit my friends!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When cooking you always want to have all of your ingredients prepared ahead of time, ready to use when you need them. This is called mise en place (meez-en-plahss), a French culinary phrase that means everything in place. All ingredients are measured out and cut, if anything needs to be partially cooked ahead of final cooking that is done, all equipment you will need is out on the counter, the oven is heated if needed, etc. This allows you to cook your dish without stopping to gather or measure anything, greatly increasing your efficiency. This is especially important in Asian cooking where you are often stir-frying ingredients that only need a minute or two before adding the next items.
Kitchen Skill: Cutting Julienne
Julienne is a type of knife cut where foods are cut into thin strips. Sometimes called matchsticks or shoestrings. Cut your ingredient to the desired length and then trim so that the sides are flat, creating thick rectangular slices. Stack these slices and cut lengthwise into equally-sized thin strips.
- 4 salmon steaks, skin off, 6 to 7 oz each
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tbsp white sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp black sesame seeds
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp hot chili oil
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1/4 cup fish or clam broth
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush the salmon steaks lightly with some of the oil. Combine the two types of sesame seeds in a flat dish or pan and press the flesh side (not the skin side) in the sesame seeds and set aside.
- Combine the shallots, ginger, chili oil, sherry, broth and soy sauce in an ovenproof dish just big enough to hold all of the fish.
- Season the salmon with salt and pepper.
- Heat a saute pan over medium heat with the remaining canola oil and sear the salmon steaks on both sides to a golden brown, taking care not to burn the sesame seeds. Place the seared fish, sesame seeds up, on the seasoned shallots in the baking dish and put the salmon in the oven. Roast for 7 to 8 minutes for medium rare, or until the fish is cooked to your preference.
- Serve the roast salmon immediately with additional soy sauce, pickled ginger and chili sauce on the side.
- 1 lb fresh wide rice noodles (available in Asian grocery stores)
- 4 tbsp plus 2 tsp canola oil, divided
- 8 oz lean beef thinly sliced, visible fat removed
- 3 tbsp plus 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 coin-sized slices fresh peeled ginger, finely julienne cut (see Kitchen Skill above)
- 4 green onions cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, finely sliced lengthwise (perpendicular to the “equator” of the onion)
- 1-1/2 cups bean sprouts, trimmed
- Chili paste, optional
- Place noodles into a large bowl and pour boiling water over to cover, gently loosening noodles with chopsticks or the handles of wooden spoons. Immediately drain and cool under cold running water; drain well and toss with 2 tsp canola oil to prevent sticking together.
- Mix together 2 tbsp the oil, 1 tsp of the light soy and the cornstarch mixture; toss with the beef and marinate for 30 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining light soy sauce with the dark soy sauce and sugar; set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large (preferably non-stick) wok over high heat. Add the ginger and green onions and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the marinated beef and stir-fry for 1 minute until it starts to change color. Remove from wok and set aside.
- Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the wok and stir-fry the onion and bean sprouts for 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-soft. Add the drained noodles and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture and stir well. Add the beef and stir-fry until well mixed and hot.
- Serve with chili paste on the side.
- 4 tangerines
- Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 2 tbsp tangerine juice (from segmented tangerines)
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tsp minced shallots
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 3-1/4 cups (approximately 8 oz) Chinese long beans
- 1-1/2 cups (approx. 3 oz) Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp (approx. 3 oz) sunflower seeds, toasted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Additional tangerines, for garnish, optional
- To make vinaigrette: Trim peels from tangerines. Working over a bowl to catch juices, cut segments away from membranes. Transfer segments to another bowl and reserve. Squeeze juice from leftover membranes to use in vinaigrette.
- In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with 1 tsp water to form a slurry. Bring vegetable stock to a boil. Whisk in slurry and stir until stock thickens. Cool to room temperature.
- Combine remaining vinaigrette ingredients and whisk into thickened stock. Set aside.
- To prepare beans: Trim beans, cut into one and one-half-inch lengths, and cook in boiling water until barely tender. Drain and cool.
- Combine beans, tangerine segments, onion, and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- Toss bean mixture with vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature. Garnish with additional slices of tangerine if desired.