Recipe: vietnamese grilled beef salad
It got positively balmy last week. I think Colorado was taking that whole Spring thing seriously for a few days, but only for a few days. The walls of snow that line our sidewalks and roads shrunk by feet under the blazing sunshine and warm winds. We got out to noodle about above our house on some of that fine afternoon corn snow for fun. Of course, two days later we were getting turns on the mountain in 14 fresh inches of powder. That’s how Crested Butte rolls.
jeremy navigates spring conditions
aaaaand we’re back to winterlike powder!
Late Friday night, Jeremy and I went back to the mountain to watch the start of The Grand Traverse. It’s an unmarked backcountry ski race that starts at midnight in Crested Butte, climbs 7800 feet, and ends 40 miles across the Elk Mountains in Aspen. Due to that nice 2 foot dump of fresh snow over the mountains, the race coordinators decided the avalanche risk was too high for the 300+ racers (teams of two for safety) and re-routed the course to loop back to Crested Butte – what is known as The Grand Reverse. The Denver Post had a nice article on the race here. I thought it was extremely awesome that the mayors of Crested Butte and Aspen skied as a team. Finish times typically range between 8 and 16 hours.
spotlight on the summit of mount crested butte
racers taking warm up runs
countdown to midnight at the starting line
a blur of headlamps, skis, and colorful gear as they charge up the mountain
That was fun and inspiring to watch! On the drive back to the house, we talked about those beautiful places in the backcountry we’d like to see or revisit. But we only allow ourselves to talk about it, not make plans. And that’s okay. We can’t plan as long as Kaweah is with us. We would not (could not) trust her geriatric care to anyone else at this stage. I don’t doubt that a lot of people might have put her down by now with her severely limited mobility, her accidents, the amount of time it takes to care for her… Sometimes she does well and other times not so well. Jeremy and I agreed that as long as her good days outnumbered the bad days, we’d do what we could to make her happy and keep her safe. This is why I’m fine with hand-waving discussions about places to explore instead of my usual insistence on making concrete plans. But the talk of summer backpacks and trail runs had me craving summery fare like salads and grilled things. Thankfully, this Vietnamese grilled beef salad isn’t limited to summer. You can totally make this now.
for the beef: flank steak, limes, thai bird chile, garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce
minced garlic, sliced chile, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, beef
mix the garlic, chile, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice together
The first time I made this dish I marinated the steak whole, grilling it as one piece and then slicing it. That was fine, but I definitely prefer slicing the steak into 1/2-inch thick pieces first, then marinating it, and grilling the pieces individually. You get more of the wonderful browned and flavorful outer surface that way – but do what you think works best for you. It’s all good. You can marinate the beef for an hour at room temperature, or place it in the refrigerator to marinate overnight. I prefer overnight.
pour the marinade in with the beef
when done marinating, pat the beef dry
Before you are ready to cook the beef, gather the rest of your salad ingredients together. These days, I’m quite the fan of butter lettuce. Go figure. And I like Persian cucumbers for their nice crunch and minimal seedy insides. Pickled daikon and carrots can easily be made at home or purchased at an Asian grocer. You can find fried shallots at the Asian grocer too. The dressing is nuoc cham which you can dilute to taste with more water if needed.
grilled beef, crushed peanuts, cucumbers, fried shallots, nuoc cham, butter lettuce, mint, cilantro, pickled daikon and carrots
slice the beef against the grain
Grill (or pan sear if you can’t grill) the beef to your desired doneness. If it’s a whole steak, I tend to grill for medium rare and slice 1/2-inch thick slices against the grain. If the beef is already sliced, then you can grill the strips on the grate or skewer them for grilling. Just make sure not to cram all of the pieces tightly together or they will never really brown nicely. When the beef is ready, you can assemble your salad.
make sure you get some of all the goodies
pour nuoc cham on as your dressing
This is a lot like the Vietnamese noodle salads, but with lettuce instead of rice noodles. Sometimes I want to stuff my face with the noodle salad, but other times I crave a bowl full of greens with a mix of these fresh and fragrant ingredients. The sweet, sour, and umami flavors really energize you for the next big adventure without weighing you down.
all the good stuff
Vietnamese Grilled Beef Salad
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
2 tbsps dark brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Thai chile, sliced
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak
2 heads lettuce (bib, romaine, green leaf, red leaf), washed and torn into bite-size pieces
1-2 cups cucumber (Persian or English), sliced
1-2 cups pickled daikon and carrots (recipe below)
1/2 cup fried shallots
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 roasted unsalted peanuts, crushed or chopped
nuoc cham (recipe below)
vietnamese pickled daikon and carrots
1 lb. carrots, peeled and julienned
1 lb. daikon radish, peeled and julienned
2 tsps salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
Sprinkle salt over the carrots and daikon and toss to coat. Let sit for a few minutes. Rinse with water and drain. Place carrots, daikon, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and water together in a bowl or a vessel with a tight-sealing lid. I like to place it in a screwtop tupperware and shake the hell out of it (to dissolve the sugar). Let sit for an hour before serving. Can refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
2 limes, juice of
2 tbsps brown sugar
4 tbsps fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand)
4 cloves garlic, minced
chile-garlic paste to taste (or finely sliced hot chiles)
1/2 cup water
Whisk together all ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
Prepare the beef: Combine the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chile in a small bowl or vessel and stir until the sugar is dissolved. You can either leave the steak whole or slice against the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices. The bonus of slicing the steak before marinating is that you will have more of that browned and flavorful exterior. Totally up to you. Place the steak (whole or sliced) in a large ziploc bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag and squish it around to make sure the marinade contacts the beef. Marinate for an hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. If refrigerating, remove the beef from the refrigerator an hour before grilling. If the beef is sliced, you can grill the meat directly on a hot grill or skewer the pieces (don’t mash them together or they won’t cook properly) and grill them on high heat. If the steak is whole, just grill it on high to your desired doneness and slice into 1/2-inch thick pieces against the grain.
Assemble the salad: Divide the lettuce among 4 to 6 large bowls so there are 3 cups of lettuce in each bowl. Distribute the cucumber slices and pickled daikon and carrots to the bowls. Place the beef slices on the lettuce in each bowl (serve more or less depending on preference). Garnish each salad with a spoonful of fried shallots, a sprinkle of fresh mint and cilantro, and a spoonful of crushed peanuts. Serve with nuoc cham on the side as dressing. Makes 4-6 salads.
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