16 April 2009

Coconut to Save the Day

I finally found a way of making beef taste halfway decent. My former method was to burn it to a crisp, as the burned bits tasted better than the beef itself. If it's not obvious, I'm not a big fan of the taste of beef. Rather than explain, here's an exchange that I've often gone through:

BeefEater: But why don't you like beef?
Me: It tastes like dead cow.
*confused pause*
BeefEater: It is dead cow.
Me: But it doesn't have to taste like it!
*even more confused pause*
BeefEater: Wh--?

It usually goes downhill from there. The problem is that beef just tastes dead. Chicken tastes like meat, like food. I would never say that chicken tastes like dead bird, though, in fact, chicken is dead bird. It does not taste dead to me. Neither does pork.

Not surprisingly, I don't cook beef very often. Every so often, though, my body informs me that we should have some. I tend to assume this means that there's some nutrient in the beef that my body hasn't been getting through other sources. So I give in, and cook up a batch, grimace my way through it, and move on.

Finally, though, I've found a way to cook it that improves it immensely: make it into a coconut curry. The key to any coconut curry is to cut the meat into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick, and simmer it in coconut milk along with whatever spices and flavorings you want. Since coconut milk is very sweet, it's a good idea to throw in something sour (like lime juice, or tamarind, or tomato), and I tend to add a Thai garlic-chili-oil sauce. You can also find actual Thai curry sauces, but the last time I checked they all had ginger in them, and I don't particularly need another bout of suicidal depression, thank you very much. While the meat is simmering, add any slow-cooking vegetables. Potatoes and eggplant are commonly offered in Thai restaurants... I'm not a big fan of eggplant, and the coconut milk isn't much help with it. Let it all simmer until meat and vegetables are done, and then add a crisper vegetable that doesn't require as much cooking for the last five minutes or so, say zucchini or snap peas or even carrots. Serve with rice, preferably jasmine rice.

For those who want something more specific, here's the recipe I made Tuesday night (approximately, as I wasn't actually measuring):
1 eight-ounce steak, cut into thin slices
1 can coconut milk
a bit of salt
1/4 c tomato sauce
1 T chili oil or curry sauce
1 T basil (I used dried; if you've got fresh, go for it)
1 T red pepper flakes (at least; it is nearly impossible to add too much of this...unless you don't like hot food, but that's just silly, right?)
1/2 T fish oil (you can substitute GF soy sauce, but fish oil is more authentic)
----->Simmer in a large saucepan or crockpot, stirring every five minutes or so.

Meanwhile, get the rice cooking according to package directions. Assuming white rice, it should take about 20 minutes to cook, then let it stand for 10 minutes.

While the rice is standing, add 1 cup of fresh snow peas to the coconut milk mixture and stir. Let the peas simmer for 5-8 minutes, or to desired level of doneness.

The beef turns out remarkably tender and tastes much less dead than it usually does.

One can of coconut milk is actually more than you need for just 1 steak, but I've found it effectively impossible to keep the unused portion in usable shape. Still, you could easily double or triple the amount of both meat and vegetables. As written above, I got two servings out of it. Doubling, then, should be 4 servings.
I like to keep the rice and curry separate, and serve each in its own bowl, but some prefer to mix them in the same bowl.

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