The Spice of Life
I hit a monster pothole at high speed this morning and after I gratefully realized that I had escaped a flat, I started chuckling. I’m now figuratively and (almost) literally stuck in a February rut – how perfect. Man, it is time to switch things up a bit, bust out of the house, this cozy winter hibernating routine is starting to suck. It doesn’t help that I’ve been nursing a knee injury for the last several weeks. Or that our slightly warmer weather is accompanied by the darkest, grayest sky we’ve seen since November. Or that I’m sick to death of everything I’ve been cooking. Since I can’t make my knee heal faster, or change the weather (although Lord knows I’ve tried with my complaining – sorry), I can dig around for some new twists on old favorites. So I did.
I often make steak on Wednesday nights, with a side of broccoli and rice, blah, blah, blah. Tonight I decided to stir-fry it, inspired by Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s recipe for Stir-Fry of Hoisin Lamb with Cashews and Snow Peas (from her new cookbook, The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper). I used beef instead of lamb, and peanuts instead of cashews, and added some broccoli along with the snow peas…LOVED the dish. It’s packed with flavor from Chinese five-spice powder and garlicky hoisin sauce and once you’re done with some simple chopping, comes together in a flash. I actually seasoned the beef, chopped the vegetables, and whisked together the sauce this afternoon. Then while I cooked rice, I stir-fried the beef, followed by the veggies, and had it all ready to go in 20 minutes.
It wasn’t as significant as pain relief or sunshine, but the fragrance lifted all our spirits and mixing flavors up a bit was most definitely a day brightener. That “variety is the spice of life” saying? Along with Chinese five spice powder, totally true.
Stir-Fry of Hoisin Lamb with Cashews and Snow Peas
From Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s How to Eat Supper
The Lamb (or Beef)
1 to 1 1/4 lbs. tender lamb (organic of possible; lamb steaks are ideal), trimmed of fat and connective tissue, and cut into 1/2-inch by 1-inch chunks
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder; or 1/2 tsp. anise seeds or fennel seeds, bruised
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. dry red or white wine
One 1-inch piece fresh peeled ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 c. water chestnuts, quarters of sliced
1 handful snow pea pods, trimmed
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. rice wine or dry white wine
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 c. salted cashews, roughly broken
1. Measure out, cut, and group together each section’s ingredients: In a bowl, toss the lamb with its seasonings, including the cornstarch and wine, so it is thoroughly coated. Have the ginger and garlic ready to go into the wok, and have the onion, water chestnuts, and snow peas piled on a piece of paper towel, ready to go. In a small bowl, blend the sauce ingredients together. With this lineup, the stir-fry will easily come together in a few minutes.
2. Set a 14- to 16-inch wok or a straight-sided 12-inch sauté pan over high heat. When it is hot, swirl in 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the vegetable oil. Add the lamb and stir-fry for 90 seconds. Spread the lamb out as you cook it, so all its sides sear. Immediately remove the lamb to a clean bowl. Wipe out the wok with a thick wad of paper towels.
3. Heat the wok again over high heat. Swirl in the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. oil. Sir in the ginger and the garlic, and stir until fragrant (few seconds), sprinkling with the salt. Immediately add the vegetables. Stir-fry for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add the sauce mixture, and continue stir-frying for another 90 seconds.
4. Turn the lamb into the wok, and stir-fry for about 10 seconds to heat it through. Stir in the cashews, and turn the mixture into a serving bowl. Serve immediately.
Stephanie’s note: because the cornstarch on the meat sticks to the pan, I would cook the vegetables first, transfer them to a bowl, stir-fry the meat, add vegetables back, add the sauce, add the cashews to finish. It’s not conventional stir-fry order (meat first), but in this case I think it would work better. See what you think.