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  RECIPE TITLE "Chinese Beef, Bok Choy, and Noodle Soup Under 30 minutes"
excerpted from Carefree Cook    © Copyright© 2003 by Rick Rodgers

yields Makes 4 servings time --- difficultyeasy

As a frequent customer of the noodle shops in New York's Chinatown, I am constantly amazed at how fast they can get a steaming hot bowl of soup on the counter. Of course, the secret is to have everything ready before you get started. If you have the time, freeze the steak for about thirty minutes or so to firm it up--it will be easier to slice. Bean threads, also called cellophane noodles, are made from soybeans. You'll find them in the international section of most supermarkets or at Asian grocers.

  RECIPE INGREDIENTS

  • 2 skeins (about 2 ounces total) bean threads
  • 12 ounces boneless beef sirloin steak, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh ginger (use the large holes on a box grater)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium head bok choy (11/4 pounds), root end trimmed and leaves cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices, or substitute 3 cups sliced (1/4-inch-wide) napa cabbage
  • 2 cups canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili paste with garlic or 1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

  RECIPE METHOD

1. Remove any strings from the skeins of bean threads. Place the bean threads in a small bowl and add enough very hot tap water to cover. Let stand while you prepare the soup.

2. Holding the knife at a 45-degree angle, cut the steak across the grain into thin slices (holding the knife at this angle makes wider slices). Cut the slices into pieces about 3 inches long.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over high heat until very hot. In batches, without crowding, add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until it loses its pink color, about 11/2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the saucepan. Add the shallot, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry until the shallot softens, about 1 minute. Add the bok choy and stir-fry until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, 2 cups water, the sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chili paste and bring to a boil.

5. Meanwhile, drain the bean threads and return to the bowl. Using kitchen scissors, snip through the bean threads a few times to make shorter lengths (this makes them much easier to eat with a soupspoon). Stir the beef and bean threads into the soup. (The soup can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.)

6. Ladle the soup into deep soup bowls and serve hot.

Chinatown Shrimp and Spinach Soup

Substitute 12 ounces peeled, deveined medium shrimp for the beef and stir-fry until it turns opaque, about 3 minutes. Substitute 8 cups loosely packed baby spinach (about 7 ounces) for the bok choy.

Soy Sauce

There are countless brands of soy sauce, which is made from a brew of fermented, aged, and distilled soybeans. The problem is that each producer has its own recipe, and the quality varies enormously (I have ruined a recipe by using a soy sauce that was too strong). To confuse matters further, there are three grades: light (not to be confused with low-sodium), medium (also known as thin soy sauce), and dark (with added molasses, and sometimes called superior soy sauce--which is not an indication of quality), as well as mushroom-flavored soy sauce. Asian cooks use each of these differently.

What's a Westerner to do? Supermarket soy sauce is usually a Japanese brand with reliable quality and flavor, so that's what I recommend. Traditional Asian cooks can argue that it is worthwhile to appreciate the differences among the three soy sauce varieties, but for everyday cooking, I am very happy with the supermarket brand.


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America's palate has reached lofty levels of sophistication, but the amount of time and energy available for cooking has plummeted. With that in mind, Rick Rodgers has created a magnificent solution. In his most comprehensive book to date, Carefree Cook replaces stress and fuss with creativity and ease. While Rodgers has included numerous quick ideas in this collection, many of his selections simmer and roast at a leisurely pace while the cook relaxes. Written in Rodger's appealing irreverent style, each of the 150 recipes here draws dazzling flavor from just a handful of ingredients. A down-to-earth approach to fine cooking, Carefree Cook transforms a hectic kitchen into a source of bliss.

 

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