Monday, July 16, 2007

Where's the Beef?

L_ walked into one of those new fangled gourmet delis, the kind which catered to the citified folk down South. Surveying her prospects, a tantalizing display of handsome specimens perched behind the meat counter, she decided upon a singular two by three inch heft of prime filet mignon, paid and walked out. And in the secluded den of her workplace moments later, our heroine slunk down to the ground sweet relief close at hand. She unthinkingly threw open the papered package and devoured the uncooked form in whole wolfish gulps. Sated and miraculously restored, she turned to resume her life.

As she reported the story to me later alternating between cracks of laughter and the hushed tones of thoughtful revelation, I confess to feeling my own blend of awe and repulsion. In an instant, my own meat eating ways were grilled and sliced open as I considered my restrained “don’ts” next to her lusty “I do’s”. It seems that I have misplaced my meat and hardly even noticed. Rarely do I sink my teeth into a side of beef instead favoring thigh of poultry, the swine-y embrace of the other white meat, even a chomp on occasional tinned fish. I unapologetically lunch on lentils and dine on tofu. But privy to one primal moment, one orgiastic how do y’do to the animal within and my placid little world has been torn asunder unleashing forgotten memories with an abandoned lost friend: the charred sweet garlicky blossoms of bulgogi tucked into lettuce leaf, the butter suede slubs of carpaccio anointed with fragrant olive oil, lemon and pungent capers, and most primal of all, the seared heart of a gushing rib eye steak freckled with a crush of black peppers. Making up for lo these last years—indubitably I have meat on my mind.

I am starting to think that red meat is the nexus of it all, the building block of bones, muscle, and nerve. Iron rich, blooming sanguine red, it must increase one’s mettle, shore up inner might. Ruby rose, brick-- flaming, crimson, rust, and vermilion wine. These are the shades of life which build, rise and powerfully ignite. And they have been the antipode to my slowing movements, the needs of a body abating, disintegrating, and for a moment stilled. For the unbearably long span of a few years my diet ebbed and shadowed the dictates of an ingenious invisible whole. In silent communication, movements reined into a micro world within while calories, flavors, and textures dulled mute to a slow. I seemed to shed my earthly palace becoming only breath or light as feather thought. And in this long night both the coarse and bestial untamed remained respectful, staying far- way beyond sight.

Gradual moment to moment till now as stagnant repose recedes, my vegetal self falters giving way to gangly limbs, fangs, and accompanying small snout. The interiority of my corporeal territory stuffed with beans, rice and other such light-weight fluff growls for ballast against gravity, food for fight or flight. The beef of my body is building. My shanks are strengthening but still tender, my bottom round roast marbled, medium rare, at least a mouthful. Far from sated but restored, I turn to resume my life-- allowing a trail of beef patties found, to lead the way.

Rickshaw’s Thai Beef Salad serves 4: adapted from Chef Andreas Heaphy’s creation.
Essentially I wanted something light to break my meat-fast. Not only is the meat flavorful but it is grilled quickly leaving it tender. The medley of cool crunchy vegetables pairs delightfully with the spice and zing of the dressing.

Beef Marinade:
1 Tblsp grapeseed oil
1 Tblsp garlic minced
3 Tblsp fish sauce
2 Tblsp brown sugar
3 chili de arbol crumbled
1 pound flank steak

¼ Cup mint minced
¼ Cup cilantro minced
¼ Cup Thai basil minced
¼ Cup shallots minced
½ Cup carrots grated
½ Cup sugar snap peas slivered
½ Cup green peppers sliced
½ Cup cherry tomatoes halved
½ Cup English cucumber diced
1 head butter lettuce

½ Cup lime juice
½ Cup fish sauce
1 ½ Tblsp sugar

½ Cup chopped roasted salted peanuts
Cilantro and Mint sprigs

Directions: Combine ingredients for the dressing and set aside. Combine ingredients for marinade and pour over meat allowing flavors to develop about 2-4 hours. When ready grill meat until desired doneness, slice thin. Arrange lettuce leaves on a plate. Toss dressing over the rest of the salad ingredients and heap over the lettuce. Arrange meat on top garnishing with chopped peanuts, cilantro and mint.


Lydia said...

What a tasty way to break your "meat fast" -- I love Thai beef salads, where beef is just another condiment and the veggies and fresh herbs take center stage.

Anh said...

Wonderful, wonderful! i love salad like this, with some beef included. In vietnam, we have a similar dish, but used shredded dried beef, which was flavoured with spices. It is my top favourite till now!

Mighty Mouse said...

Oh Star! I'm definitely gonna try this recipe. Every good Filipino boy has some fish sauce in the cupboard but one cup sounds like a lot for the dressing. Hope it's not too overpowering. That stuff stinks!

Mighty Mouse said...

Oops. It's half cup fish sauce; stills sounds like a lot but reasonable.

Callipygia said...

lydia- I know I'm not sure if there is such a thing as "bad" thai beef salad!

anh- OOh shredded dried beef? That sounds good I wonder if it is similar to Chinese dried pork, tastes like chinese 5 spice?

mightymouse- Good boy you saw the 1/2. I thought it was a lot too and might have used a bit less. It made a lot of dressing and I just had it in a jar and tossed it over salad throughout the week. Fish sauce rules don't you know.

Anh said...

Callipygia, the dried beef is chewier and more flavoursome than the dried pork. It is not often made at home (too hard), so we normally get it from a god shop in Hanoi. The dried beef is sooo good on it own (quite spicy actually), especially with a squeeze of kumquat/lime and a drink. :)

sher said...

I simply adore Thai Beef Salads, and that reads like the best I've ever seen. I rarely eat beef, but sometimes I get a craving that's almost overwhelming. I think that craving is now for beef Thai salad.

Lis said...

That sounds like a mighty tasty salad! I'm a carnivore through and through - I pretty much get the shakes if I don't have beef at least twice a month. ;)

I'm glad you listened to your "inner beast" and indulged a little bit.


Ivonne said...

How I have missed reading your blog, Callipygia!

I've been away for a while but am slowly catching up.

What an account of your reawakening to meat! Enjoy, my dear.

Callipygia said...

sher- I do think it is important to listen to those craving! I haven't met a thai beef salad which I haven't loved.

lis- my inner beef is now also telling me I should eat it 1-2 times a month. The shakes huh?

ivonne- Always a delight to see you here! And thank you I am enjoying my meat.

HipWriterMama said...

The salad sounds delicious! Wonderful post!

jboird said...

Hey, that sounds like the most yummy salad I have ever read....flank steak and fish sauce and lime marinade...that would definitely beat a chicken caeser any day! Rock on!

Joe said...

Sounds very refreshing with that tangy looking dressing!

Callipygia said...

hipwritermama- Thanks, it is a great summer time salad.

jbird- I know I have a total weakness for fish sauce...

joe- Thanks for stopping by, the dressing is light and zesty and perfect with beef.

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Tea said...

How funny, I was just yesterday thinking about Thai beef salad. I have a recipe I've used before, but this one looks delish. Might have to jump ship:-)