Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow)


Thai beef with Siam queen basil and scallion cooked in a cast-iron wok over hot coals on a charcoal grill. Intense heat is needed to achieve a great sear on the beef, while keeping the vegetables crisp.

This is a legendary Thai dish which quickly became one of my favorites after having it served at two local Asian restaurants in Green Bay, Wisconsin; May’s Egg Rolls and Plia’s Kitchen. At May’s they use a super-secret killer spice which I never could figure out… it’s Vietnamese, brutally hot and the owner will not share the recipe with me. 🙂

I grow fresh Thai queen basil and peppers every summer in my garden and am always bummed at the end of harvest season when they aren’t available.  The steak is marinated with Laoganma black bean chili paste, which is a staple in my kitchen. It adds such a great, subtle flavor to my stir fry recipes.

Control the heat with the ground Thai chili powder – you can also add hot Thai green chilies if preferred. A note on the garlic – you’ll see that I add it directly to the beef marinade instead of frying it separately in the wok. I’ve learned it doesn’t scorch this way, and it adds a complex depth of flavor to the beef. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

4 tbs. canola or peanut oil, divided
12 oz. flank steak, thin-sliced at a bias against the grain
2 tbs. cornstarch
1 small white or red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh Thai queen or holy basil leaves, stems removed
3 scallion, roots trimmed and sliced at a bias in 1″ pieces (use both white and green parts)
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

For the Beef Marinade~
6 cloves peeled garlic, minced
1 tbs. Mongolian chili oil
2 tbs. Laoganma black bean chili paste

Combine For the Sauce~
1 tbs. Thai fish sauce
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground hot red Thai chili powder, to taste

1/4 cup reserved beef stock (use up to 1/4 cup based on preference)

Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions  (1.5 cups rice and 3 cups water with 2 tbs. salted butter.)
Bring water and butter to boil and simmer rice over very low heat, tightly covered for 15 minutes. Fluff and serve.

Cooking Tools: heavy cast-iron or steel wok, heat-resistant silicone oven mitts, Asian wok shovel and spider strainer, serving bowl for transferring the beef.

 

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the steak marinade:  Slice the flank steak thinly at a bias against the grain. Place in a ziplock storage bag with the minced garlic, Laoganma black bean chili paste and the Mongolian chili oil. Squeeze the bag to evenly distribute the spices. Chill in your fridge for at least one hour.

Prep all of your other ingredients so you have them ready and close at hand. Thai cooking is very fast, with just a few minutes of actual time in the wok over a hot outdoor grill.

When ready, prepare an outdoor grill with enough charcoal in a mound for a medium hot fire. Light and let it come up to temperature for 15-20 minutes. While the grill is heating up, remove the steak from the fridge and place in a mixing bowl. Dust with the cornstarch and turn with a spatula so the pieces are evenly coated. Set aside and allow to warm up to room temperature.

Place the wok directly over the center of the hot coals on a grilling grate. Allow it to come up to temperature and smoke, about three minutes. The wok will be ready when a drop of cold water sizzles on contact. Add 2 tbs. canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the beef, spread and distribute evenly in the wok. Allow to sear for 2 minutes before turning. Continue to sear for 3-5 minutes. Transfer the beef to a serving bowl and set aside.

Next, add the remaining 2 tbs. of canola oil, the bell pepper and onion. Stir-fry until just crisp-tender. Add the beef back to the wok and then add the sauce ingredients except for the beef stock. Stir constantly until reduced by half. Quickly add the basil leaves and scallion. Stir until just wilted, about a minute, and add a bit of the beef stock until the desired consistency is achieved for the sauce. Quickly stir to incorporate.

Carefully remove the wok from the grill, using silicone mitts, and set on a heavy, heat-resistant trivet. Serve immediately with jasmine rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

A note on the flank steak: I’ve used this special cut of steak for all of my stir-fry recipes with great results. If you cut it at a bias against the grain of the meat, it will never dry out and always be fall-apart tender. I buy a full cut that is vacuum-packed and divide it in half the long way. I’ll then vacuum-seal the remaining half and freeze it for later use. If you prep the steak when partially frozen, it cuts much more evenly. Just ensure you let it warm to room temperature before wok-searing.

Serves 2-4

Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes Thai Beef with Basil (Pad Gra Prow) | Culinary Compost Recipes

Ginger-Soy Glazed Cedar Plank Salmon


In our family, we take advantage of the short Wisconsin summer by grilling a lot of fish. The marinade and glaze recipe shown here is a classic Asian-inspired reduction that allows the flavor profile to intensify as it thickens. Ensure that you take time to marinate the fillets for at least one hour. Ideally, I’ll leave them sit for 2-3 hours. From my experience, grilling on a cedar plank is the only way to produce consistent results with no flareups or scorching. It comes out perfect every time. This is a family favorite — Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

2-4 8 oz. fresh salmon fillets, with skin left on
1/4 cup water
2 tbs. soy sauce
2 tbs. packed brown sugar
2 tbs. grated fresh ginger
1/2 large shallot, minced
Juice of 1/2 squeezed lemon
1/4 cup honey
2 tbs. butter
Pinch of dried red chili flakes

Cedar plank(s) and real wood charcoal for grilling

 

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the marinade/glaze ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce until thickened and bubbly, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside until cooled.

Rinse the salmon fillets in cold water and pat dry. Place skin side down in a shallow baking dish or large ziplock bag. Add one-half of the marinade to the salmon and reserve the rest.
Cover the salmon and refrigerate for at least one hour so the flavors have time to set.

Prepare an outdoor charcoal grill with real wood charcoal set to each side for indirect heat. Light and allow it to come up to temperature; the coals should be nearly white-hot.
Place the salmon fillets skin side down on a cedar plank and carefully place the plank in the center of the grilling grate, ensuring the coals are on each side, the length of the plank. Quickly brush on part of the remaining glaze and cover the grill (fully vented). Grill for a total of 12-15 minutes, adding more glaze around 7 minutes. Using an instant-read digital thermometer, remove the fish when the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches 130 degrees F. The fish should easily flake apart.

Serve immediately.
Serves 2-4

Note: The best cedar planks I’ve found are from Costco. You can purchase a set of ten for $30 as shown here — but my wife found them on sale for $20. They can be reused if thoroughly cleaned and dried between use. Use only hot dish soap water and a scrub brush.

 

Quick-and-Easy Vietnamese Pho Soup with Grilled Flank Steak


Quick-and-Easy Vietnamese Pho Soup with Grilled Flank Steak
This is a recipe adapted from Vietnamese chef Andrea Nguyen. I have always loved authentic pho, but have never attempted to make it because of the time and hassle in creating a proper soup stock from boiled beef bones. For this recipe, I improvised and added a bit of bacon fat to try to recreate that savory, slow-cooked flavor. It’s not perfect, but very close and a huge time-saver served as a weeknight meal.

A note on the fish sauce – some people love it, but you have to be pretty ballsy to throw a quarter-cup of the stuff in your soup pot, as called for in Andrea’s recipe. Knowing how intense the flavor is, I backed off to only three tablespoons and found it still borderline overpowering. I have edited my recipe to include only two tablespoons. Try it — you can always add more; it’s an authentic and necessary component of this dish.

My special Asian-marinated sliced flank steak takes center stage. An amazing recipe — Enjoy!


INGREDIENTS:

32 oz. store-bought beef stock
3 cups hot water
2 tbs. fish sauce
1 tsp. rendered bacon fat
1″ chunk ginger root, peeled, charred and cut into discs
1 large, whole shallot, peeled and sectioned, charred, then cut into 1/2″ slices
1 tbs. whole dry coriander seed
1 small cinnamon stick
6 whole dry cloves
2 tsp. powdered beef base
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
3 large green scallion, trimmed and cut at a bias into 1″ planks
2 fresh green chilis; Thai or semi-hot, seeded and sliced
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
2 handfuls fresh Thai queen basil
Lime wedges for garnish
1 brick Three Sisters Vietnamese vermicelli noodles (enough for two or three large, single portions. There are 6 bricks in a two-pound package.)

For the Grilled Steak~
1/2 lb. Black Angus flank steak, tenderized with a needle press
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed through a press
2 heaping tbs. Laoganma Black Bean Chili Sauce
2 tbs. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, to taste


DIRECTIONS:

About 12 hours prior to cooking, marinate the flank steak. Hit it generously with a needle tenderizer on both sides. Place in a zip-lock bag with 2 heaping tbs. Laoganma black bean chili sauce, 2 tbs. lime juice and 4 large cloves garlic, crushed in a press. Season with a bit of Kosher salt, seal tightly and ensure all surfaces of the meat are covered. Refrigerate, rotating ocassionally.

Charring the shallot and ginger: Place in a heavy cast-iron pot or fry pan (not enameled) and evenly char with a propane torch. Remove and set the shallot and ginger aside to cool. Then slice.

Preparing the soup stock: Set a heavy, cast-iron or enameled iron pot over medium-low heat and add the coriander seed. Stir until it just starts to toast, then add the bacon fat, sliced shallot and ginger. Continue stirring until slightly browned. Add the cinnamon stick, whole cloves and beef stock. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. Add the hot water, fish sauce, beef base and brown sugar. Cook at a rolling simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and carefully strain out the solids in a colander. Discard the solids and return the stock back to the pot.

Preparing the flank steak: Time an outdoor charcoal fire so the steak will be done with the stock. Level the coals and place the steak over direct heat and sear about three minutes per side, until charred but medium rare. Remove and let rest for five minutes. Cut into 1/4″ strips at a bias, across the grain so it remains tender. Reserve covered.

Prepare the rice vermicelli according to package directions, boiling for about 7-8 minutes. Drain off the water and divide the noodles between bowls. The noodles should also be timed so they are done when the stock is done.

Pour a generous amount of stock over each bowl of noodles and top with the seared flank steak, green onion, Thai basil, green chili and cilantro. Squeeze in a bit of lime juice and serve immediately with hot chili garlic sauce, Sriracha and soy sauce on the side.

Serves 2-3. Chopsticks and Asian soup spoons are a must with this recipe.

NOTE: If the steak is a bit undercooked and bloody when slicing, do not worry. Adding the hot stock over the top will cook it through in less than a minute.

Fresh garden Thai queen basil and chilis.

Stir-Fry Pork with Vegetables and Black Bean Chili Garlic Sauce


Stir-Fry Pork with Vegetables and Black Bean Chili Garlic SauceThis is a recipe loosely based on one by Fuchsia Dunlop, from her book Every Grain of Rice. The sauce represented here is intensely dark, rich and fragrant; elevated by the Laoganma black bean chili oil.  Look for it in large Asian markets – it is an amazing product. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

4 oz. ground pork with a decent amount of fat
1” chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1” planks
handful of snow peas, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 large red onion, cut in wedges
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced in 1” pieces
1 large scallion, trimmed and cut in 2” sections at a bias

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 heaping tbs. Laoganma® Chili Oil with Black Bean
1/2 tsp. Lee Kum Kee® Black Bean Garlic Sauce
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
1 tbs. Shaoxing wine
1 tsp. Gold Plum® Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorns*, toasted in a mortar
1 tsp. sesame oil

1 cup Thai Jasmine rice
2 tbs. canola oil, divided

 

DIRECTIONS:

Cut, measure and prepare all ingredients so you have them ready, and at hand.
Prepare the sauce by adding everything except the Laoganma chili oil and sesame oil to a small mixing bowl. Mix well.

Heat a wok over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add 1 tbs. canola oil and swirl the wok to coat. Add the ground pork and stir-fry with a long-handled Chinese spatula until no longer pink and the surface starts to brown. Drain and set the pork aside. Discard the fat from the wok.

Add the remaining canola oil to the wok and stir to coat. Add the Laoganma chili oil, the ginger and garlic. Quickly stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, carrot and snow peas. Stir-fry until crisp-tender and the surfaces start to char. Add the sauce mixture and stir, scraping to deglaze the wok. Keep stirring for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the pork back to the wok.

Add the chopped scallion and stir for about a minute until it is just wilted. Add the sesame oil. Remove the wok from the heat and serve with jasmine rice.

To prepare the rice:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 2.5 quart heavy stock pot. Add the jasmine rice and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced and the surface starts to show pock marks. Cover and cook over very low heat for 20 minutes. Fluff and serve. Time the rice so it is done when you are done with the stir-fry.

Serves 2.

*A note on the Szechuan peppercorns: These may be hard to find, but they add such a unique flavor to this dish. They are not true peppercorns, but actually the seed pods from the Asian prickly ash shrub. Toast one level teaspoon in a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat until they just start to smell fragrant. Shake them occasionally so they don’t scorch. Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a mortar. Lightly grind by hand until the pods are crushed. Discard the hard black seeds, as they are very gritty. Run through a fine mesh screen and discard the larger pieces. Keep the fine powder in a small airtight spice jar stored in your fridge. It will last about a week before the flavor starts to fade. These peppercorns produce a numbing sensation on your tongue, which is caused by the active compound hydroxy alpha sanshool. The spice is widely used in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China and Northern India.

Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)


This is my rendition of a classic dish served at Plia’s Kitchen, a Hmong restaurant in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They serve wonderful South Asian cuisine. The widely-reputed silver bullet for curing a hangover, or just a late-night snack after an all-day bender, this mind-numbingly spicy recipe is a much-loved Chinese-inspired favorite in Thailand.

My wife cannot tolerate anything remotely hot, which is a real shame. To compensate, I improvised this recipe by adding only a seeded jalapeño pepper. For the authentic version, you should use fresh hot Thai red chilis, crushed in a mortar. Thai holy basil is impossible to find in my area – if you are lucky enough to source or grow some, by all means use it — it has an unmistakable peppery, complex flavor that is all but absent in Thai sweet or lemon basil.  Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 large chicken breast
1 tbs. cornstarch
2 tbs. water
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

—-

4 tbs. canola oil, divided
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed in a mortar
1″ chunk of ginger, peeled and grated
4-5 fresh red Thai chilis, stemmed, cut in pieces and crushed in a mortar
OR – one seeded, sliced jalapeño
1 tbs. Laoganma black bean chili sauce
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1” square sections
1.5 cups fresh Thai holy basil leaves
2 large scallions, trimmed and cut at a bias in 2” sections, with greens
4 oz. rice flake noodles (1/2 8 oz. bag), soaked for one hour and then boiled for two minutes

—-

1 tbs. Shaoxing wine
1 tbs. oyster sauce
1 tbs. fish sauce
1 tbs. dark soy sauce
2 tsp. Tamari soy sauce
1 tsp. Gold Plum® brand Chinkiang vinegar
1 tsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock

 

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the chicken into small pieces (1/2” to 1”).
In a medium-sized work bowl, combine the cornstarch, water, white pepper and dark soy sauce. Add the chicken and coat well. Set aside for one hour on your counter until it warms to room temperature.

Prepare the rice flake noodles by soaking them in warm water for one hour. Drain, then add to boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Time them so they are ready to add to the wok after draining.

Prep the vegetables so you have them at hand. Combine the Shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, fish sauce, dark and Tamari soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, brown sugar and chicken stock in a small bowl. Mix and set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat and add 2 tbs. canola oil, swirling to coat. The oil should start to smoke. Add the cut chicken pieces and stir with a long-handled Chinese metal spatula. Cook until seared on all sides, about three minutes. Quickly remove from the wok and set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining canola oil and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the wok. Add the crushed garlic, ginger and chilis or jalapeno, and the Laoganma black bean chili sauce.  Stir-fry until fragrant, about a minute. Add the minced shallot and continue to stir for another one to two minutes. Add the bell pepper. Stir to sear the vegetables, and then add the sauce ingredients and the reserved chicken. Stir to coat. Drain and add the boiled rice flake noodles, the fresh basil and scallion. Stir well to coat the noodles and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.

Thai Red Curry Soup with Shrimp


Thai Red Curry Soup with Shrimp | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a wonderful recipe inspired by some of my favorite Thai cuisine. The red curry paste packs a sucker-punch, so use it sparingly until you know how spicy it is. The addition of turmeric will intensify the color of the dish. If you cannot find lemongrass, don’t worry. The paste already has it. Adding fresh lemongrass will simply provide a more vibrant, complex flavor — remove it before serving as it is tough and will not break down.

Note that the preparation is layered in stages so the tender vegetables go in at the end — this ensures that they don’t overcook.
Enjoy, this is one of my all-time favorites.

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 tbs. peanut oil
20 small shrimp, deveined
2 heaping tbs. red curry paste (or more to taste)
1 medium shallot, minced
1″ chunk of ginger, peeled and finely grated
4 shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass; trim, peel and keep only 8″ of the tender base. Crush with a meat mallet and then cut in half.
4 kaffir lime leaves, minced
1.5 tsp. ground turmeric
4 cups chicken stock
1 13-oz. can coconut milk, shaken
4 Thai birds-eye hot chilies, crushed (to taste)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and thinly-sliced
1 small bunch bok choy, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped (base and greens divided)
1 tbs. brown sugar
Juice of 1/2 fresh lime
2 tbs. fish sauce
3 tbs. dark soy sauce
1/3 of a 14-oz. package of Asian rice vermicelli noodles
Handful of snap peas – about 10
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup bean sprouts

~For Garnish:
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
2 scallion, trimmed and finely sliced at a bias, with greens
1 cup trimmed cilantro leaves
Lime wedges

 

DIRECTIONS:

Cut, measure and prepare the ingredients prior to cooking so you have everything at hand. Thai cuisine is known for its short cooking time.

Prepare the Asian vermicelli noodles according to package directions. Break them in half and cook until just al dente – about five minutes. Drain and reserve, covered.

While you are preparing the noodles, place a 3.5-quart heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the peanut oil and heat until shimmering. Add the shrimp and saute for two minutes until pink. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Add the red curry paste and minced shallot to the pot. Stir constantly until fragrant; about a minute. Watch closely so it doesn’t scorch. Add the sliced shitake mushrooms and the grated ginger. Continue stirring for two minutes.

Next, add the chicken stock and increase the heat to a rolling boil. Add the turmeric, brown sugar and coconut milk. Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, jalapenos and the white part of the bok choy. Reserve the bok choy greens for later. Reduce heat to a low simmer.

Add the lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and crushed birds-eye chili. Cook for seven to ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil, snap peas and bean sprouts at the very end. Add the prepared noodles, bok choy greens and shrimp to the pot. Stir and remove from heat. Remove and discard the lemongrass before serving.

Garnish with red onion, scallion and cilantro. Drizzle with fresh lime juice if desired.

 

Serves 4

Thai Red Curry Soup with Shrimp | Culinary Compost Recipes

Culinary Compost Boycotts Penzeys Spices


Hello fellow foodies. After reading recent commentary from Bill Penzey, the author of Culinary Compost is officially withdrawing all references to Penzeys Spices on this food blog. While I’ve always known that Bill overtly inserts his political opinion in monthly mailings to his customer base, (which, in its own right is wrong on so many levels) I can no longer stand by and let this man spew his rhetoric of hate to conservatives, and to people who support and voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, by labeling them “racist.”

I am not a racist. I never have been. And I resent being called one.

This is extreme-left socialism, and this kind of bigotry has no place in America.  Make no mistake — my observation is not one of Conservatives vs. Liberals. It is simply a stance of the author not supporting an individual who wants to further divide this country through hate by means of his product.

Shown below are a few articles and a link to Penzey’s official Facebook page:

http://truthfeed.com/owner-of-penzeys-spice-co-trashes-trump-supporters-calling-them-racist-and-saying-they-must-be-punished/39315/

http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2016/11/21/penzeys-ceo-comments-ignite-backlash-praise-and.html

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/nov/23/bill-penzey-ceo-trump-voters-just-committed-the-bi/

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/bill-penzey-spices-trump/

http://modernfarmer.com/2016/11/penzeys-spices-condemns-trump-attracts-rage/

https://www.facebook.com/Penzeys/?fref=ts

2/1/18 Article in The New Yorker

 

You be the judge.  Last time I checked, America was still a free country. And my readers, of course, are still allowed to shop where they want and exercise their right to free speech, which I will always respect. However, pitting people against each other in the guise of “Love” is a ruse by Bill Penzey, who’s only concern is making as much money as he can over a very contentious election.  Funny thing is, he’s pissed off a lot of his customers, and I, for one, will not be coming back.

Invariably, comments by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke say it best:
https://twitter.com/SheriffClarke/status/800088603422380033
“This typical hate-filled white elitist lefty doesn’t live around black people or have stores in black neighborhoods.”

Bill Penzey can be reached at bill@penzeys.com

#boycottpenzeys

 

In the interest of an open discussion, leave your thoughts below – none will be censured.
—Mike from Culinary Compost

Bill Penzey's Socialist Sea Salt

Penzey’s Spices announces new product.