Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Szechuan Peppercorn Pepper Steak with Daikon

Radishes are those round-ish, red outside, white inside things at the salad bar, right? While you're elbowing your way along the sneeze guard, maybe you top your plate of lettuce and shredded carrots with them, maybe you bury them (if you choose them at all) under your mountain of cottage cheese and croutons. Except for salads, radishes are pretty forgettable.

Except those cold, scarlet red, icy white orbs of bite-y, crunchiness aren't the only radishes out there. There are long radishes, HUGE radishes, white, pink and even black radishes. 

Not only that, fresh from the fridge and in a salad isn't the only way to serve them. Radishes that aren't cold? Warm radishes? Even (dare I say it), cooked radishes? Yes.

The first time I encountered cooked radishes was at Volt Restaurant in Frederick, Maryland. You know, Volt? Of the Bryan Voltaggio, Top Chef fame? Kimber and I lunched there a while may remember that glowing account of our day in Frederick.

A beautifully plated entree of branzino included an artistically arranged smattering of roasted radishes along the edge. I was skeptical about roasted radishes, but soon found Chef Voltaggio (or his kitchen crew) knew his stuff

Taste? Somewhat like a potato with a little bit of a horseradish-y kick...the texture was potato-like as well. I filed that knowledge away in the back of my mind and promptly forgot about it. Until..... 

Strolling through the Whole Foods produce aisles looking for parsnips for a stew, I found what I was looking for on the bottom shelf of that glorious, colorful refrigerated produce section. They were the prettiest parsnips I'd ever seen. They were so clean, so smooth, so white, so BIG! Like no parsnip I'd ever seen before. 

I pondered...the sign SAID parsnips...must be a new variety. They went into the cart and upon reaching home, also went into my stew. Those parsnips were incredible! The best ever! 

You already know what's coming next...they weren't parsnips, they were daikon radishes. Whole Foods (once again) had mislabeled an item in the produce section. I didn't know any better, I'd never had daikon before. 

Like the recent Whole Foods mislabeling of  Garnet/Japanese Sweet Potatoes, this too had a happy outcome as the parsnip/daikon was my favorite part of the stew.  

You know, I'm beginning to think Whole Foods has some kind of nefarious mislabeling scheme going on. If they label a new food as something known and familiar, maybe someone (me) will try it, get to like it and consequently BUY it. Again and again. Very clever, Whole Foods. Your scheme is working. Deliciously.

Here's a recipe I created JUST to have daikon again.

Szechuan Peppercorn Pepper Steak with Daikon

  • 1 pound round steak, partially frozen, sliced thinly across the grain
  • 1/2 cup beef broth, store bought is just fine
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons sherry, or white wine if you don't have sherry on hand
  • 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce, be sure to use wheat free tamari to make this gluten-free!
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, or peanut oil

  • 1 large daikon, peeled, quartered lengthwise and sliced across into quarter size pieces
  • 1/2 large onion, large dice
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded, large dice
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded, large dice
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 pound snow pea pods - fresh, whole, nice and small, tender ones, remove the strings
  • 1/2 bag spinach, roughly chopped

  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns, Szechuan, crushed with a mortar & pestle or in a sealed heavy plastic bag
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, powdered
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, check the label to be sure it's gluten-free is gluten is an issue

An hour before you start to cook, mix the broth, water, sherry & tamari in a sealable plastic bag & mix well.  Add the beef strips and let marinate for an hour (or more).

When you're ready to start dinner, heat a large skillet or wok - I use a big electric skillet.  Preheat the skillet to smoking hot. BE SURE YOU RESERVE THE MARINADE.  Gradually add half the beef and brown on both sides.  Remove this batch and do the next; add the first batch back into the skillet.

While the beef is cooking, add the crushed peppercorns, ginger, sugar and cornstarch to the marinade.  Stir well and set aside.

Add the daikon, onion and peppers.  Cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Add the spinach and garlic and stir until the spinach wilts. Add the snow peas last and stir another minute.

Stir the marinade well again being sure the cornstarch is completely incorporated into the liquid. Pour the mixture over the beef and veggies in the skillet and continue stirring until the mixture comes together.

Pour the pepper steak into a bowl and serve over rice. My favorite is brown rice!

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