Thursday, February 28, 2008

Green Beans with Spicy Beef Sauce

Yet another fantastic recipe from Jim Fobel's Big Flavors. Fobel says in the head notes that he makes this ahead of time and then reheats it to get the fullest flavor. I made it and we ate it, with no stops in between and it was delicious.

Now, due to unexpected shortages in my kitchen I made a couple of revisions and mistakes ... it still came out wonderfully. In fact, this could be called a lesson in both forgiving recipes and adaptation on the fly.
  • Remember, you don't have to use a wok. A large frying pan will also work. The higher the edges, the better.
  • It calls for 2 pounds of green beans. I forgot that I had to have two pounds of beans for this and used one pound of beans earlier in the week. Oops.
  • The green beans should be fresh but I used frozen haricots verts. I figured I probably could do without the browning called for but thought I'd give it a try. I quickly tipped them in and covered the wok to avoid the worst of the spattering. To my amazement, they actually did brown. Ahem ... some of them browned a bit too well as I was distracted by making salad dressing ... but you know, you can fish out the completely burned, charcoal-like beans very easily. No one objects to the very well browned, almost burned beans and said that they added a deep note to the flavor. Thank goodness for easy-going eaters!
  • I forgot to get scallions. So we did without.
  • With the idea of making it more of a main dish, I doubled the meat called for. Since bison has a wonderful flavor but is quite lean, I used ground bison instead.
  • As I was using half the beans and double the meat, I left the sauce proportions alone. I did double the sherry since I doubled the meat.
  • Finally, when I went looking for bean sauce in the fridge, there was none to be found. I think that it was a victim of that time a few months ago when the compressor went south and we had several days of living from an ice chest. I forgot to replace that little item ... So I used oyster sauce. And a dab of ground chili sauce.
I like a recipe that can adapt so gracefully!

Makes 6 side-dish servings

8 ounces lean ground beef
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons Chinese hot bean sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon black Chinkiang vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Oriental sesame oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
3-1/2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 pounds tender young green beans, topped, tailed, strings pulled, and halved on a severe angle.
1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 large clove, minced or crushed through a press
1/4 cup minced whole scallions
  1. Crumble the ground beef into a medium bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the sherry. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator until needed.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons sherry with the cornstarch and stir to dissolve. Stir in the bean sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil. Stir in the stock; set the sauce aside until needed.
  3. Place a large wok over high heat and spoon in 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the green beans and stir-fry over high heat until well browned, 3-5 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup water, cover the wok, and cook until the beans are crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter.
  4. Dry the wok with a paper towel. Return it to high heat and spoon in the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, 10 to 15 seconds. Crumble in the beef and stir-fry to brown well, about 1 minute. Add the scallions and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Stir the sauce and add it to the wok. Bring to a boil and cook, tossing, until slightly thickened. Add the beans and toss until heated thoroughly, about 3 minutes. turn out onto a platter and serve hot or warm.

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