Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hazel Soon’s Flank Steak with Chinese Preserved Cucumbers

Shock and upset! Where had this recipe gone??? I looked everywhere; it wasnt in my files. It had been so long since I’d made it (the recipe, Dollinks, the recipe!) that I’d completely forgotten how (Now don’t you start snickering ...). All I remembered was that it was simple, enjoyable, and economical (Hmm ... I really should rewrite those two sentences!)
This excellent dish is very quick to prepare!

When I tried to find Hazel Soon (who some 40 years ago had taught me and an eager class of cooking students how to make this fantastic flank steak), I quickly learned that she and husband Jerry had moved from the neighborhood where I first met them. Luckily, a little old-fashioned sleuthing tracked them down

Hazel is now 80 and Jerry, 85, but each looks pretty much as they did the day we first met. The Soons are such great cooks that in 1974, the late actor Henry Fonda asked Hazel and Jerry to prepare a Chinese meal of their choosing for him, wife Shirlee, and his entourage. 

It all happened at the 1974 World’s Fair in Spokane, WA. Fonda was in Spokane doing his tour de force one-man show as underdog defence lawyer Clarence Darrow. In the day when Chinese cooking was considered exotic, the Soons offered cooking demos at the fair. Fonda happened by, one thing led to another, and he requested a private meal. 

With nothing fancy on which to serve it, the Soons laid an old door over two sawhorses, used their aprons as a tablecloth, and began to cook and serve.  

When I caught up with Hazel to get this recipe and the recipe for yesterday’s Egg Fu Yung, she recited both off the top of her head.

Although I’ve made this outstanding dish with Chinese preserved cucumbers in the past, they arent a grocery-store staple and are sometimes hard to find. So when I prepared this a few days ago, I very successfully substituted slivers of sweet, bottled ginger for the sweet preserved cucumbers. 

The quantities below are loose, allowing you to make as much or as little of this dish as you desire. With rice and a couple of vegetables on the side, you’ll have an interesting, unusual, and memorable dinner!  

Hazel Soon’s Flank Steak with Chinese Preserved Cucumbers:

Flank steak, frozen and partially thawed, as required
Canola oil, as required
Soy sauce, as required
Cornstarch, as required
Salt, as required (optional)
Chinese preserved cucumbers or preserved ginger in sugar syrup, as required
Green onions (spring onions; green part only), angle-sliced

To make this dish for Ron and me, I used a small chunk of partially frozen flank steak weighing approximately 6 oz. or 170 g (see Note). Angle-cut meat lengthwise into paper-thin slices approximately 2-1/2 in. wide. 

Working quickly, angle-slice partially frozen meat.

The perfect slice!

Heap thinly sliced meat onto a shallow plate; briefly set aside. Chinese marinades are normally measured in very small quantities. For this amount of meat, combine about 2 tsp. oil, 2 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. cornstarch, and a dash salt, mixed together well. Prepare just enough marinade to barely coat the meat, with no excess remaining. Marinade should resemble a medium-to-thin paste. Thoroughly combine marinade with flank steak. Spread meat strips evenly over plate and let rest 5 min. 

As meat rests, split each sweetened preserved cucumber (or sweetened preserved ginger) lengthwise in half, slicing thinly and scattering over beef. 

Dot with slivers of sweetened preserved cucumber or ginger.

Place a raised steaming rack in large lidded skillet or lidded wok, adding just enough water to reach bottom of rack. Over high heat, bring water to a boil. Slip plate onto rack. Cover skillet or wok, steaming meat about 5 min. If meat is heaped in more than one layer, rearrange with tongs until all meat is cooked through, cooking as quickly as possible to maintain tenderness. Garnish with slivered green onions, serving at once. Serves 2.

Tender, economical, and more than enough for two!

Note: You’ll be wasting your money if you use a more expensive cut of steak. Prepared this way, your flank steak will be wonderfully tender!

Tomorrow: Another in our Dinner Party series: An Elegant High Tea.

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