Monday, April 28, 2008

Riff and Roll

I've got a delicious appetizer for guests or main course for you and a dinner companion: Glazed Japanese Beef-and-Scallion Rolls. They're a riff on negimaki, the classic Japanese broiled strips of beef smothered with teriyaki sauce and rolled with scallions. Add asparagus to the scallions; substitute miso, soy sauce, ginger and mirin for terikayi; and char the rolls over a hot grill instead of sticking them under the broiler, and you've got a more intensely flavored dish that's still true to the original.

I bought beef tenderloin at my local butcher, and asked him to slice it thinly. When I got home, Fork lightly pounded the beef to somewhere between 1/4- and 1/8-inch thickness. Turns out he could've pounded them even more (see the photo; the meat is definitely rare inside), but the dish still turned out well. You salt and pepper the beef slices, and roll them up with asparagus and scallions that you've blanched and seasoned with salt and sesame oil. A few toothpicks hold things in place, and then you marinate the rolls in a mixture of miso, soy, ginger and mirin (I used rice wine vinegar; not the same, I know, but still good). They need only a minute or two per side on a hot grill pan.

We ate the rolls with jasmine rice and broccoli. The asparagus and scallions were still crunchy, and the beef was tasty, bursting with savory-earthy, salty-sweet flavor (the Japanese supposedly call this 'umami'). We call it delicious.--S

Glazed Japanese Beef-and-Scallion Rolls

Makes 6 first course servings or two main course servings

6 thin asparagus spears
6 large scallions
About 1 t Asian sesame oil, for coating
6 thin slices of beef tenderloin, about 2 ounces each, very lightly pounded to a 1/8-inch thickness
Freshly ground pepper
2 T red miso
2 T soy sauce
2 T mirin [I used rice wine vinegar]
2 T sugar
1 T finely grated fresh ginger
Vegetable oil, for brushing

1. In a small skillet of boiling water, blanch the asparagus until bright green, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a plate and pat dry. Add the scallions to the skillet and blanch until bright green, about 45 seconds; transfer to the plate and pat dry. Lightly season the vegetables with salt and lightly coat with sesame oil.
2. Set a slice of beef on a work surface and season with salt and pepper. Arrange an asparagus stalk and a scallion lengthwise on the meat; trim them flush with the meat. Roll up the meat around the asparagus and scallion and secure with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining slices of beef, asparagus and scallions.
3. In a small bowl, mix the miso with the soy sauce, mirin, sugar and ginger. Put the beef rolls in a shallow baking dish and coat generously with the miso mixture. Let stand for 20 minutes.
4. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Lightly brush the pan with vegetable oil. Add the beef-and-scallion rolls and cook over high heat until nicely charred all over, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cutting board and remove the toothpicks.
5. Slice each roll on the diagonal 1 1/2 inches thick. Arrange the slices on a platter, cut sides up, and serve right away.

Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine

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