"Top Chef" watchers: Think all the way back to Season 9. The cheftestants were hot and grumpy in Texas. Paul Qui won, and one chef seemed to get off more ornery one-liners than the others: Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville.
Turns out he's a nice guy, and he has a new cookbook out next month "Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen" that had us reaching for Post-it Notes.
This is his take on a crunchy, tangy, savory salad. It calls for a small amount of meat that, he writes, "satisfies the carnivore in you." A few ounces of beef are pounded thin and given a pho-like treatment before being dressed and added to the salad.
Tips from the chef include using the cilantro stems as well as leaves, and finding a good-quality fish sauce, because that's what adds real depth to the vinaigrette.
Don't be scared off by the number of ingredients. The dish comes together fast enough if you have average knife skills. We left out one or two elements to save time, but you'll taste the essence of what he was after. Use toasted white sesame seeds if you don't have black ones on hand.
Lee suggests serving this with a glass of gruner veltliner. The recipe is adapted from "Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen" (Artisan, $29.95, 304 pages) by Edward Lee.
Lime beef salad
For the beef and salad:
8 cups water
Small knob fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small bunch cilantro
1 small red Thai chili pepper or jalapeño pepper
1 slightly underripe mango
8 ounces green cabbage (from 1/2 head)
About 6 fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds (may substitute toasted white sesame seeds)
One 5-ounce piece boneless eye round or lean sirloin steak
1 tablespoon roasted unsalted peanuts, for garnish
For the vinaigrette:
3 or 4 limes
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger root
1 1/2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons good-quality fish sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce (thicker and darker than regular soy sauce; may substitute low-sodium soy sauce)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the beef and salad: Combine water, ginger, garlic and salt in a small pot over high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, transfer the following ingredients to a large mixing bowl as you prep them: Finely chop the cilantro, including tender stems. Seed the pepper, then finely chop it. Peel the mango; cut around the pit to create thin matchsticks. Cut cabbage into very thin strips. Chop the mint. Add the sesame seeds and toss to incorporate.
Cut the beef crosswise into 8 thin slices. Working with a few at a time, lay the slices flat between two pieces of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin or pan to pound the meat until it is paper-thin. Repeat with all of the slices.
For vinaigrette: Squeeze 5 tablespoons of juice from the limes, letting it fall into a medium bowl. Peel and grate 2 teaspoons of ginger and add it to the bowl, along with the brown sugar, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and pepper.
Whisk together until incorporated; cover and refrigerate.
Drop a few slices of beef at a time into the hot-water broth; cook for 10 seconds, until the meat loses its raw look, then use chopsticks or tongs to transfer to the bowl of chilled vinaigrette, turning to coat. Repeat to cook all of the meat.
Add all of the beef and vinaigrette to the salad in the bowl and toss to combine well. Divide among individual plates.
Chop the peanuts, then use them to garnish the salad portions. Serve right away.
Per serving: 140 calories, 10 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar.