Chinese food... I like Chinese food, but it isn't something that I ever crave. And I've never really had good Chinese food in Chico, so it's something we pretty much never have or make.
But we picked up some great oyster mushrooms at the farmer's market, along with huge bag of cayenne peppers (for a buck!), so Jhan thought that a Chinese beef and oyster mushrooms would be an appropriate dish.
And it was delicious. The oyster mushrooms were delicate and the cayennes added the perfect hit of heat - hot, but not mouth burning hot.
The Food (Jhan)
I had a great time making this dish and it took me back to a time when I was cooking in a traditional Japanese kitchen with a group of kimono clad housewives. Although this dish would probably be classified as Chinese, I have used the same methods and ingredients to make some Japanese dishes. With the spices, fresh peppers and beef this dish smells great while it's cooking.
As usual, I kind of made up my own recipe combining some ideas I had gotten from a Thai cookbook and my own expertise with Asian food.
The real secret of this dish is marinating the meat. I used pre-sliced "fajita meat" that was on sale but thinly sliced flank steak will work well too.
For the marinade, mix about a tbsp of cornstarch, a tbsp of water and a tbsp of teriyaki sauce with 1 large clove minced garlic, 11/2 tsp grated ginger, 2 tsp sesame oil and an egg yolk. Add 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, cayenne and freshly ground black pepper to the mix, then add the beef and stir well to thoroughly coat all of the beef strips. Marinate for at least 30 minutes (but not overnight).
When beef is marinated, heat some oil in a heavy skillet and stir fry the beef (in a very hot pan) until browned. Push the beef to the side or remove, add in some sliced onions and fresh red chile rings (one fresh cayenne pepper is probably enough but if you want it really spicy add another pepper), stir fry the onions and pepper until just cooked. Add in the oyster mushrooms and cook for about a minute (these are delicate so don't over do it).
Turn down the heat and add about 1/3 cup beef broth and 2 tbsp oyster sauce (if you removed the beef earlier add it back in now with any juices accumulated). Cook all until just thickened - about 2 min. Garnish this with some chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. I served the beef with noodles that had been tossed with some sesame oil and cracked black pepper. Enjoy!
I like plating oriental food because it's always very simple, clean and photogenic. This dish was no different.
I just picked up these plates for $4 a piece at T J Maxx, so I decided to use them in this shoot, along with a place mat, napkin and a bowl of farmer's market peppers in the background. Nothing fancy or inventive, but it's simple and effective.
The Lighting and Photography
I bounced the 580EX and the 430EX off the sheet as a single key light and shot the 420EX at -3 stops through the reflector at right to provide just a hint of fill. A piece of foam core in the back provided a touch of fill and an even white background.
I'm stilling deciding if I like this set up better. The big pro is the larger lighting area. The big con is that it's a lot harder to move and set up lights in the smaller available space. On the plus side, I seem to be doing a better job with this set up with white on white lighting set ups!