Saturday, March 15, 2014

Quick Thai-Style Beef and Peppers with Rice Noodles

Please raise your hand if you work full-time, but don't want to resort to drive-thru places for take-out food to feed your family?

That many? I love you.  Take a bow.  

Hi, my name is Debby, and I used to rely on frozen processed dinners, and drive-thru places to feed my young son. I was a frazzled, working mom of a little kid -- and I was supporting him on my single income. Of course, a little kid loves those Happy Meals and toys that comes with it.  But, little boys grow up, and they eat a LOT of food!  I'm thankful that it was a Food Network show "30-Minute Meals" that helped me reform my pantry staples so that I could put a homemade dinner on the table, very quickly, and I felt good about it. I felt like "Super Mom". 

I give some fast-food chains credit, for trying to add healthier selections. But have you checked out their prices lately?    Today,  I can cook dinners, that includes these beautiful fresh veggies and aromatics for about the same price-- or even less.  If I can get dinner on the table in 30 minutes, or less, I consider this to be a win-win for me, and for the family that I love.

My refrigerator crisper always includes bell peppers and fresh jalapenos. Fresh ginger, is often frozen so I have it when I need it.  Onions and garlic-- I try to never run out. They never go to waste. Lemons and limes are always on hand, either store bought or picked from our trees.  With these staples, I can usually make something fast and delicious.

Rice Stick pasta--it's not usually a pantry staple, but I happen to have a few bags of this in my pasta box.( I have a serious addiction to hoarding a wide variety of pastas.)

It's embarrassing how long I've stored this bag of pasta. Like, 2008?  While skimming through some recorded shows, I was intrigued with Food Network's "The Pioneer Woman" recent episode on 16 Minute Dinners Around the World.   I finally found the perfect recipe to use these rice noodles, and I was thrilled to see I had all of the pantry ingredients.

All I had to do was buy some flank steak and slice it thinly.  I stopped by my local Mom & Pop grocery store, that has a great meat department.  I asked for flank steak, and when the butcher held up a large chunk I nodded my head, without a clue of how much I really needed (note to self: next time, read the recipe and make note of how much to buy). I could've kissed my butcher when he offered to slice it nice and thin for stir-fry. This perk shaved off at least five or ten minutes of prep work!

The marinade is super fast to put together, and hopefully you keep most of these items in your pantry: low-sodium soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, minced ginger, lime juice and cornstarch.  Sherry, I've recently learned, makes Asian-inspired sauces taste even better-- so I try to keep a bottle of it handy.  This recipe calls for red chili paste or red chili oil.  Yep, I remember buying it and storing it in the fridge. But, this time, neither were to be found.  So, I grabbed some "Thai Red Curry Paste", which is a staple in my fridge. This is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with-- it has a little bit of kick, but won't turn you into a fire breathing dragon.   A fourth of the marinade is added to the meat, and set aside.

The trick to stir-fry is using high heat, and having all of your prep work ready to go.  I invested in buying a Chinese Wok, and I love cooking with it. (You'd be surprised at how inexpensive they are to buy.)   A cast-iron skillet would work well. 

Working fast, I cooked the onion, peppers and jalapeno for just a few minutes...

...set them aside, on a plate.

Keeping the Wok/skillet on high, add a little more vegetable oil and evenly spread out the meat. Cook for less than a minute, then turn over.

Return the veggies to the Wok/skillet, then add the remaining marinade/sauce. Stir, to combine and turn the heat down to low to bring the sauce to a simmer.

Turn off the heat, then add your noodles. (The recipe says to drain them, but they clump up a lot. Next time, I'll remove the noodles from the pot directly to the stir-fry, so any reserved water can be used to thin the sauce, if it becomes too thick...which it didn't.)

The garnish of fresh cilantro and fresh basil (yep, I always keep those in the fridge or growing in our garden) is one of the most essential ingredients. I squeezed most of the juice of one small lime on top.

When it's been a long day at work, for us, food styling isn't going to happen. We're hungry, and I want to serve this while it's hot!

TASTING NOTES: Visually, it's a colorful dish.  It smells wonderful.  The marinade is an alchemy of traditional Thai flavors, and the red curry paste worked just great.  I do like rice noodles a lot, but in a pinch, I could use linguine.  The flank steak was super tender, and  I loved the brightness from the lime. Doubling the beef, I thought, wasn't a bad idea at all.   I increased the ginger a bit, and it came through without being overpowering.  Oh, and the rice noodles were just fine-- even after all the years. (I won't wait to long to use them, either!)

I can see a lot of versatility with this recipe-- the marinade could be used with shrimp or even chicken. I'll buy some more red chili paste, as I would imagine this would be great with the marinade.
This is super easy to make. Other than some chopping prep work, this can easily be on the table in 30 minutes, or less.   Ree, you did it again!

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Big Dude said...

It's a gorgeous dish and it sounds delicious.

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

My pantry looks like yours, Debby. With ingredients like this it's easy to whip up a delicious dinner in no time. Can't wait to try looks delicious. I might top it with a few chopped peanuts for good measure.

Joanne said...

30 minute meals ALWAYS sound good to me!! And I love Thai these are a no-brainer.

Roz Corieri Paige said...

You said it right Debby, working full time and eating delicious (non-fast food) is my daily challenge too! And this recipe, I hate to sound redundant, but you truly had me at "THAI", my second favorite cultural cuisine! It must have smelled amazing! PINNING on my Thai pinterest board!

bellini said...

This really is a flavourful dish Debbie. I struggle to recreate the caliber of what I get from my local takeout.

Velva said...

I am one of those moms who struggles to get a decent meal on the table during the week. I try hard these days to keep my pantry stocked with quick go to items.

Your quick pasta dish looks delicious.