April 22, 2011

Beef Ramen Skillet

Sometimes I don't mind taking a fair bit of time to prepare a meal, but there are other times when I really want something that is fast and easy, yet really good.   That was what I wanted when I designed today's featured recipe.

I wanted something with tender slices of beef, lots of noodles, a blend of Asian flavors and a bit of heat, and I also wanted it to cook up all in one pan.  I consulted various sources to figure out how to put something like that together.  The most helpful one I found was the recipe for Ramen with Beef, Shitakes and Spinach from The Best 30-Minute Recipe.  That one didn't give me exactly what I wanted, but it gave me enough of a start that filling in the rest was pretty easy.

If you're like me, you probably associate ramen noodles with college days, or other times and situations when you had little money to spend on food.  Fact is, the little seasoning packets that come with a pack of ramen are pretty dreadful - lots of over-processed chemicals and a couple days' worth of salt.  But if you toss the seasoning packet and pair them with good ingredients, ramen noodles can be pretty good.

This dish came together really quickly.  Juli was not really a fan - the bitterness of the spinach and black vinegar didn't work for her - but I loved it.  The noodles absorbed almost all the cooking liquid and seasonings, making them incredibly flavorful, while the bits of beef were tender and full of flavor.  Plus, the leftovers warmed up great.   I'll be using this recipe as the basis of some other dishes in the near future.  My hope is that by mixing up the other ingredients and seasonings a bit, I can come up with something similar that Juli likes as much as I do.

Beef Ramen Skillet

yield = 5 servings

1 1/2            pounds beef sirloin, thinly-sliced
3                  tablespoons soy sauce
1                  teaspoon white pepper
2                  tablespoons peanut oil
8                  ounces button mushrooms, quartered
1                  serrano chili pepper, seeded and diced
1                  tablespoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
3                  teaspoons minced garlic
3 1/2            cups low-sodium chicken broth
4                  packages (3 ounce) ramen noodles, seasoning
                    packets discarded
1/4               cup rice wine
1                  tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1                  tablespoon cornstarch
2                  teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
2                  teaspoons granulated sugar
9                  ounces baby spinach

Toss beef in a bowl with soy sauce and white pepper.  Heat one tablespoon peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add half of the beef slices and stir-fry until lightly browned.  Transfer cooked beef to a clean bowl and repeat with remaining beef slices.

Add the remaining peanut oil to the skillet and heat to shimmering.  Add the mushrooms and serrano chili and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are browned on all sides (about 5 minutes).  Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant (about 45 seconds). 

Add the broth and bring to a simmer.  Break the blocks of ramen noodles into smaller chunks and add to the skillet, stirring occasionally until the noodles separate and are tender (approximately 2-3 minutes). 

While the noodles are cooking, combine the rice wine, black vinegar, cornstarch, sesame oil and sugar in a small bowl, mixing thoroughly.  Add the rice wine mixture.  Stir in the spinach a hand full at a time.  When the sauce is thickened, return the beef to the skillet.  Stir together and serve.

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