Go with the Season


Most recipes work best when their star ingredient is abundantly, gloriously at peak.  Definitely the case this week, which features Tangerine Beef Stir-Fry.  In this instance, clementine oranges stand in for tangerines; the difference is subtle, but clementines are, if anything, even more flavorful and vibrant than tangerines.  Particularly right now, when they’re at their apogee.

This is the second time clementine oranges have been featured recently, following last month’s Clementine Cupcakes.  When the market provides such perfection in surplus, why not take advantage of the excellence?

All those sweet, juicy clementine oranges brought to mind a recipe found several years ago in the sadly now-defunct Everyday Food magazine.   Citrus most commonly accompanies poultry, but it works well with beef too.  There’s something about the sweet tartness of clementines that prevents beef’s richness from overwhelming the dish.

Taken in combination with scallions’ fresh, mild burn and the more defined heat ginger and red peppers bring, clementines smooth the edges and ease their bite to a smoldering tingle.  The oranges also brighten the dish, both visually and in taste.  This effervescence is welcome any time of year, but especially so now, beneath winter’s full weight.  These little oranges liberate us from such drudgery.

Some of you tried this dish when it was prepared, and were most generous in your comments.  This was a novel experience, in cooking for a “live” audience, and in sharing something other than a sweet creation.  Thank you; your enthusiasm is greatly appreciated.

My own opinion is that the dish turned out well, but that it also can be improved.  Mainly, by dialing back the astringency just a bit and slightly reducing the amount of red peppers, ginger and vinegar.  Nothing drastic, but subtle changes that will make this even better the next time.

All in all, though, you can’t go wrong with clementine oranges, the star of this entry and of the season!

*****

Tangerine (Clementine) Beef Stir-Fry

  • 1 and 1/2 pounds sirloin, sliced thinly against the grain
  • 1 bunch scallions, 1 scallion sliced thinly, the rest cut into thirds lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (*1)
  • 2 strips tangerine zest, plus 3 tablespoons tangerine juice (*2)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (*3)

In a medium bowl, combine beef, thinly sliced scallion, red pepper flakes, tangerine zest, cornstarch and salt.  Toss to coat well.

In a small bowl, combine tangerine juice, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and two tablespoons of water.

Put a wok (or a large skillet) over high heat until hot.  Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom.  Add the beef mixture and the remaining scallions.  Stir constantly, until the beef is browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the tangerine juice mixture and stir constantly, until the sauce bubbles and is thickened slightly, about 3 minutes.  Serve over rice.

NOTES:

1 – Instead of the pepper flakes I used a Thai bird chili, minced of course.

2 – Use a vegetable peeler to extract strips of the zest.  Be careful to slice shallowly, and not to take any of the bitter white pith which is directly beneath the zest.  As you can see, there are a lot more than just two strips of zest, even in the single serving pictured above.  All in all, I zested four clementines, wishing to increase their taste profile.  It is Clementine Beef after all.  Likewise, I added considerably more than just three tablespoons of the juice.  Double that, at least.  Trust me, it won’t be overpowering.  Nowhere close.  Also, a bit of the pulp doesn’t hurt.

3 – As with most Asian dishes, I prefer to use peanut oil.

 

 

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