Spicy Crispy Beef

Whilst in the States with work, I visited the Cheesecake Factory one evening for dinner. I had the Spicy Crispy Beef and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to try it again the next time I was in town. So 3 weeks later I went back only to find that it had been taken off the menu!

Not to be deterred by such small setbacks, I started searching for recipes on-line. I found a few references and they all seemed to point to a pair of very similar recipes. It looks like one is a simplified version of the other, and this is the one I chose to try out, as I have more of the ingredients in.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (30g) cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces flank steak, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon chili paste
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup sliced onion
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

Method:

Heat oil to 375 degrees F.

In a resealable plastic bag, combine cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add steak slices to cornstarch mixture and shake bag to lightly coat.

Place one layer of breaded steak strips into the fryer basket and carefully lower basket into the preheated oil. Deep fry steak slices until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oil and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine soy sauce, vinegar, honey, sugar, chili powder, water, and ginger. Mix well and cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved.

Heat a wok or deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of oil and quickly saute the onion, garlic, and red pepper for 30 seconds.

Add sauce mixture and cook another 30 seconds. Add strips of fried steak and toss to heat through and coat with sauce.

Verdict:

This was a fantastic dish, but there’s definitely room for improvement. Mostly in my cooking though. I don’t have a deep fat fryer, so I used a small amount of oil in the bottom of a saucepan. I also didn’t have a pair of tongs and knew I’d be fishing the bits of beef out with a pair of forks, so I wan’t prepared to heat the oil up as much as it should have been. This meant the beef strips didn’t come out as crispy as they should have – although the flavour was very good.

I misread the recipe and put in more salt and pepper than required, but the alternative recipe suggests more, and I agree. It wasn’t too much. The flour mixture didn’t stick to the beef strips particularly well, but I think this is most likely another symptom of not hot enough oil.

The sauce was good, but rather than all the different flavours combining, they were in little pockets. I think it’s not enough to heat the sauce and stir, a more thorough mixing is definitely required. It also needed a touch less sugar. I only put in 5 tablespoons, and next time I will put that down to 2 or 3 and maybe add a bit more honey instead. And finally, I think it needed to cook for longer to thicken up a bit more. but by this time I was starting to get a bit rushed as I’d had no idea of how long it would take. It took just over an hour in the end, because I was trying to do everything separately as I fumbled my way through unfamiliar territory!

So all in all, not up to cheesecake factory standards but still very tasty. I will definitely be having another go and enlisting Tom’s help in the kitchen to deal with the hot oil!

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