As I've mentioned before, I have had my share of Japanese take out. Once I grew up enough to realize fast food wasn't really good food, I started requesting take out from the nearby Japanese restaurant. My parents and I would usually order 2 dinners to share among the three of us, each dinner came with a salad, shrimp and veggie tempura, a potato dumpling and the entree. Usually we'd order one beef negimaki and one chicken teriyaki. For 2 adults and one teenaged girl with a healthy appetite, it was plenty of food, and it was always delicious.
Since I started liking sushi, I usually ignore the cooked entrees at Japanese restaurants- or else we're there for a hibachi meal. I haven't had beef negimaki for a long, long time, but when I was rooting around in the freezer one day (actually, looking for ground turkey for those asian-inspired turkey meatballs, and failing at that), I discovered we had a pound of flank steak. Somehow, I thought of beef negimaki.
I added my own spin- mostly based on the ingredients we had. I wrapped the beef around blanched asparagus instead of scallions. The results were good. The results were even better the second time I made this and use both scallions and asparagus.
recipe adapted from Gourmet, found via epicurious.com.
1lb flank steak
6 asparagus stalks
1/4 cup mirin
2T white wine
2T rice vinegar
3T soy sauce
Blanche the asparagus and scallions: bring water in a medium saucepan to a boil, and add the asparagus. Boil, covered, for 3 minutes, then add the scallions and boil for 2 minutes. Drain the water and set the veggies aside.
Prepare the meat: thinly slice the steak- very thinly! Cut long strips of meat, against the grain. Then line them all up on the cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, and pound with a meat mallet to very, very thin, about 1/16 in thick. (Note: the first time, I was lazy and ignored this step- don't!! The meat won't cook if it's too thick. Better to pound the meat now than have to unroll it later and recook it.)
In a shallow dish (pie dish works nicely), combine the rest of the ingredients (mirin, wine, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar) and whisk together.
Line up some beef strips on your board, enough that when the strips go side-to-side, there are enough lined up, up and down, that the asparagus and scallions will lay down (up and down direction) on beef and not board. Roll each piece of beef around 2 asparagus stalks and 2 scallions, and secure each piece with a toothpick. What you're left with kind of looks like a kebab of beef on asparagus/scallion. Repeat with the rest of the beef and veggies, then place each of this "kebabs" in the dish with the marinade. Marinade for 20 minutes, turning every few minutes or spooning the marinade over the kebabs.
Spray a large frying pan with non-stick spray and heat to medium-high heat. Remove the beef "kebabs" from the marinade and let drip off, then add them to the pan and cook for 3-4 min on each side, until they're cooked through and have a nice sear on them. Place on a clean cutting board and cut through the veggies between the individual pieces of meat, so you have individual rolls (the same way maki sushi are cut). Now pour the marinade into the hot frying pan, and cook for a few minutes, until the sauce is thick and syrupy.
Serve the negimaki with the sauce drizzled over them. Serve with sushi rice.
These are quick, and the sauce is strangely addictive. I've modified it to suit my own pantry, if you actually have sake on hand, use 1/4 cup sake in place of the rice vinegar and white wine. I'm sure the flavor is changed, but my version is still delicious.
The other part I loved about all our Japanese take out was the salad dressing. I'm not sure if this is a traditional thing, or some Americanized take on Japanese flavors, but whatever Japanese restaurant you go to, there's always some sort of delicious gingery salad dressing. I was fortunate enough to find a copycat version of the Benihana salad dressing, which is the restaurant that started it all for me. It was my absolute favorite restaurant. Imagine- a 4 year old wamozart, ordering her Japanese meal in Japanese- thanks to my dad and all his business trips- and using chopsticks without the rubber band and rolled-up paper all the other kids need. (by now I've completely forgotten all the Japanese dad taught me, but I'm sure he still remembers some of the more common words. I'm also less good with chopsticks lately, which is embarassing). I miss Benihana, and I'm glad there are so many other great Japanese restaurants around. (I'm also kind of glad I have that golden childhood memory and I can't go to Benihana as an adult and possibly spoil the memory.)
Benihana Copycat Salad Dressing
adapted from the secret recipe blog
1/2 cup minced onion
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2T ginger, minced
2T celery, minced
2T soy sauce
2t lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
Place all the ingredients except the oil in a blender. Blend until pureed. Drizzle in the oil while the blender's running. Store in the fridge!
The first time I made this, I omitted the celery- I didn't have any. This was a big mistake! Something about the celery really mellows out the onion and garlic flavors, and without the celery, the onion's just too strong. I'm surprised by how much better it was once I added the celery.
This is the kind of dressing I'll make in large batches and keep on hand. We're eating much more salad because of this dressing!