Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Skirt Steak Spring Roll with V8 Rice, Portobello, Fennel and Mint

I use spring roll wrappers an awful lot. They are a pretty good way to make what would otherwise be an awkward mess of loose parts into a manageable dish. For this effort, I started by soaking some short rice in V8 juice for about an hour. I bloomed some saffron in a glass of white wine in the cooking pot and let it boil off some of its alcohol, then added the rice and V8, a bay leaf, some salt, pepper, and about half-again as much water to keep it loose. Pre-soaked rice expands considerably so you need to just cover the rice with the cooking liquid. The pre-soaked rice cooks in about 8 minutes instead of 20, which is about all the time needed to prepare the rest of the dish. Rice prepared in this way has a ton of flavor without being greasy or pasty. The combination of V8 and saffron is tart with mineral undertones and goes well with a rich savory companion.

Earlier I cut the skirt steak into square portions and rubbed them with salt, pepper and mashed garlic to marinate while the rice cooked. After they had rested for a few minutes I seared the steak chunks and moved them to a platter to rest. I added another lug of olive oil to the skillet, sliced an onion, a portobello mushroom cap and half a fennel bulb into strips and threw them in the skillet to soften. I splashed a little tamari soy sauce on everything, and that plus the liquid rendered from the vegetables was enough to deglaze the pan of the meat and garlic fond.

I don't know if they're properly called portobello, portabello or portobella mushrooms, but you know what I'm talking about. Big as a saucer, open textured, frilly gilled toothy things. They soak up flavors real well and don't get quite as gummy as smaller mushrooms. I used to detest mushrooms because of the rotting smell that we have probably evolved an instinctive revulsion to, but am now able to get past this insult and have come to like them, even really gnarly ones in moderation. They are products of decomposition, born of rotting shit, but they have their uses.

I don't know what the deal is with these Banh Trang rice paper wrappers, but lately about half of them have little holes or fractures in them and they tend to rupture when any pressure is applied in rolling. There's only one brand of them at Andy's, so I don't know if they got a rotten batch or maybe they're just the crap brand and I need to find another kind somewhere. I rehydrate them in warm water, maybe that's the problem. Next time I'll try cold water as an experiment.

I assembled the rolls by laying some fennel frond and mint leaves as a base, then loading the rice on top, finishing with a couple of strips of the skirt steak and some of the vegetables before rolling. They were tasty enough that no dipping sauce was necessary, and the colors looked cool through the translucent wrapper, but the contents were a little loose and probably would have worked better wrapped in something more substantial like lavash bread. Tortillas would probably be too heavy. There's a soybean sheet called yuba that might have worked. It's thin but tougher than the rice paper so I could cinch the rolls up tighter without risking rupture. I'm not into rupture.*

*that's what she said


  1. I haven't tried this dish using murdered people, just skirt steak, so I don't know what kind of adjustments you'd need to make. Might depend on the diet of the person you'd be cooking.

  2. You have to buy the wrappers which say bang trang cu chi. They have a lot more give!


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