Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beef and Noodle Soup

There is a category of my cooking I refer to as “Ignorant American Fusion”: basically, it involves dilettante-y co-opting of other cultures’ cuisines much as Madonna does to their fashion, religion, and dancing styles. This dish (much like the Hoisin Pork with Scallion Crepes) falls into that category, since it derives inspiration from American Chinese food but in no way is an attempt to reproduce it authentically. Hell, that would involve actual research, as opposed to just throwing something together!

This noodle soup came to mind as a cheap way to eat beef, because you can get a tough cut that will tenderize in the broth. (I ended up spending about $2 on the chuck beef, which was $3.99 a pound at my Met Foods. You could also slice up leftover steak to do this.) I also had half a package of mushrooms that were on track to go bad, plus it occurred to me that The Rob’s favorite meals are steak with mushrooms, spaghetti, and soup, so he would probably be really excited if all those things became as one.

This dish is a one-pot stovetop meal/one-bowl dinner and can be done in 30-45 minutes. It’s pretty balanced and pretty healthy, more so if you want to use buckwheat (soba) or whole wheat noodles. These proportions served two very generously (all we had on the side was diced cucumber and diced red onion in a rice-vinegar vinaigrette), but this would easily multiply, and would freeze and/or microwave well if you want to make extra. Though I don’t have rugrats, I would think this would make for a pretty good family meal for all ages.

For two: Start with about ¾ pound of boneless beef chuck and trim it into ribbons like, half an inch wide. Trim off any gristle or membrane on the edges as best you can. Don’t stress if it’s not perfect.

Coat the pieces in a few tablespoons hoisin sauce if you have it, or just add salt, pepper, and a little soy sauce. (You could do this the night before and let it marinate if you feel inclined.)

Heat a couple tablespoons vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the beef. Give the pieces just a couple minutes to get browned on the bottom before you turn them over, then a couple minutes more.

Place the beef in the dish or tupper-vessel you marinated it in and let it rest.

Now, add a healthy splash of some liquid—stock, water, vinegar, beer—and mash around in the pan with a wooden spoon, so the stuff stuck to the bottom comes up. This is called deglazing, and it ensures that yummy bits of the dish end up flavoring the broth rather than needing to be scrubbed off the bottom of the pan.

Add to the pan:

  • A sliced onion (think wedges or big pieces)
  • A few cloves sliced garlic
  • A tablespoon or so minced ginger
  • A teaspoon or so red pepper flakes
  • About 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • The bottom (white) parts of a few bulbs of halved bok choi (reserve the green leaves)
  • A cup of beef stock
  • A cup of water
  • About 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • About a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar

Bring this to a boil over high heat, then stir it, turn it down to medium, and let it simmer--this means you want to see little pockets of bubbles, but not a full-on roiling bubble-fest. If you see the latter, turn down the heat a little and keep stirring.

Once your simmer is under control, add the cooked beef and its juices.

After your onions get floppy-soft, add:

  • A handful, or 6-8 oz., of dry spaghetti (just ease it into the liquid as it softens; don’t break it in half)

Cook until the pasta is almost done, about 8-10 minutes, then add:

  • The green top parts of the bok choi
  • A couple chopped scallions/a handful of chopped chives

Cook for a couple more minutes, then taste the broth; add more soy, stock, vinegar, or anything else as needed; stir, taste and adjust again, and serve in big bowls.

The Rob was indeed very excited about this dish, and I must say it was pretty gratifying to hear him happily follow my train of thought aloud: “Soup! Beef! Noodles! And mushrooms! All my favorite things!” This will definitely be a go-to one-pot dinner for us this fall/winter, and multiplied, I would think it’d be great to please a family, including kids, with minimal dish cleanup. You could totally mix up the veggies or use another protein besides beef, even *shudder* tofu. If you make a variation, please share in the comments! (Even if it involves tofu. I won't judge you. Promise.)


  1. this sounds awesome. i WOULD say "epic" but you know i don't use that term for just anything...

  2. Hate to get all English-majory on you, but it's spelled "Poison", not "Hoisin". And I don't really think you should be cooking with poison. That could get dangerous, right?

  3. Doh!! Boy am I embarrassed. Alyce, we remembered to put up that disclaimer about people not suing if they get sick, right? Right?

  4. I'm not fucking with you here. Do you have a recipe for the diced cucumber/onion in vinaigrette? Don't you dare write back "Dice some cucumbers and onions and add vinaigrette." Unless, of course, that is the recipe. Even if it is, make it sound more complicated, so I too can feel like a Brooklyn Girl Cooking.

  5. OK, well I've been promising a post on vinaigrettes but.. SPOILER ALERT!! For this one I would mix a splash (say a tablespoon?) of rice wine vinegar, a minced clove of garlic, a teaspoon of agave or maple syrup, a splash of sesame oil and a splash of canola (or just two splashes olive oil), and maybe the juice from a lime wedge. Whisk with a (wait for it) whisk, or a fork. Taste and see if you need more of anything. You can strain out the garlic if you're worried about it overpowering. This is a small amount and can be multiplied.

  6. Oh well that was just the vinaigrette, obv. For this salad I would slice half a long cucumber into slices (I like the English cucumbers for having less seeds/water, but that's probably just b/c I'm a northeastern liberal who hates America), then quarter the slices, and add a minced 1/2 medium red onion. You could use a finely sliced scallion instead of a red onion.