Chef Dale Talde is a very talented chef, who became known as much for his fly-off-the-handle eruptions as his ferociously flavorful cooking when he appeared on “Top Chef.”
But it’s hard to blame a guy for getting emotional when good food is on the line.
Case in point: His no-holds bar feelings about the stand-by take-out Chinese classic of orange beef.
He laments to no end how this dish has been debased, turning into an evil concoction of cheap beef, battered and fried into oblivion, then tossed with a gloppy, over-cornstarched, candy sweet sauce.
It gives me shudders just thinking about it, too. I never order this dish at a restaurant. Exactly for those reasons.
But in the right hands, it could be a great dish. I mean, beef kissed with a deeply orange-y sauce and garnished with still-crunchy, bright green broccoli — how can that not be delicious?
In Talde’s hands, it actually is. “Orange Beef” finally gets its rightful treatment.
The recipe is from his cookbook, “Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From the Philippines to Brooklyn” (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015), of which I received a review copy, by Dale Talde with food writer JJ Goode.
Talde, chef-owner of Talde in Brooklyn, shares 75 recipes that carry his own unmistakable spin and take-no-prisoners attitude. Imagine “Apple Pancakes with Five-Spice and Coconut-Brown Butter Syrup” for breakfast. I sure could — in a heartbeat. His famous “Pretzel Pork-and-Chive Dumplings,” take a pork-chive filling and snuggles it inside won-ton wrappers that are first boiled in a pot of baking soda-infused water just like a pretzel before being shallow fried to leave them crisp but also chewy. His roasted beet salad combines all the flavors of pastrami to create a familiar yet wholly different dish.
With the orange beef, he doesn’t stray too far from the classic roots. What he does is refine it — big-time. He uses filet mignon so that the beef in this dish is supremely tender. He combines fresh orange juice with rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce, garlic, ginger and Worcestershire sauce, reducing it all into an intensely citrusy, umami-loving enhancer. It makes for a much less heavy dish yet with heaps of extra flavor.
The broccoli is cooked separately. OK, he tells you to buy it from your local Chinese restaurant. But it’s just as easy to steam it yourself at home.
The piece de resistance is the garnish of charred orange wedges that get sizzled in a hot skillet to render them caramelized. Talde says this is optional. But really, it’s so easy and such a great addition that it’s a must-do in my book.
You’ll end up with extra sauce. Use it later to stir-fry chicken, shrimp, green beans, eggplant or other veggies. Or heck, just make a second batch of orange beef. You just might be tempted to do so after you make this once.
For the sauce:
1 1/2 cups of orange juice
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red Thai chile
For the dish:
1 (1-pound) boneless rib eye steak, very large pockets of fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced (about 1/2-inch thick) red onion
3 scallions, dark greens thinly sliced, the rest cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 Asian dried red chiles
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 cups steamed broccoli florets, preferably from your local Chinese restaurant (ask them to keep them crunchy)
To make the sauce: Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium skillet, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reduces by about half (to about 1 1/2 cups) and it’s just barely thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup for the dish. The rest will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To make the dish: Combine the steak, egg white, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl and toss with your hands to coat the beef well. Heat the oil in a wide cast-iron skillet over high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the beef in one layer and cook without stirring until the bottoms of the pieces turn golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip the beef, add the red onion, scallion pieces, and dried chiles and cook, stirring occasionally until the beef is cooked to medium rare, about 2 minutes more. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a plate.
Pour 1/2 cup of the orange sauce into the skillet, let it boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the sauce thickens to a syrupy texture. Dump the rib eye mixture into the sauce and stir until the sauce coats the beef, 15 to 30 seconds. Take the skillet off the heat, stir in the orange zest and scallion greens, and transfer the dish to a plate with the broccoli. Eat.
Note: Sometimes I rock charred orange wedges (slick them with oil and give them a few minutes in a hot skillet).
From “Asian-American” by Dale Talde with J.J. Goode
More Favorite Chinese Dishes to Make: Steamed Chicken and Chinese Sausage