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Spicy Long-Bean Beef Stir Fry
SERVE WITH: Riesling / Gewürztraminer / Chenin Blanc

Drinking Riesling with beef? Am I nuts? Well, not this time, but thanks for asking. This situation arose through a circumstantial combination of events that became serendipitous, only in retrospect. It's about making do with what's available and the willingness to take culinary risks, but mostly about the importance of matching the wine to the spices and sauce, rather than the critter.

Bonny Doon 1998 "Pacific Rim" Riesling was my personal favorite at our Riesling tasting in August, 1999. So I bought and stashed a couple of bottles, thinking about trout, my favorite Riesling match... I got impatient (so what's new?), waiting for trout season, not to mention a beneficent fisherman and trout cleaner, and mixed impulse (the availability of Chinese Long Beans) with practicality (sirloin in the fridge). As it worked out, this menu comes a close second to perfect riesling harmonics, but is not quite as "special" as trout.

One of my favorite fresh vegetables is Chinese Long Beans. They're a PITA to grow, because the bugs love them too, so, I've given up the home-grown route and instead keep my eyes open for their occasional appearance in the supermarket. They're different in appearance, taste and texture from other green bean varieties. Each dark green pod is about 18"-24" long with a wrinkled, semi-dried look. They have a firm texture and a taste that is nuttier and less vegetative than it's cousins. I think the key, however, is the wrinkles. Like "radiatore" pasta, the folds soak up sauce, so each bite is a medley of the recipe flavors. When the market has them, I buy, regardless of any prior menu arrangements or plans...

There is some flexibility in this recipe. It may be adjusted for personal carnivorous preference (chicken works, too), as well as individual sensitivity to stinking roses and capuscan. Dried powders of garlic or ginger are woefully inadequate substitutions. If you can't get fresh, make something else. The dish is best with pan-fried boiled noodles or rice. Takes about 30 minutes to prepare.

•1 to 2 lbs. Chinese long beans
• 1 to 2 Tbs. frying oil
• 2 to 4 cloves fresh garlic
• 1 medium onion
• 1 stalk celery
• 1 rasher of good-quality bacon
• 1/2 to 3 Tbs. Oriental Chili paste
• 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger (2-inch piece)
• 1 to 2 lbs. sirloin steak
• 1/4 cup flavorful broth or wine for de-glazing
• lime wedges for garnish

Boil 2 quarts of water. Trim 1/4" from the bean ends, then slice into 2-inch pieces and blanch in boiling water for 8-12 minutes until tender, but still firm. When beans are done, drain completely and add cold water (ice is okay, too), to stop cooking and retain color. Set beans aside. Peel and finely mince garlic cloves. Cut onion into wedges. Slice celery into 3/4" diagonal chunks. Peel and finely mince ginger. Slice bacon strip into 1/4" pieces. Slice steak across the grain into thin (1/8") strips. High-heat oil (peanut for flavor or canola for reduced saturated fat) in large fry pan or wok. Add garlic, onion, celery and bacon, fry one-two minutes, tossing or stirring every few seconds, until vegetables are soft and bacon crisp. Reduce heat to medium, add ginger, steak and continue stirring. Just when the steak loses its pink, add the beans and chili paste. Stir or toss two-three minutes more. Add the de-glazing liquid and turn off heat. Stir well, allow most of the steam to escape and the liquid to reduce and thicken slightly. Serve over rice or noodles. Squeeze 1/4 lime over each portion. Made with one pound each of long beans and steak, supplemented by rice, the recipe should serve two to three and is wonderful with dry to off-dry Rieslings (and probably would fare well with Gewürztraminer or Chenin Blanc as well).

by Jim LaMar


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