From the Chronicle Kitchen
Quick & Easy Chinese
Spicy Beef in Lettuce Cups
This Szechuan-style dish is quite delicious, quick to prepare, and fun to eat. You can use flatter lettuce leaves, such as romaine or oakleaf lettuce, and fold them into small packets for eating. Or enjoy the filling in tortillas or pita bread, along with a handful of shredded lettuce and a dollop or two of spicy salsa. We love it with rice and greens for a weeknight supper.
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry, white wine, or Shaoxing wine
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1 tablespooon Asian sesame oil
About 20 cup-shaped lettuce leaves, such as Bibb, Boston, or iceberg
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch, sugar, and salt, and stir well to dissolve the cornstarch and combine everything into a smooth little sauce.
Place the ground beef in a medium bowl, and use a spoon to separate it into five or six big clumps. Add about half the soy sauce mixture, and gently mix the seasonings into the ground beef, using your hands or a large spoon. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
To cook, heat a wok or a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the vegetable oil; swirl to coat the pan, and then toss in the ginger and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute, tossing once, until fragrant but not browned.
Crumble in the seasoned ground beef, and use your spatula or a big slotted spoon to break it up and spread the meat out over the hot pan to help it cook evenly. Let it cook until it changes color on one side, 1 to 2 minutes.
Toss the meat just enough to turn the uncooked side onto the hot pan, and let it cook another minute undisturbed. Then toss well, using your spatula to break up any large chunks. When the meat is cooked, add the red pepper flakes and the green onion, and toss well. Add the sesame oil and remove from the heat, tossing once more to mix everything well.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Arrange lettuce cups on a serving platter, and fill each one with spoonful or two of the cooked beef. Or provide lettuce cups and the serving plate of beef and invite guests to make up lettuce packets themselves.
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