Some cook for nourishment, others for sport. I fit into the latter, generally inspired by bad TV, good jazz, or a couple of fingers of scotch. Hunger can also be provocation and it helps that in my suburban Chicago home-away-from-home we have a grocery store eight steps from my front door that stays open until 11 p.m. My brainstorms frequently occur in those wide empty expanses of fluorescent lit aisles.
There is no good Chinese in the village where we live. I am sure the proprietors of the one proximity-to-Asian-food place mean well, but the flavors skew Midwestern, with a discernible resistance to pizzazz. I make no pretense to be able to replicate authentic Chinese cooking, but you can at least shoot for the stars with a little bit of soy sauce and a handful of noodles plucked from the international aisle.
My web pages are inundated with recipes for cuisines from every corner of the globe, but this attempt was recipe-free and morphed into something quite delicious, completely by accident. I like to marinate in soy sauce, garlic and oil but like so many home chefs, I am daunted by searing at 500 degrees – nor do I like the screech of the fire alarm or peeling burnt meat off of a ruined pan.
So on this fateful evening I gave my meat a quick soak in the appointed brine and then hoisted it from the juices and delicately placed it on the purloined grill rack from our 40-year-old toaster oven. I retired to the den to watch a couple of episodes of “Mrs. Maisel” and returned to find my boeuf air-dried and flavorful and tender to the touch.
I boiled the noodles while I heated the stick-free pan. The flank steaks seared instead of steamed and were off the griddle in 90 seconds per side, grilled to rare perfection. A quick slice on the bias and I oiled the noodles and dumped them in the pan with some scallions and garlic. The meat closely followed and a shake or two later I had the best approximation to beef lo mein a hungry soul could muster on a cold winter’s night. Would it hold up to any below-Canal Street Chinese hole in the wall? Doubtful. But it’s 733 air miles from Chicago to New York. It would have to do.