For Orange Beef we use a technique called “velveting,” a tenderizing step that entails marinating the meat in a cornstarch slurry and then frying it. This completely transforms a flavorful (but chewy) cut of beef, and pushed this recipe into full-on Chinese restaurant territory.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About an hour
1 1 ⁄ 2 pounds boneless beef flap meat (a.k.a. sirloin tip), or hanger or skirt steak
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons and 1 ⁄ 4 cup rice wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil, plus more for frying
1 ⁄ 4 cup chopped fresh ginger
2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 ⁄ 2 cup brown sugar
1 ⁄ 2 cup soy sauce
1 ⁄ 4 cup rice vinegar
8 scallions, whites cut into 1-inch lengths and greens chopped
5 to 10 dried chiles (like Thai or de arbol), depending on your affinity for heat
1. Freeze the meat for 30 minutes or so to make it easier to slice. Cut the pieces across the grain into strips about 1 ⁄ 4 inch thick. Grate 4 tablespoons zest from the oranges; cut a few narrow strips of zest for garnish. Squeeze as many oranges as needed to yield 1 ⁄ 2 cup juice. Whisk the cornstarch and a large pinch of salt into 3 tablespoons of the rice wine in a large bowl until they dissolve, then add the beef and toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature while you make the sauce.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the ginger, jalapeños, and grated orange zest and stir. Cook, stirring constantly, until soft, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the garlic and continue cooking until it softens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the 1 ⁄ 2 cup orange juice, the brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and remaining 1 ⁄ 4 cup rice wine to the pan and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, then adjust the heat so it bubbles steadily and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by half and is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Put 1 to 2 inches oil in a large pot and bring it to 375°F over medium heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. When the oil is ready (a pinch of cornstarch will sizzle but not immediately burn), carefully lower a few pieces of meat into the oil and cook, stirring so it doesn’t clump, until the outsides are browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the prepared pan and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining beef.
4. Transfer 2 tablespoons frying oil to a large skillet over high heat. Immediately add the scallion whites and chiles and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sauce and the beef and toss to coat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce boils. Turn off the heat and serve, garnished with the scallion greens and strips of orange zest.