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On Cooking Southern: Spice it Up with Garlic Rice and Skirt Steak

On Cooking Southern

Happy as a clam in sand at high tide: In perfect harmony with one’s environment and state of being – like all members of Rebel Nation after the Ole Miss showing at the Sugar Bowl last week.

Many of us might just be suffering from post-holiday blues this week.

I know I am.

My loved ones have scattered back to their own lives across the country. Fraser fir evergreen needles keep appearing on the floor despite the housekeeper’s obsessive vacuuming. Christmas decorations litter the dining room table. The fridge and pantry look like London after the Blitz. And those red tins lining the kitchen counter … nothing could convince me to consume the few petrified holiday cookies still lurking in those sad-looking little ol’ tins.

The Old Bride experiences a let-down every January when life returns to normal But it’s steeper this year, due to the contrast between the Mississippi of my reality and the Hawaiian Islands of my holiday vacation, from which I just returned.

Ah, the South Pacific, where the weather’s always perfect, the fruit abundant, and the shopping targeted to chatty, vertically challenged people with wide feet.

My tribe from another mother.

I’ve always loved most Hawaiian flavors, having been alive when the islands became our 50th state, and having grown up in East Memphis with the Tropical Freeze ice cream stand and The Luau Restaurant.

on cooking southern

I came home this week with several tasty, Asian-inspired recipes to help me remember my too-brief time in paradise. They all adapt well to our Southern kitchens. I’m still looking for that Tropical Freeze ice cream recipe, though. Anybody out there got it and willing to share?

Forgive me for omitting any recipes featuring Spam, the canned, processed ham product that has been an island favorite since World War II. The oversight was deliberate. Like hominy and chitterlings and pickled pigs feet and fried bologna, Spam dishes from this Memphis girl’s childhood don’t bear revisiting. Not even for the Islands’ ever-popular working-man’s lunch of Spam Musubi (a block of fried Spam mounted on a same-size block of rice and wrapped in a strip of Nori seaweed).

on cooking southern garlic rice

The Koreans and Japanese have created many variations of this flavorful dish. Egg and carrots may be cooked in the dish to make a true fried rice. Fish sauce and oyster sauce also may be added for flavoring. For best flavor, cook in a preheated lava-stone bowl.Of course, a wok or large pan will work just fine. The best rice to use is jasmine or basmati that has been refrigerated, cooked, for several days. In other words, leftover rice!

2 T soy sauce

2 T white granulated sugar

2 T mirin (Japanese rice wine)

2-1/2 to 3 c cooked rice

1/2 c cooking oil + 1 T

10 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1/2 tsp each, salt and pepper

1 T toasted sesame oil

2 T butter

4 stalks green onions, chopped (including greens)

If using a lava-stone bowl, begin heating the bowl in the oven set to 350˚F. Make a sauce from the soy, sugar and Japanese rice wine (mirin). Whisk until blended and set aside.

Sauté the garlic in hot oil in a wok or pan on medium-low heat until golden. NOTE: Garlic burns easily and continues to cook, so remove it from the pan as soon as it begins to turn color. Set garlic aside. Add 1 tablespoon more of oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the hot pan. Add rice and stir fry. Add soy-mirin sauce mixture and toss until liquid is absorbed. Add salt, pepper and garlic and toss for a minute. Add green onions and butter, allow to sit for a few minutes, and toss to blend.

Allow the mixture to sit in the heated bowl or wok for about 5 additional minutes to crisp the edges.

on cooking southern asian


Feel free to omit the sesame oil, which can be overpowering.

4 to 5 T extra virgin olive oil or peanut oil

2-3 T honey

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

1-1/2 T rice wine vinegar

2 T mirin (Japanese rice wine)

2 T soy sauce (light version works too)

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/8 tsp salt, optional

1 T toasted white sesame seeds

12-oz pkg baby spinach leaves, washed and spun dry

1/4 c daikon, scraped and shredded or cut into thin spears

1/4 c shredded carrots

1/4 c salted, roasted peanuts

Make dressing by whisking together the first 9 ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Mound the spinach in large serving bowl or individual salad bowls. Toss with daikon and carrots. Drizzle with salad dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle with peanuts and serve.

on cooking southern

Harami is the back side of the diaphragm muscle, otherwise known as outer skirt steak. Like other skirt steak cuts, it is flavorful and at its best when cut thin and marinated to soften the tissue before cooking. The genuine way to grill is over a hot charcoal flame. NOTE: Miso paste is available in the local grocery stores, either in the organic refrigerated section or with other refrigerated Asian supplies.

1 to 2 lb skirt steak, trimmed and cut into rectangles about 2 by 4 inches

Yakiniku Marinade

Yakiniku Dipping Sauce

Marinate the skirt steak pieces in the Yakiniku marinade for 2 to 8 hours. Remove meat from marinade and pat dry. Oil the grill with cooking spray or wipe grate with olive oil. Heat grill to about 350˚F and position meat on it. Meat will cook rapidly; turn after a few minutes. Remove from grill when reaches desired doneness (pink interior is best). Dip in Yakiniku Sauce and serve.

Steak Marinade:

6-1/2 T light soy sauce

2 T miso

3 T light brown sugar

1 T garlic, grated or pureed

1 T ginger, grated or pureed

1/4 c chopped green onions

1 c sherry cooking wine (or sake)

1 to 2 tsp shichimi (Japanese seven spice mix) or half to 1 teaspoon chili powder

Combine all marinade ingredients together and mix or whisk until completely blended. Place in a large sealable bag that will hold the meat as well.

Yakiniku Dipping Sauce:

10 T light soy sauce

4 T white granulated sugar (or light brown)

1 T shichimi or regular chili powder

1 clove garlic, grated

1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 T sesame seeds

Whisk together all ingredients. Serve in a bowl large enough for dipping the grilled meat.

Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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