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Beef & Snow Peas with XO Sauce

For XO Sauce:
2 tablespoons small dried shrimp (1/4 oz)
1 cup water
1/4 cup dried scallops (about 10; each 1 inch wide)
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup finely minced onion (1/2 small)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced (1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon minced fresh hot red chile including seeds
2 tablespoons minced Virginia ham or fine-quality prosciutto (1/2 oz)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For beef and snow peas:
1 lb Piedmontese sirloin steak, sliced 1/4 inch thick against the grain, visible fat trimmed and discarded
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or medium-dry Sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 lb snow peas, trimmed and strings discarded

Special equipment: 14 inch wok Accompaniment: steamed white rice

Make sauce:
> Cover dried shrimp with boiling-hot water in a small bowl and soak 1 hour.
> Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a 1 quart heavy saucepan and add dried scallops (scallops should be completely submerged). Remove from heat and soak 15 minutes. Return pan to heat and simmer over low heat until scallops are soft and pale, about 15 minutes, then remove from heat and cool in cooking liquid. Shred scallops into "threads" with a fork or your fingers, discarding abductor muscle (abductor will remain solid but scallop meat shreds easily).
> Drain shrimp, discarding any blemished or dark pieces, and chop very finely.
> Heat wok over moderate heat, then add oil, swirling to coat, and heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion, garlic, and chile and cook, stirring gently, until mixture stops steaming, about 3 minutes.
> Add shrimp, scallops, ham, and black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add reserved scallop cooking liquid and simmer over low heat until slightly darkened and most of liquid is evaporated (leaving only oil), 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer sauce to a bowl and cool. Wipe wok clean.

Make beef and snow peas:
> Toss beef with rice wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and pepper in a bowl until well coated, then marinate 15 minutes.
> Heat wok over high heat until smoking, then add 1/2 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat, and heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook, turning over once, until browned, about 1 minute total, then transfer to a clean bowl. Add another 1/2 tablespoon oil and repeat with remaining beef.
>Pat snow peas dry if necessary. Wipe wok clean and heat until hot but not smoking, then add remaining tablespoon oil, swirling to coat. Add snow peas carefully (oil may splatter) and stir-fry until bright green, about 1 minute. Add XO sauce and stir-fry until snow peas are coated. If mixture seems dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water. Cover wok and cook snow peas until crisp-tender, about 1 minute.
> Add beef with any juices accumulated in bowl and stir-fry until beef is heated through and sauce is thickened, about 1 minute.

Cooks Note: A 12 inch heavy skillet can be substituted for the wok. When making the XO sauce, reduce heat to moderately low after adding onion, garlic, and chile to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, only 1 minute. Also, cook shrimp mixture, stirring constantly, only 1 minute. Add reserved scallop liquid and simmer over moderate heat until slightly darkened and most of liquid is evaporated (leaving only oil), about 2 minutes. When cooking beef and snow peas, beef will take about 2 minutes (per batch) to brown in skillet.