Week 13 Finalists- Best Beef Salad

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Asian Inspired Beef Salad by ChezUs

We've come across a lot of Asian beef salads in our time (some good and some not so good), and we both agreed that this recipe knocks one out of the park. This fresh, light salad utilizes our favorite Southeast Asian flavors: fish sauce, soy, lime juice, chili, fresh herbs, and best of all -- lemongrass. The dressing is balanced, rather than overwhelmingly fishy or sweet, and the addition of tomatoes and red pepper adds both some pretty red color and juiciness. We also liked ChezUs's method of tossing the greens with just a fraction of the dressing and then drizzling the rest over the top at the end. This keeps the greens from getting limp but ensures that the salad is adequately dressed. We didn't have unrefined sugar on hand, so we substituted white sugar, using 2 tablespoons rather than 3 because it's sweeter and more dense. - A&M


Although zesting tends to be easier with a whole fruit, it works after it's been cut as well...



The greenmarket tomatoes and peppers are at their peak.


The recipe called for 3 tablespoons of unrefined sugar. We only had white. As white is finer, we only used 2 tablespoons, with good results.


The cross section of the lemongrass after the root end was removed.


ChezUs called for the lemongrass for the dressing to be microplaned. Brilliant. Amanda forgot to read the recipe, and finely minced it. While this method was totally effective (and a nice showcase of her knifework), it's easier and quicker to microplane it.


Rubbing the beef with sesame oil before cooking.


Merrill seasoned aggressively, as evidenced by the visible grains of salt and grinds of pepper.


Pre-emulsification, the dressing layered itself beautifully.


Fish sauce smells super funky on its own, but is intriguing as part of a dressing such as this.


We used a screaming hot cast iron skillet instead of a grill pan, and it worked well.


Seasoning the salad, adding the beef, and then drizzling a bit more dressing over it all allows each component to be appropriately dressed.


A little artful arranging goes a long way.


Beef Chopped Salad by lastnightsdinner

Beef and blue cheese are always a great combo. And when you throw potatoes, tomatoes, peppery greens and homemade pickled onions and garlic croutons into the mix, how can we say no? While it has many different components, we love the way this salad came together; all of the vegetables and the meat end up coated in a slightly creamy combination of dressing and blue cheese. Lastnightsdinner saves time (and an extra bowl) by using the same mixture of red wine, sherry vinegar and olive oil to marinate the steak and serve as the dressing for the salad. The onions (we used shallots), which pickle gently in salt, sherry vinegar and juniper berries while you prepare the rest of the salad, contribute subtle acidity and sweetness. Lastnightsdinnr calls for bottom round, which is relatively inexpensive but has excellent flavor with a tender bite. To make our garlic croutons, we rubbed two thick slices of stale country bread with a clove of garlic, cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and toasted these in the oven at 350°F for about ten minutes. -A&M

When you have need for more than a few grinds of pepper, much time is saved by using a coffee grinder on whole peppercorns!


As the quick pickled shallots sat, we could see them breaking down and softening.


Reserving some of the marinade (pre-meat) for the dressing.


lastnightsdinner recommended using homemade or store-bought croutons. We went with Amanda's method for homemade- rubbing a piece of bread with garlic, dicing it up, and toasting the cubes until dry. They were delicious, and far, far superior to anything you can buy!


Cubing the yukon gold potato before boiling it until tender. It's important to start potatoes in cold water, as adding them to boiling water breaks down the outer layers of starch too quickly, and they tend to get mushy on the outside well before they cook through.


We used the recommended Maytag Blue (which is, by the way, made by the same family that make the washing machines!).


Cherry or grape tomatoes are great in this salad, and tend to be readily available (and appealing!) all year.


Immediately upon draining the potatoes, lastnightsdinner has us add the reserved dressing. The potatoes absorb some of it (and the flavor!) beautifully.


Instead of tossing all the cheese together with the salad, we tossed a little bit (maybe 1-2 tablespoons) and then crumbled the rest over top.


As a finishing touch, you sprinkle the pickled shallots over the top of the salad.