I scored some beautiful beef medallions on my last $25 Shopping Cart excursion and had a completely different recipe in mind for them. But as usual, these plans were derailed by my ever-fickle nature – and a random, sudden craving for Panda Express (??? you’d think I’d crave more authentic Chinese food). As I stepped off the light rail, I weighed the options in my head: waste $7-8 on greasy Chinese that would only give me about 2 oz. Beijing Beef, or head home, scrap the plan for the delicious idea I had in my head for the beef medallions and make something tasty & spicy, not to mention far different, healthier, and cheaper than Panda Express. I wasn’t going for the same dish by any means, but it was nice to be provided with the inspiration.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve already noticed I have a penchant for Picante and I was craving something nice & hot (on the Kimberscale). Since I was going for something similar but way different from the PE Beijing Beef flavorwise, I wanted to add a lot of heat to this dish but serve it with something healthy with cooler flavoring. When I checked out what I had left in the kitchen, I noticed an orange, one of those little cans of mandarin oranges, some lonely looking brown rice, cilantro that really needed to get eaten…. surely this had to come together nicely with a little effort. And so it did, with the help of a lot of cayenne & crushed red chilies, and the knowledge that brown rice can be kinda pretty, too.
As always, when I cook with citrus I try to make sure the juice I use is from the actual fruit, not from a carton or bottle. This is easy for me because I hardly ever drink anything but water so I never buy juice or sodas, but it is ever-so-convenient to just use a bit of Minute Maid when recipes call for OJ. Try not to fall into that trap; the flavor just isn’t the same as what you’d get out of a freshly squeezed orange (no offense to pasteurized juice! Just not the same when cooking). In terms of the mandarins, they’re more of a garnish than an ingredient; however, if they’re nice & chilled, they provide you with a nice respite from all the heat of the chile & cayenne (which I learned from experience), so feel free to load up; they’re delicious with the sauce! As for the basil-cilantro brown rice, this is an easy way to add some interesting flavor to an otherwise simple tasting food. This would go well with a nice Thai curry, some marinated tofu steaks, flavorful chicken, or just about anything. Keep this one in your recipe arsenal because you should be able to use it year-round.