Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Divine Asian Dining At Casa Snelling

After having our synapses a bit overworked from all of the flash and sass this weekend, we were looking for some serious chill on Sunday. We were ready to clear some mental cobwebs and began our day with a healthy power walk around the always scenic trail in Parkville Riverfront Park near our home. We were relieved that the trail was still available as they have been bracing for a historic level of flooding and have been sandbagging for several days. That heart-pumping walk was a brilliant way to start the day and we would end it in divine fashion at our friends Troy and Sarah's welcoming home in Excelsior Springs.

I've written a bit about Troy and his lovely fiancee Sarah before. We have been trying to work out dinner with them for awhile now, only to be repeatedly thwarted by conflicting schedules and threatening weather. Finally, Sarah rallied us for dinner tonight and she was preparing a pork noodle dish similar to Vietnamese pho. We were asked to prepare a first dish and I admit to being a tad nervous as Asian cooking was still a bit new for us. Sarah suggested Thai Beef Salad and I found a recipe for Hot and Sour Thai Beef Salad that also allowed me to keep up with the Cookbook Challenge as well. In the interest of time, Keith took the lead with this dish as he remains the superior cook...I'm still working to upset that balance of power there, but I dutifully played sous chef. I actually adored the dish when it was done....the dressing was so flavorful and the fresh mint and Thai basil that Keith grew just made it.

We arrived at their fabulous three-story home a bit after six as the weather was settling into perfection. We met their friendly pup and their adorable kids who were all taking great advantage of thepristine day. Troy and Sarah's friend and soon-to-be nanny Claire joined us for dinner and she and I bonded over our mutual love of Frank's Red Hot Sauce. Troy gave us a tour of this fascinating home....this is one of those moments when I remind myself that I need to carry a notebook to take notes. Troy, a history and philosophy teacher at Park Hill, has amassed a breathtaking collection of antiques and artifacts. Gorgeous vintage 1800s china sets, framed swords, intriguing artwork and even the pistol Harry Truman carried when he was menaced by the Klan as a judge adorn the premises. I was utterly mesmerized by it all...had we more time I could have listened to Troy tell the stories of this amazing collection all day.

We gathered on the deck to munch on some fresh veggies such as sugar snaps, radishes and daikon served with an array of dips including Champagne vinegar, mushroom and Ranch. A silver bowl filled with iced-down Sapporo and Kirin Ichiban was an inviting sight. We retired to the stately dining room for dinner after Keith and I did a quick construction of our Thai Beef Salad. Troy poured a beautiful Bandol rose to accompany our meal. I will admit at this point that not only was I nervous about cooking an unfamiliar dish but in general; cooking for Troy and Sarah period. Troy's a worldly man of great taste and Sarah's built a seriously impressive culinary background as a restaurant owner and certified European sommelier. My exhale must have been noticeable when they expressed satisfaction with both our salad and the wine we brought; a Caymus Conundrum.

We moved on to the main course and indeed, this was the star of the show. Formally called Yam Neua; this is the pork noodle dish Sarah had spoken of. Sarah described the dish as she served it up.....bowls of delicious pork noodles with fresh cilantro, sugar snaps and green onions in a steaming, delicate broth. As the bowls were set before us, the aroma alone was intoxicating and I was already salivating as Sarah sat to join us. We followed Sarah's lead but were encouraged to add to the dish depending on our personal preferences...I decided to mimic Sarah to the letter and go from there. Sliced jalapenos for spice, Sriracha sauce for heat, soy sauce for salt and fresh limes for citrus. Sarah prefers a few hits of Sriracha and to go heavy on the lime. One of the joys of the dish was that you could "doctor" it as you saw fit and those levels seemed to change as you continued to eat it. This dish is sublime in its simplicity....healthy, bright, cheerful and seriously wonderful. I apologized for my near lack of civility while eating this dish as my desire to literally lap it up became evident.

The group returned to the deck for dessert: vodka-soaked Drunken Watermelon. Fresh and delicious, I think Troy caught me literally gnawing the fruit to the rind. It was so good! As we settled into conversation, I took in the magnificent view of the setting sun and relished that we not only had a terrific evening but got our wish...a truly relaxing evening with friends over a soul-stirring meal on a beautiful evening.

Thank you, Troy and Sarah!

The recipe for the Thai Beef Salad follows and counts as Cookbook Challenge #63. Troy will also bring about the return of the Foodie Five and in the interest of space, I will save that for the next post.

Hot and Sour Thai Beef Salad(courtesy of Easy Healthy Dinners)

1 large yellow, red or green bell pepper, cut into thin, bite-sized strips
1/2 of a medium cucumber, cut into thin, bite-sized strips (1 cup)
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint or 1 teaspoon dried mint, crushed
12 oz. beef top sirloin steak
Nonstick cooking spray
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 cups packaged torn mixed salad greens

In a medium bowl, combine sweet pepper and cucumber. For dressing, in a small bowl, stir together lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, ground ginger, basil and mint. Set aside.

Trim fat from steak. Cut into thin, bite-size strips. Coat a large skillet(or wok) with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium heat. Add garlic, jalapeno and fresh ginger(if using). Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add steak strips; stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove steak mixture from skillet. Add to sweet pepper mixture. Toss gently. Add dressing to skillet. Bring to boiling; boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

To serve, divide greens among dinner plates. Spoon steak mixture over greens and drizzle with dressing.


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