Japanese Enoki and Beef Rolls
Oh Gluttony. How I miss thee so. Do you remember when we used to play games of Dip It In Cheez Sauce for hours on end? Oh, or the days when we used to see how many ingredients we could sweet talk the pock faced boy at Dairy Queen into adding to our Blizzard? The Night Of Seven Flavors will never be forgotten. That was living, goddammit. Gluttony, we’ve had some really good times and all, but….I’m just not the person that I used to be. Things have changed, and I feel like we don’t recognize each other any more. It’s not you, it’s me.
What? Well, I suppose that you have a point, but –
Okay, now you’re getting out of line. SCREW YOU, Gluttony, it IS you. YOU’RE the problem. YOU’RE the reason that I had to order my wedding dress in a size so large that I thought for a minute I was going dyslexic. YOU’RE the reason that I can’t go to all you can eat sushi bars anymore because I order my green tea ice cream with a chaser of noodles and an encore round of Japanese enoki mushroom and beef rolls. Damn you, Gluttony. Damn you to hell.
But….hey, we’ll always have Paris, right? And every time that I over eat at a Japanese restaurant, and I suck the thin threads of enoki mushroom out from between my teeth, I’ll think of you. And I’ll miss you. I’ll miss you a lot. I’ll miss you right up until the next time that I con Mike into taking me to an all you can eat sushi restaurant……
This dish is one of my downfalls. I say “one of..” because there are many, it’s true. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that my entire diet is a systematic layering of downfalls in a complex sequence that is designed to bring me temporarily back on the health track before suffering a tragic indiscretion of mass proportions. Japanese restaurants are, of course, a main contributor. Every now and then I manage to convince Mike that we have no food whatsoever in the house (note: lies. All lies), and I *could* make him a sardine and mustard sandwich, or we could just go out for dinner. Oh, you know, anywhere really. Anywhere like, OH GOD YOU’RE ABOUT TO DRIVE BY, IT’S *RIGHT THERE*, IT’S ALL YOU CAN EAT SUSHI AND IT’S GOING TO BE MIIIIIIIIIIIIINE! So we go for Japanese. And I eat. I eat all that I can eat. The trauma, discomfort, guilt and denial that I feel after a good Japanese binge-fest is well worth it when I think back to some of my favorites, like slick and sweet seaweed salad, sashimi, more sashimi, tempura yams, and enoki beef rolls. Then, when I’m all done dinner and ready for dessert, I go for ice cream, sashimi, and enoki beef rolls. I have nothing to say for myself, apart from, “Another Asahi, please!” And that’s that.
Japanese Enoki and Beef Rolls
- 1.5 lb thinly sliced well marbled beef *
- 1/2 cup sake **
- 1/3 cup tamari (or 1/4 cup light soya sauce + 2 tbsp water)
- 1/3 cup mirin ***
- 1 clove garlic
- 1″ chunk fresh ginger
- 1 lb enoki mushrooms
- 3 green onion
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1-2 small fiery chili peppers, optional
- 1 tbsp sesame seed for garnish, optional
* There is a right way to do this and an easier way to do this. I’ll tell you about both, but I’ll only show you the easy way, because I don’t kid myself anymore. I know that you don’t want the long road to distraction.
** Sake is an alcoholic Japanese rice wine. If you cannot find sake you can substitute Xiao Hsing (Chinese cooking wine) or 1/4 cup very dry sherry with 1/4 cup dry white wine.
*** Mirin is also a type of Japanese rice wine, but the alcohol content is very low (if not absent) and it is quite sweet. If you cannot find mirin you can substitute sweet golden sherry or half white balsamic vinegar with half water and a generous dollop of honey.
Peel and finely mince the garlic and ginger. If necessary, pound and scrape them with the flat side of your knife until they are almost pulpy. Add these to a casserole dish (or whatever vehicle you would like to use to marinate the meat) along with the sake, tamari, mirin, and one (1) teaspoon of sesame oil. Whisk this all together until combined.
If you are using the chili to add just a whisper of heat to the dish, cut them in half and scrape out the ribs and seeds. Finely slice the flesh of the chili and add this to the marinade.
On to the meat preparation. Like I said, there is a right way to do this and a fast way. The right way would be to get a nice fatty and well marbled beef steak (like a rib eye) that is at least 2 inches thick. Put the steak in the freezer for 30 – 60 minutes, or until it is quite firm to the touch and almost (but not quite) frozen. Then, moving quickly, use your longest, thinnest, SHARPEST blade to carve the meat into thin slices that approximately 1/16″ thick. In other words, shave that bad boy all thin-like. Lay the slices down flat in the marinade for an hour at room temperature.
The easy way is to go to an Asian grocery store and buy hot-pot beef. This is well marbled beef which has been shaved paper thin and cooks up before your heart has had a second beat. There are benefits and disadvantages to hot-pot meat. The first advantage is, of course, less preparation and quick convenience. The main disadvantage is that the deliciously well marbled is also quite fragile and will start to fall apart in the marinade…or, indeed, as soon as you start to handle it too roughly. Or at all. That said, if you don’t feel confident in your knife skills you are more than welcome to buy the supremely shaved beef which is either found flat or rolled. Personally, for this preparation, I suggest the rolls and you’ll see why in a minute. If you’re using hot-pot beef, take the meat out and let it just start to thaw until the rolls can be separated but are still firm. Pour the marinade over top and let it stew at room temperature for an hour.
Turn the meat over periodically so that it marinates evenly.
Half an hour before you want to assemble the rolls, pour very warm (not boiling hot) water into a large bowl and season generously with salt, as though you were going to boil pasta. Gently separate the enoki mushrooms from their large clump into smaller bits and immerse them into the warm, salty water. This will do two things.
- Soften the mushrooms and make them more pliable.
- Season the mushrooms so they keep their sweetness but the flavor stands out.
When the mushrooms have sat for 30 minutes you can drain off the water, shake them dry, and drizzle/toss the remaining one (1) teaspoon of sesame oil throughout.
Now then, your meat is well marinated and you’re getting ready to rumble. Preheat your oven to broil (550ºF, or thereabouts) with your rack set in the highest position.
Finely slice the green onion and keep a wee tiny bowl of sesame seeds near by, just in case.
To assemble the rolls, pluck a slice of beef from the marinade and shake off any excess. Lay the meat flat down on your work surface and lay another piece right above it, overlapping the meat slightly. If you are using the hot-pot beef rolls rather than hand-sliced meat, flatten one roll down as best you can until it is a thin layer (if it tears slightly that’s okay). Lay another roll above and flatten that out as well, making sure that they touch and just barely overlap. The meat should be approximately 1/16″ thick most of the way through.
Lay a small “sprig” of enoki mushrooms down in both directions, facing north and south. Sprinkle a few slices of green onion on top.
Roll the meat up and around the mushrooms like a jelly roll. Place the enoki mushroom roll seam side down on a well oiled baking tray.
Broil the rolls for just 2 minutes, then turn them over and broil for 1-2 minutes more. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top (and perhaps a smattering more green onion if you’re feeling a yen) and call it a day.
I love the sweet stringiness of enoki mushrooms, so delicate and yet stubbornly tolerant. Just like me. Hey, hey! No need to be snarky. Fine, well we’re both stubborn at least.
The flavors are rich and simple yet intriguing. Moreover, the tender and marinated meat will literally melt in your mouth with each bite. You can see why they’re a favorite of mine for sushi night but this restaurant classic is just as easy to replicate at home, and without the guilt of having someone see you asking for a third helping.