Like a lot of people, I often default to a protein on a starch with a vegetable or two on the side when time is tight and I don’t have the brain space for improvising. But sometimes a brief moment of reflection can inspire use of the same ingredients to make something much more interesting and crowd-pleasing.
This meal was on track to be a steak, roasted potatoes, and a romaine salad, but something in me couldn’t do that same thing again. I poked around the fridge and cupboards, and an idea clicked when I found some soba noodles. I put water on to boil, then trimmed and sliced the sirloin into strips, tossing them in a marinade of gochujang, homemade smoked salsa, sesame oil, and blackcurrant vinegar. I chopped up shiitakes, onions, red pepper, carrots, and pak choi and added them (with time between so they’d all cook properly) in that order to a pan in which a slice of bacon in lardon form was rendering and crisping seductively. I deglazed the mixture with soy sauce and cider vinegar, adding grated ginger and sesame oil right before removing the food to a bowl.
The noodles were just about ready at this point, so then I cranked up the heat and swabbed the beef around the shrieking skillet until it was just cooked and the marinade, thick to begin with, was bubbling and unctuously coating the meat. The drained noodles got a bowl, as did the meat and the big leaves of lettuce, freshly washed. There was also cilantro and sliced scallions for brightness of color and flavor.
And then we tucked in, wrapping it all together to make compellingly sloppy rolls of fragrant savor. There was much rejoicing, and the meal took no more work than the vague plan I had going in. It’s always worth taking a moment to breathe and contemplate before grudgingly doing the same thing we always do. I ask you: would you not eat this with extreme prejudice?