Eric and I typically have two kinds of memorable dates. The first kind are really romantic ones involving fancy food and lots of making out. The second kind are ones where one or both of us almost dies. I thought I’d give you a little taste of both kinds of dates we have since we experienced them both Christmas week. First of all an amazing romantic dinner recipe, Sirloin Steak with Shiso Scallion Mashed Potatoes.
I love experimenting with new ingredients, and my latest culinary adventure was shiso leaves. You’re probably wondering “What are shiso leaves?”. I have to confess I didn’t even know their name until I bought some. When Eric and I had omakase at Mashiko in West Seattle (another romantic date with incredible food), the uni (sea urchin) was served on a tempura fried leaf. Somehow I missed writing down what the leaf was, but it stuck in my mind. A couple days before Christmas I was shopping for gifts at my local Asian grocery store and saw a package of the same leaves in the produce section.
I bought the package even though there was nothing labeling what the leaves were. They were only 50 cents so I figured it was a good investment to satisfy my curiosity. When I got home I googled “Japanese leaf” images and figured out that they’re shiso leaves (although I think mine are a Korean variety). They have a somewhat minty taste with a slight sesame oil scent. I decided I wanted to try tempura frying them like Hajime (chef and owner of Mashiko) but also wanted to try them chopped in a recipe. For the tempura, I just used the mix you buy in a box at the grocery store. You can find it on the international aisle.
I had some sirloin steak thawed in the fridge, and decided I would make a fancy main dish for our dinner date. I find that to make a romantic meal, it’s often about presentation. I could have just made steak and mashed potatoes, but by making it artsy it’s special and fancy. I piped the potatoes with a frosting bag, and used strips of carrot soaked in a sugar/rice vinegar mix as garnish.
Now on to the near death experiences. Anyone who knew me in Hawaii knows I have a penchant for dramatically dangerous accidents. I’m always very calm, even staring death in the face. Fortunately Eric is also pretty calm in the face of danger. For instance our first date, when I crashed a bicycle so badly I skidded down a hill passing a car going 25 mph, breaking my arm and turning 1/4 my skin into road rash.
Or our honeymoon hike where we thought there was no point in bringing supplies for a 1 mile hike, even though it was labeled most difficult, and ended up scaling an exposed rock cliff in slippahs (that’s flip flops for you mainlanders) and getting totally lost.
So it really wasn’t a surprise when our Christmas present to each other, a snowshoe adventure on Christmas morning, turned into a near death experience. It was a gorgeous clear winter day with everything covered in frost, and although there was no snow near us, we were excited at the prospect of a white Christmas and getting to go snowshoeing which is one of our favorite dates. When we reached the snow park, the gate was open. It’s normally closed and the snow was so thin we thought it meant that the road above was safe to drive.
Well you know what they say about assuming. About a mile up the mountain from the snow park, Eric (who is a very safe and careful snow driver) said “It’s getting really steep, I think we should turn around.” There’s wasn’t really anywhere in particular to turn, we had a cliff on one side and a ditch on the other. But we figured with our 4 wheel drive it’d be okay to do a 3 point (or more likely 6 point turn on the narrow road). As he tried to turn we lost all traction, we swung around sideways and began sliding down the mountain, perpendicular to the road! After a few seconds of that it was like God tapped the front end of our car and swung it around to point downhill. We slid a mile down the mountain with Eric pumping the brakes, not getting any traction until we reached the parking lot. Although I didn’t get any video of us sliding sideways, I still caught quite a bit of it, and the perfect snowshoe trip after it.
I know it would have been more exciting if we were screaming the whole time, but that’s just not us. We tend to get really peaceful and focused in scary situations. But hopefully, you can stick to the more romantic food based dates, not everyone is cut out for the adrenaline charged kind!
Sirloin Steak with Shiso Scallion Mashed Potatoesserves 2
1 8 oz sirloin steak
1 TBS hoisin sauce
1 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS shoyu (or soy sauce)
1 TBS rice vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
2 large red potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
8 shiso leaves
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup canola oil
salt to taste
Place steak in a ziploc bag. Add hoisin sauce, brown sugar, shoyu, rice vinegar, garlic, and ginger. Press the air out of the bag, seal, and mix well. Refrigerate overnight or at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove bag with steak from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Fill a large pot with salted water and add potatoes. Bring to a boil for 15 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. While potatoes boil, finely chop 4 shiso leaves and 1 scallion. Drain potatoes, mash well and stir in chopped shiso leaves, scallions, and sesame oil. Cover potatoes to keep warm.
Place an oven safe skillet on a burner on high. Sear the steak for 2 minutes on each side, then transfer pan to the oven for 3 minutes (up to 5 if you like your steak less rare). Remove steak to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm (let sit 5 minutes for juices to absorb).
You can fry the leaves while the steak is cooking. Heat canola oil in another skillet or pot until it’s hot enough to brown a cube of bread. Dip each remaining leaf in tempura batter (I then sprinkled a little tempura flour onto the leaf for a better coating). Fry about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side, using tongs to carefully turn the leaf. When the batter turns golden, remove leaves to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt.
Scoop mashed potatoes into a pastry bag with a star tip. Arrange fried shiso leaves on a platter. Thinly slice the steak and fan three slices out on each leaf. Pipe mashed potatoes onto the steak. Garnish with remaining scallion chopped at an angle.
Approximate cost/serving: This is a really affordable fancy main dish. It only cost me $3.50 to make, so $1.75 a serving. Even if you don’t get your beef in bulk like we do, it’s still a cost effective way to stretch it.
Vegetarian/gluten free: Obviously the beef isn’t vegetarian, but the mashed potatoes are and make a great side dish too! For gluten free, read the tempura boxes, several are gluten free (made with rice flour). Or you can skip the tempura batter and just fry the leaves, still tasty!