Weekend Dish: Making chili with Chinese beef?

I’m not a big fan of Chinese beef. Who can blame me? After growing up on American beef, it’s hard to accept anything less. Since I’m located in China these days, I’m pretty limited on what I can reliably get… but I’ve come up with a few tricks to make the most of what’s available.

When I spotted a whole 3kg strip loin (allegedly from Inner Mongolia) I immediately grabbed it and stashed it in our freezer for later use. After thawing it out in the fridge for two days, I tested a small slice with a quick mid-rare sear. We found it to be really tough, chewy, gristly, and not very flavorful. Bummer. I decided to try slow-cooking, as a way of salvaging all this beef. My first thought was to turn it into a roast, which I could thin-slice for sandwiches, but then I got another idea. Everything went back into the fridge, and I soaked a batch of red beans overnight.

The next day, the red beans had tripled in volume, so I drained them off. After slicing the entire strip loin and seasoning all of the steaks with plenty of salt and pepper, I gave them a good sear in a cast iron pan, and let them rest before cutting them into medium-sized cubes. While the meat was resting, I reached for a large white onion, and chopped that up too.

I used the same cast iron pan to caramelize the onions, and deglazed with a cup of black coffee. The idea to use coffee hit me when I thought about an awesome “red-eye” BBQ sauce I tried a while back. The combination of onions and coffee might seem unusual, but it’s highly complimentary to seared beef.

Everything went into the crockpot, along with plenty of dried red chili flakes, a big scoop of brown sugar, and enough water to cover the mixture. That was it! I wanted to keep things simple, while enhancing the underwhelming flavor of this particular strip loin. After six hours in the cooker, it all came together beautifully. Now I have a good amount of delicious chili in the freezer, and a couple of servings can be reheated in less than fifteen minutes whenever we want something hot and spicy to go along with an ice-cold beer!

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