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Jackson Steakhouse

Thai-style Spicy Beef and Craine Farm Hydroponic Lettuces

Recipe by Chef Irv Miller

Northwest Florida and nearby Alabama are notorious for their sandy soil and piney-woods. Due to these geographical conditions, traditional earth farmers have vested interest in alternative and creative farming methods such as hydroponics. The Craine family owns and operates Craine Creek Farm, off Hwy. 59 in Loxley, Alabama. They have tremendous success with indoor hydroponics practices.

 In fact, a wet wall in the summer and heating techniques in the winter allow for consistent lettuce crops year-round.  Some of my favorite lettuces are now produced indoors at the Craine Creek farm. Their indoor grown lettuces include red and green oak leaf, red pak choy, Tatsoi, spicy mustard and endive. Hydroponic lettuces such as these are ready within two days after harvesting. This additional hang-time allows for head-hardening for healthier handling. Personally, I enjoy cutting them right off their head root system, and I have even replanted the root system outdoors in the spring.   The mustard greens are spicy, buttery and make a delicious stand-alone salad lightly coated with a bit of vinaigrette. However, in this recipe, the greens accompany a juicy and flavorful Asian- inspired beef preparation.

 (Serves 4–6)

 For the beef marinade:

2 pounds flat iron or flank steak

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon.sesame seed oil

4 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

1 tablespoon Sambal Olek (red chili paste)

6 thin sliced garlic cloves

For the salad:

2 head baby Bok choy (optional)

1 head leafy red or green oak leaf, all leaves

1 head spicy mustard, all leaves

1 head red pak choy, all leaves

2 tomatoes cut into thin wedges

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 small thinly sliced red onion

1 bunch fresh spearmint

extra olive oil for grilling

For the salad dressing:

1/8 cup olive oil

2 lemons, juiced

1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1–2 tablespoons chopped lemon grass

1 minced Thai chili or hot pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce

Dash freshly ground black pepper

For the garnish:

6 wonton wrappers

1 ounce radish micro shoots

For the beef marinade: Place marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl, whisk together and then pour over steaks. Let marinade 2 hours in the refrigerator. Turn once after the first hour.

For the salad dressing: Place dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl, whisk together, making sure sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

 To assemble: Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush Bok choy heads with olive oil, place over medium-high heat to char all over and wilt the bok choy about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, discard stem and cut leaves into medium-sized pieces.

 Prepare grill grate surface for steaks. Dip a used kitchen towel into oil and rub over grill grates. Cook steaks medium to medium-rare 5 to 7 minutes each side. Remove from heat, place on cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. To slice, hold knife at a 45-degree angle, cut the steak crosswise into very thin slices.

 Transfer the meat with its juices into a large mixing bowl and toss with the cut bok choy,  oak leaf lettuce, spicy mustards, red pak choy, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, and chopped mint. Spoon over dressing and toss gently. Divide salad on to individual plates or a platter. Garnish wonton crisps and radish micro shoots.

 For the wontons: Preheat fryer to 350F. Cut wontons into strips deep fry 1-2 minutes until golden brown, place onto paper towel to drain and season with salt and pepper.