Food + Wine

Quick Korean Beef. Crunchy Colors

That’s what I called this meal when I (last minute) put it up on Instagram Friday night as we sat down to eat it.  No recipe, just a pretty photo with a silly and intentionally cryptic caption.  My husband and I had been standing in the kitchen trying to plan out our dinner for awhile….  I had bought Denver steaks and sugar snap peas that morning, and we decided that we’d go Asian with our Friday Night Steak Night tradition this week.

Stir-fry?  Nah.  Noodles?  Nope. I looked in the fridge and saw we had a lot of colorful veggie bits and pieces lying around, so I decided we’d go salad.  Salad under marinated steak.  Cool.  Done.  We drank our beers while I threw together a marinade… I needed salt, sweet and acid.  Soy, lime and honey.  Easy.  Done.  He shaved some carrots for me, flipped the steaks in the marinade a couple times while I started chopping and dressing the salad that hadn’t been decided on yet…..  Honestly, I just mixed some stuff up in my head and turned it into something in a bowl.  He headed up to bathe the kids while I finished up.

By the time he came down, he found me crouched over in my favorite natural sunlight spot in our kitchen, snapping away.  I had zero intention of making this meal to be anything photographable or documentable.  I just wanted us to be fed well, per usual.  But the colors were so beautiful on the plate.  The beef was so glossy.  Every bite I snuck to my mouth of the salad was perfect.  So I figured I owed it to this pretty plate to take her picture.  She and I had no idea what we were doing, and together, we created something new and exciting and lovely.  A mere 10 minutes before, these colors in my camera lens were all just a bunch of lots of things in my kitchen- lost, in need of direction.  And once they came together on those two plates that night, they just looked so happy.

And happiness should always be remembered.

So. With that being said…

From the foggy memory of someone who was drinking the end of a beer and the beginning of a greyhound while making it…. here she is!

Whether my measurements are exact or not (they’re not), know that you can make this just as I did… just by instinct and taste and feel.  We all have the same instincts, just listen to them.

The cocktails that came with mine are optional.



a.k.a. raw vegetable salad

serves 2

You’ll need 1 lb. of Denver steaks for healthy sized portions for 2.  That’s a total of 4 pieces.  (See at the end of the post for more info on Denver steaks)

. steak marinade .

In a 9×9 square glass dish, combine the following until mixed well…

  • enough (low sodium) soy sauce to make an even layer on the bottom of the dish
  • the zest and juice of 1 lime
  • about 2 TB honey

Place your 1 lb. of Denver steaks into the pan and flip them around whenever you think about it.  I marinated these for about 20 minutes, while I decided on the rest of the meal.  I also fork-poked them a couple times for extra tenderizing, but also because it’s fun?

. salad .

Place the following in a small saucepan to come up to a quick boil (or do what I did and put it all in the glass mixing bowl you’re planning on making the salad in and microwave it)…

  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • about 2 TB honey
  • about 2 TB fish sauce (or whatever was left in the bottle)
  • kosher salt to taste

Once the mixture is heated through and begins to simmer, drizzle in while whisking…

  • maybe 1 tsp walnut oil (I was out of toasted sesame oil, and this was great!)

Taste it.  Does it need any more acid or sweet or savory? Then fix it 😉

Toss the warm dressing with the following veggies (or use what you have!)…

  • about 1/4 green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bell pepper (mine was yellow), thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on the bias
  • couple handfuls of sugar snap peas 
  • some thinly sliced red onion… I only measure onion by ‘whole’ or ‘half’, so let’s say this was a couple thin slices of the side of one half of an onion
  • couple handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves


  • 1-2 TB sesame seeds that you’ve dry toasted in a pan until fragrant and golden brown

Make sure all the veggies come in good contact with the dressing and keep tossing whenever you think about it… like whenever you think about tossing the steaks in the marinade?

. dinner time .

Turn your favorite steak cooking pan on high.  (Not a cast-iron since you’ll be adding acid and acid is no bueno for cast iron pans)

Take your steaks directly from marinade to hot pan (save marinade), no oil was necessary for me.  DO NOT MOVE THEM ONCE THEY’RE IN THE PAN.

Let the steaks sear on one side for 2-3 minutes, or until they release from the bottom of the pan with ease and are super dark brown and crusty.


(Note- you will see the sugars begin to burn in the pan, that’s ok.)  Sear on this side for 1 minute before pouring the residual marinade in the pan into the skillet.  (This is ok to do because you are going to boil this liquid and reduce it down. NEVER use used marinade on something without boiling it for at least 2 minutes first.)

Let the steaks cook in the bubbling marinade for about 2 minutes, the liquid will now be thick.

Flip again and notice how glossy that side is now!

They should be done (med-rare) once the liquid is of syrup consistency.

. serving time .

Nestle 2 steaks on each plate over a big pile of salad.  Drizzle any ‘syrup’ from the pan over top (I had a small amount of drops left) and let them rest if you can before slicing and enjoying!

I love having a stocked pantry full of things that can inevitably help me make most any kind of meal.  So, I’m using walnut oil instead of sesame, who cares?  My tastebuds didn’t mind that it wasn’t 1) authentic or 2) expected.  It was a wonderful meal and I had a heck of a lot of fun throwing it together.

. steak school time .

Denver steaks are from the chuck and it is a pretty hard cut to find… not because it’s expensive, or rare… but because it’s such a good cut that most of the time, the butchers are keeping it for themselves (if you’re buying it from a place that butchers their own beef), or it’s just not available because they don’t know to ask for it…. also because the butcher probably ate it already.  We eat a lot of Denver steaks in my house.  They’re very inexpensive, about $6/lb at my store. And are so flavorful and easy to cook.  (If your store doesn’t have them, ask them to carry it.)

The Denver cut comes from the most marbled muscle in the cow’s body.  Marble means flavor.  It’s not the kind of steak where you’ve got pure pink flesh, with a probable white fat ring around the edges…. it’s a beautiful piece of meat with white streaks throughout.  And those white streaks, (the intramuscular marbling), breaks down when it comes in contact with heat, and melts into the meat and becomes so flavorful and juicy.

Denver steaks are very quick cooking. (It’s also the cut I used in the quick steak night meal I cooked in this Day in the Life video from the other day.) It is the fourth most tender cut on the animal.  The first is the beloved tenderloin, then flatiron and then those from the ribeye cap like the deckle.  By the way, the flatiron steak is another favorite of mine, fairly similar in flavor and marbling to the Denver, and about 5 years ago I was preaching right here about how incredible and cheap it was… now it’s pretty pricey.  So, before this cut goes up like the flatiron did, go out and grab you some.  You won’t be sorry.

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  • Reply Gail June 4, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Gorgeous meal, gorgeous photograph, Abbey! I’m inspired.

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