This recipe is based on a Japanese dish called shabu-shabu, but I left out the kombu (dried kelp) and the tofu, then poked it here and pinched it there, so I can’t pretend that my version is even remotely authentic. But both recipes are built around poached beef. I’d almost always prefer to sauté, roast, or grill my meats, but this recipe is an exception to the rule. Here’s why: First you make a flavored broth, then you poach all the vegetables and meats in it, which creates an even richer broth. You end up with a fairly lean but enormously flavorful dish that smacks of comfort food. The wasabi cream is the perfect counterpoint. It is a fun dish for entertaining too. You can dust off the old fondue pot, put it right in the middle of the table, and let your guests take turns cooking their own dinner.
For the broth and vegetables:
7 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, page 338)
One 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
8 scallions, white and 1 inch of the green parts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil*
1 small napa cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
6 carrots, thinly sliced
2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced
1 1/2 pounds boneless shell or sirloin steak
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, drained, and shocked in ice water
For the sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon prepared wasabi*
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To make the broth, combine the stock, ginger, garlic, scallions, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Strain, discard the solids, and return the stock to the saucepan.
Keeping the heat at medium to medium-low, maintain a slow, steady simmer while preparing the dish. Add the cabbage and simmer for 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a large platter. Do the same for the carrots, peppers, and mushrooms, cooking the carrots and peppers for 3 minutes and the mushrooms for 2 minutes. Arrange each in a separate mound on the platter as they are cooked.
Place the beef in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until slightly stiff. This makes it easier to slice thinly. Cut the beef against the grain into paper-thin slices and arrange decoratively on a different platter. Add the peas to the platter.
To make the sauce, combine the sour cream, wasabi, chives, and mustard in a small bowl. Thin with water as desired. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.
Set the fondue pot in the middle of the table, fill it with the broth, and bring to a simmer. It is up to each of your guests, in turn, to finish cooking this dish. Diners choose the vegetables they want and place them in their empty soup bowls. Then they take as much of the raw beef as they want and cook it in the fondue pot for 2 to 3 seconds. Next they add the vegetables selected, which should warm up in about 1 minute. Finally, using a slotted spoon, diners transfer their beef and vegetables from the fondue pot to their bowls and then ladle on some hot broth and a spoonful of the sauce.
*Asian sesame oil and prepared wasabi are available at Asian markets and some supermarkets. You can order fresh wasabi from www.freshwasabi.com or make your own from wasabi powder (a mixture of horseradish powder, mustard powder, cornstarch, and artificial color) which is available on line from www.thespicehouse.com. The Spice House also has powdered Namida wasabi which is the real thing.