Cooking with kid: Stir fry with tenderloin

Tenderloins are lovely pieces of meat, as tender as the name implies. They are located along the backbone, internal to the body cavity, so you can’t reach around and feel your own like you can loin/backstrap. Removing this cut from the carcass is a bit awkward, and sure enough when butchering the goat kid featured in this cooking series, I managed to put a big knife cut through of one of them. The tenderloins are long and skinny, and those from a kid are on the small side: Crystal’s were about a half pound (including two thin strips, not photographed, that may or may not “officially” be tenderloin). What would I do with smallish pieces of meat, tender and suitable for quick high-heat cooking, with a pretty bad gash though the middle of one? Stir fry seemed a sensible answer.

cook_kid_tenderloin

June is pea season, and pea season is stir fry season, as far as I’m concerned. We grow lots of snow and snap peas, and they are delectable stir-fried: maintaining their crisp crunchiness, becoming more even more intensely brilliantly green when cooked to perfection, and oh-so-sweet and delicious. Many other vegetables available at this time of the year are wok-worthy: Hakurei turnips, kohlrabi, summer squash, carrots, garlic scapes, green garlic, onions, and scallions (to name a few) are readily available at various times during the spring and early summer. Vegetable abundance is finally here; each day brings more to be eaten, and once harvested, they’re not getting any fresher. The best option is to eat up and enjoy. It is the season for meat to become a condiment to vegetables.

Stir frying veggies is routine for me, but I had a hunch there was more to learn about stir frying meat, and I was right. Consulting the internet, I learned about a technique known as velveting, nicely explained in this Serious Eats post. The technique was new to our household, and one that we’re happy to add to our repertoire, as it produces a wonderful texture.

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To velvet the meat, I first had to slice it. The package had fully thawed, so I put it back into the freezer for about 45 minutes to enhance slice-ability. Advice I read suggested cutting the meat nice and thin, and cutting across the grain. I cut the tenderloins on a slight diagonal, aiming for a thickness of approximately 1/8″. The next step was to put together the velveting marinade, which for a half pound of meat was as follows:

  • 1 Tbl egg white (whip it slightly to help with measuring this)
  • 2 tsp non-GMO corn starch [ack! processed corn; yes, we do use it on occasion]
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

My reading suggested that the ratios are pretty important, so I was precise in my measurements. At this point, I was supposed to dry the meat, then mix it with the marinade. I forgot to dry the meat (oh well), but I did mix everything together and stick it back in the refrigerator until I was ready to cook (sources suggest 30-40 minutes).

Putting it back in the refrigerator was the hard part, as I had used a larger-than-necessary bowl, and to make room I had to pull out four pigs feet and four tails, some of the last remnants of prior years’ porcine endeavors that had been thawing in the fridge after a recent freezer cleaning. Into the stock pot with those! (Folks with gardens likely understand these freezer cleaning episodes, though interesting animal pieces lend an extra level of adventure to the chore.)

Next step, veggies. cook_kid_tenderloin_veggieharvest

Some vegetables were already harvested and in the refrigerator, but there were a few that I needed to get fresh, so I took a wok walk to grab some scallions, Swiss chard (I wanted the stems for some color, especially since carrots were still small), and a head of green garlic (from the patch of garlic scallions that we didn’t fully harvest…thus the quirky but no-less-tasty head).

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Here are the stir-fry destined veggies: Swiss chard, scallions, green garlic, Costata Romanesco summer squash, snap peas, snow peas, Hakurei turnip, kohlrabi, and garlic scapes. Oh, and onions, I initially forgot to photograph the onions.

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I chopped everything up, and I also soaked some of our dried shiitake mushrooms in sub-boiling water to provide a dose of umami.

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Finally, time for some cooking to begin. I put a pan of water on for the velveting, and started to heat the wok. The back left pan represents the pig bits, simmering away for a later meal. The back right burner had space for the sauce; yes, time had come to decide what I was going to do about sauce.

In the excitement of learning about velveting, I forgot that I had meant to do some reading on how others approach stir-fry sauces. With the kitchen in full swing, I decided to more-or-less wing it. Stir fry doesn’t need to be drenched in sauce; all the ingredients were good and could stand on their own. So I put the following in a sauce pan: ~1 Tbl of soy sauce, ~1 Tbl of rice vinegar, ~1 Tbl sorghum syrup, and the liquid from rehydrating the shiitakes (about 1/2 cup), and I let these cook down. To this mix, I eventually added some of the minced green garlic, as well.

When the water came to a boil, I added about a teaspoon of oil, then put the meat in for about 30-40 seconds of water velveting, stirring it around to separate clumps. I was tentative and decided to do this in batches, fishing out the meat with a slotted spoon. That was inefficient, so next time I’d just dump it all in at once and drain it through a colander when the allotted time was up (note: Eric subsequently did it this way with success). I think my meat slices were especially small, because they were cooked to the point of not being pink inside after even this brief treatment.

cook_kid_tenderloin_stir_frying

I had enough veggies that I recognized I was going to need to cook in batches, then combine everything back together at the end. I added some chicken fat to the wok and started with onions and garlic scapes, then added minced green garlic, followed by kohlrabi, turnip, and chard stems. When these seemed appropriately cooked, I set those aside, then cooked the peas, as well as the squash. At this point I added the rehydrated shiitakes and the meat (which I might have cooked on its own for a bit if it had been a bit rarer in the center). Then I combined everything back together for a brief warming (no need to steam everything to mush) and a gentle dousing with sauce, which had thickened up considerably by this time. I also tasted for salt, and added a bit.

cook_kid_tenderloin_stir_fry_done

We didn’t have any rice or stir-fry appropriate noodles in the house, so I simply served a big pile of stir fry all on its own as a light meal.

The velveting technique was deemed well worth the effort. Though tenderloin is naturally tender, the texture of this meat went well beyond that; this was the tenderest quick-cooked goat meat we’d ever eaten. It’s a texture that I associate with good Chinese restaurants, but that I haven’t experienced in years due to my tendency to be an off-farm vegetarian. It’s a fall-apart, melt-in-the-mouth, wow-I-really-like-meat-like-that texture. In future, I certainly think we’ll be applying this technique to some less-choice cuts of meat to see just how far-reaching its tenderizing powers are.

The veggies were delicious, crisp, crunchy, flavorful. I think I managed to fit as many veggies in the wok as possible without steaming them to death. We ate the meal with chopsticks, and noted that the small pieces of garlic scapes accumulated at the bottom of the bowl and were hard to pick up with chopsticks. Oh well.

The sauce didn’t adhere to the stir fry as well as I might have liked, leaving a bit of a pool in the bottom of the pan and in our bowls. Eric noted: “I like that the individual flavors [of the veggies & meat] are coming through, but that sauce was really good [yet it’s not very noticeable].” Perhaps a bit of corn starch thickener in the sauce would have achieved the desired effect.

We did manage to have some leftovers, which reappeared on our plates the following morning along with scrambled eggs (a way to use up the rest of the egg yolk & white from the velveting). All in all, another success in the “cooking with kid” series.

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