If I’ve learned anything from this year’s SXSW, it is that it’s easier than ever to *not* cook.
I had a panel on Monday with Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru, Anna Tauzin Rice of the Texas Restaurant Association and Jag Bath, CEO of Favor, where we talked for an hour about all the new ways that consumers are getting food today: In a box or bag delivered to their front door, in every state of production, from a CSA box with produce fresh from the field to an online grocery delivery from Instacart to a hot meal from Favor to a meal kit from Blue Apron.
And that’s just how we’re getting food at home, which is the cooking (or not-cooking) space I occupy with this beat at the newspaper.
How, where and why we buy food has changed at every meal — and every minute of snacking in between. Earlier in the conference, I heard a conversation led by Epicurious editor David Tamarkin about the state of cooking and what we can or should do about it.
The panelists all had interesting answers. Go to Facebook to watch our livestreams, said the Food Network producer. Buy our meal kits, said the meal kit founder. The rep from 365 by Whole Foods Market on the panel: Come to our grocery store to buy fresh ingredients to cook, a meal kit or a fully prepared meal that requires no cooking at all.
I’m not sure how cooking at home — and therefore my everyday work in this field — will evolve as these revolutionary changes come down the pipeline, but it was good to go over so many aspects of the food system in some very good panels at this year’s SXSW.
One last SXSW observation before I take off for spring break: A number of attendees I talked with were perturbed by the panels in the food track and beyond that were led by people from the same company, which always feel like thinly veiled commercials that provide no real benefit for the audience.
Prospective panelists for next year should read this story I wrote about the four D’s of a great SXSW panel, but in general, the programming was pretty good this year.
To get you back into your kitchen if you haven’t been in awhile, check out this coconut rice and Thai beef dish that was our recipe of the week on Sunday. I’m starting to gather readers’ favorite at-home takeout replacement recipes through #Austin360Cooks, so if you have any dishes you love to make that other people might order for take-out, post a pic of it on Instagram with that hashtag. I’ll be publishing them in print in the next few weeks!
Coconut Rice and Thai Beef
Coconut milk is more common in American households than ever before, thanks to wider availability of both the thicker, canned coconut milk and the lighter drinkable coconut milk that is sold near the soy and almond milks.
This recipe from “Posh Rice: Over 70 Recipes for All Things Rice” by Emily Kydd (Quadrille, $19.99) wisely uses the thinner coconut milk as the liquid in which to cook a flavorful bed of rice for seared, thinly sliced beef. Both components are infused with Thai flavors, from the bird’s-eye chili to the Thai basil, fish sauce and rice vinegar.
It’s a great way to use up any pickled red onions you might already have in a jar in the fridge, and instead of the sirloin tip steak, you could use a flank steak or a London broil. This dish serves two, so double if you’re feeding more than that or would like leftovers.
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon jasmine or white long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
7 ounces coconut milk (from a refrigerated carton, not full-fat from a can)
3 tablespoons plain rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 medium red onion or 1/2 small red onion
1 (7-ounce) piece flap meat/sirloin tip, about 3/4-inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Thai (bird’s-eye) chili pepper
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 small bunch Thai basil (may substitute green/Genovese basil)
Leaves from 4 to 6 cilantro stems
For the dish: Combine the rice, a pinch of salt and the coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover and let the pot sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together the vinegar, sugar, the 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the water in a medium bowl. Cut the onion into very thin slices, then add to the bowl, making sure they’re submerged.
Heat a cast-iron skillet or grill pan over high heat. Rub the steak with a little oil, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Add to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, so the steak is pink at the center (medium-rare; 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Transfer to a cutting board to rest.
Uncover the rice and fluff with a fork. Drain the onion slices and discard all their liquid except for 2 tablespoons, which you’ll place in a large liquid measuring cup for the dressing.
Stem and seed the chili pepper, then cut crosswise into very thin slices; add to the cup. Crush and mince the garlic and add to the cup. Squeeze a tablespoon of juice from the lime half, then add the sugar and fish sauce, stirring to incorporate.
Coarsely chop the Thai basil and cilantro leaves. Uncover the rice; add those herbs to the rice, then pour the dressing over and toss gently to incorporate.
Cut the meat into thin slices or bite-size chunks, as you like. Divide the dressed rice and meat between individual bowls. Top each portion with some of the quick-pickled onion. Serve warm, or at room temperature. Serves 2.
— Adapted from “Posh Rice: Over 70 Recipes for All Things Rice” by Emily Kydd (Quadrille, $19.99)