Add a Thai salad to your Father’s Day menu

Published 8:04 am Saturday, June 17, 2017

The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not meet with the same enthusiasm—perhaps because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event explicitly in honor of fathers, a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, but it was a one-time commemoration and not an annual holiday. The next year, a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful; Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910.

Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day. However many men continued to disdain the day. As one historian writes, they “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products—often paid for by the father himself.”

During the 1920s and 1930s, a movement arose to scrap Mother’s Day and Father’s Day altogether in favor of a single holiday, Parent’s Day. The depression came and derailed this effort. When World War II began, advertisers began to argue that celebration Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it was a national institution. In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday at last. Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.

In looking for a nice meal for Father’s Day I thought some men love to grill and would not mind grilling this steak or it can also be cooked in a cast iron skillet by someone else.

This Thai beef salad, or yam neua, is a tangle of thinly grilled steak, tossed with shallots, a heap of cilantro and mint, and a hot, sour, salty and slightly sweet dressing, and topped with chopped tomatoes. It is a salad where the meat comes first and the vegetables are secondary, and unlike many Thai dishes it is not meant to be served with rice.

For this version of yam neua (pronounced yum n-UH), you need to start with the right steak and skirt steak was chosen because it is thin, well marbled, and has an exceptionally beefy flavor and could stand up to the bold yam dressing. The meat is seasoned with white pepper not black which has a more floral aroma. Salt and a couple teaspoons of brown sugar approximate the faint maple flavor in palm sugar.

Skirt steak can get tough if overcooked, so cooking if briefly-no more than medium-rare-but enough to develop a char. The secret is heating the grill or cast-iron pan for five minutes. Also don’t cut the steak with the grain; it results in tough slices. Cutting against the grain shortens muscle fibers, producing tender, juicy meat.

From the May-June, 2017 issue of ‘Milk Street’

Thai Beef Salad (Yam Neua)

Start to finish: 40 minutes

4 Servings

1 large shallot, thinly sliced crosswise (about ½ cup)

3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)

4 teaspoons packed brown sugar, divided

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

¾ teaspoon ground white pepper

1 ½ pounds skirt steak, trimmed and cut into 2 to 3 pieces (Bought a grass-fed skirt steak at Whole Foods)

Grapeseed or other neutral oil (If using a skillet)

1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ½ cups red or yellow cherry tomatoes (about 7 ounces), halved

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

In a large bowl, combine the shallots and lime juice and let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of the sugar, the salt and white pepper. Pat the steak dry with paper towels, then rub all over with the sugar-salt mixture. If using a cast-iron skillet, cut the steak into 4 to 6 pieces.

If using a grill, grill the steak (directly over the coals, if using a charcoal grill) until charred all over, 2 to 4 minutes per side. If using a skillet, sear the skillet in 2 batches until charred, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, the pepper flakes and remaining 2 teaspoons of the sugar to the shallot-lime mixture and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Taste, then add additional fish sauce, if desired. Thinly slice the steak against the grain, then transfer to the bowl along with any accumulated juices. Add the tomatoes, cilantro and mint, then stir.