Tea, used as a cooking ingredient, adds depth and subtlety to a variety of dishes. For instance, the delicate but distinct taste of green tea can be used to beef up a tender cut of beef. Hard-cooked tea eggs, often included in Chinese celebration feasts, are stained with a strong, aromatic black tea blend. And Earl Grey tea imparts its beguiling citrus flavor, obtained from the bergamot orange, to prune-laced applesauce.
GREEN TEA AND LEMON GRASS FILET MIGNON
Adapted from NPR.org's "Kitchen Window." If you have a seasoned cast-iron skillet, use it here.
2 1/2 tablespoons green tea leaves (5 to 7 tea bags), crumbled
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons minced lemon grass, white core only (about 1 stalk)
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
4 center-cut filet mignons, 1 1/2 inches thick, 7 to 8 ounces each
4 teaspoons vegetable, corn, or canola oil
In a small bowl, mix the green tea, salt, lemon grass, lime zest, garlic, and ginger. Dry the steaks with paper towels, rub each side of each steak with 1/2 teaspoon oil and coat with the green tea mixture, rubbing it into the surface of the meat. Let the steaks stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat a heavy, ovenproof 10-inch skillet (not non-stick) over high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Place the steaks in the skillet and cook, without moving them, until well browned and crusty on the bottom, about 3 1/2 minutes. Using tongs, turn the steaks and cook, again without moving them, until well browned and crusty on the second side, about 3 1/2 minutes longer. Transfer the pan with the steaks to the oven and roast about 2 minutes for rare, 4 minutes for medium rare, or 6 minutes for medium. Remove the pan from the oven, transfer the steaks to a large plate, loosely tent with foil, and let them rest about 5 minutes before serving.
CHINESE TEA EGGS MAKES 12 EGGS
Smoky Lapsang souchong tea is a good choice for this recipe. You can use fewer eggs if you want.
12 large eggs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry or Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine, available in Asian markets)
4 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
4 1/2-inch-thick slices of fresh ginger
1/2 cup loose black tea leaves
Salt and pepper, for serving
Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside. In a large pot, cover the eggs with cool water by about 1 inch and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the water boils, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand 9 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, immediately transfer the eggs to the ice water and let stand for about 5 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water, tap them all over on a counter or cutting board, then gently roll them to crack the shells all over, but do not peel.
Meanwhile, in a large nonreactive saucepan, mix the soy sauce, sherry or wine, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger with 3 1/2 cups of water. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Increase heat to high and return the liquid to a boil, add tea, and cook for 2 minutes until the liquid is very dark and fragrant. Off heat, allow the tea mixture to cool to tepid, add the eggs, cover, and refrigerate for at least 12 and up to 36 hours. About an hour before serving, remove the eggs from the refrigerator, drain, and allow them to come to room temperature. Peel, cut in half if desired, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.
EARL GREY AND PRUNE APPLESAUCE
MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS
Adapted from Desserts That Have Killed Better Men Than Me, by Jeremy Jackson (William Morrow), this applesauce is terrific served alongside plain cakes and cookies or on its own with a dollop of whipped cream or a splash of heavy cream. Jonagold, Jonathan, Pink Lady, Macoun, and Golden Delicious apples make great applesauce.
6 medium apples (about 3 pounds), cored and coarsely chopped
3 pitted prunes, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated zest and 1/2 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon
Pinch ground cloves
2 bags Earl Grey tea
In a large, heavy nonreactive saucepan or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, toss the apples, prunes, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, salt, and cloves and add 2/3 cup of water. Cover the pot and cook the apple mixture until it begins to release liquid, about 10 minutes. Remove the cover, stir the apples, bury the tea bags in the mixture (draping the tags over the side of the pot), replace the cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the apples are mushy and broken down, about 15 minutes longer. Off heat, remove and discard the tea bags, and allow the apples to cool for a few minutes.
Using a food mill fitted with the medium disk or a coarse-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, process the cooled apple mixture to collect the liquid and pulp; discard the apple skins. Add the lemon juice, stir to combine, and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
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