For most of the last decade or two, my dad was on a perennial low-carb diet, eschewing bread and often sugar, save for carefully chosen exceptions. When family would come over for dinner, he’d always tell me I didn’t need to make anything special for him, but I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a menu that would work for everyone. The results became some of my favorite meals to this day. Previously, dinner parties usually had a carb-assault at the center — lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs or mussels and fries — but in these, protein (and a great heap of vegetables) get the spotlight: chicken gyro salad, street cart chicken (one of my favorites in Smitten Kitchen Every Day), piri piri chicken, and many steak salads. As should be clear, these aren’t bread- or carb-free, but they’re set up in an assemble-your-own style that allows the carb-rejecting to eat as they wish, and the carb-demanding (or not) children to get into the meal too. Everybody wins.
This is one of the more recent ones. I jokingly called it the Not-Really-Thai Steak Salad because I was craving a flavor profile, not authenticity. [While it’s probably closest to yum neua yang (grilled beef salad), it wouldn’t include noodles or greens beans, just for starters; neua naam tok (waterfall beef) would have even fewer extras, and is often served with rice.] The first time I made it, while it was delicious, I completely overdid it with fixings: chile-lime peanuts, crispy fried shallots, julienned mango, sheesh, almost full-sized salad bar of options. I was craving it again last Friday (when this handsome couple came over) but vowed to keep it simpler, trying to distill it to its most essential parts — it’s the garlic, lime, and fish sauce marinade that I crave most — and landed on this, and it was so good, it’s officially in the summer rotation now.
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