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Negimaki Rolls with Scallions and Asparagus

12 small scallions, trimmed to 6-inch lengths
12 small asparagus spears trimmed to 6-inch lengths
1 (1-lb) piece American Kobe flank steak (roughly 6 to 7 inches square)
1/4 cup sake (Japanese rice wine)
1/4 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil


Prepare scallions and asparagus:
Blanch scallions in a pot of salted boiling water for 45 seconds, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice cold water to stop cooking. Transfer scallions to paper towels to drain and pat dry. Repeat the same process for the asparagus, cooking for 1 ½ minutes and then shocking in ice cold water.

Prepare beef:
Slice the flank steak in half horizontally by holding your knife parallel to the cutting board and carefully slicing the steak into two equal halves. You should end up with two 6 to 7 inch squares about ¼ to ½ inches thick. Place one of the steaks on a piece of oiled parchment paper and cover with another piece of oiled parchment, oiled side down. Gently flatten the steak with the flat side of a meat pounder until it is about 1/16 of an inch thick. Repeat with remaining steak.

Assemble rolls:
Arrange one of the flattened steaks on a piece of parchment paper. Make sure that the grain of the steak is running horizontal in front of you. Sprinkle steak lightly with a pinch of salt, then lay 6 scallions and 6 asparagus spears across steak at end closest to you and tightly roll up meat around scallions and asparagus to form a log, using parchment paper as an aid. Tie log with kitchen string at ends and also at 1 inch intervals. Repeat the same process for the remaining negimaki roll.

Marinate rolls:
Stir together sake, mirin, soy sauce, crushed red pepper and sugar in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved.

Put rolls in a small baking dish and pour marinade over them, turning to coat. Marinate, covered with plastic wrap, turning occasionally, 15-20 minutes.

Cook rolls:
Heat a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot, 1 to 2 minutes. While skillet is heating, lift rolls out of marinade, letting excess drip off, and pat dry; saving marinade. Add oil to skillet, swirling to coat bottom, then cook rolls, turning with tongs, until well browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer rolls to cutting board. Add marinade to skillet and boil until slightly syrupy, 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Cut off and discard strings, then cut each roll crosswise into 6-8 slices. Pour sauce into a shallow serving dish and arrange negimaki with sauce.