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Chinese black bean sauce has the power to make anything it touches taste meatier and more robust. More importantly, it does this almost instantly, without any long simmering required. This is especially welcome on a busy weeknight, because all I have to do is prep and cook some vegetables and meat, boil some noodles, mix in sauce, and serve.
For this version, I settled on flank steak, bok choy, and mushrooms. Normally, I'd just chop everything into small pieces and stir fry it all together. While that would undoubtedly work, I wanted to add another dimension to the ingredients, all without spending any more time cooking them. The obvious answer would be to grill the toppings, but that's hard for me to pull off during the week. Instead, I looked to my slightly underutilized grill pan. As Kenji explained, grill pans don't come close to mimicking the smoky aroma of a real charcoal grill, but they are good at replicating the char, which I knew would come in handy with the steak.
Instead of cutting the raw beef into slices, I grilled it whole, leaving me with beautiful, medium-rare slices. But the grill pan also worked well to cook the mushrooms and bok choy, lending some serious char and making them texturally diverse. Tossed on top of some noodles and drizzled with sauce, all you have to do is mix things around to craft your favorite bite.