Beef and Broccoli

I’ve always enjoyed beef and broccoli from the Chinese take-out restaurant, but surprisingly I’ve never tried it at home.

One of the most enjoyable things about writing a blog is encountering other people from around the world who have shared interests. Before I started blogging a little more than a year ago, I was only vaguely aware of the concept of bloggers and the blogosphere.

Beef and Broccoli

Today, I’m an enthusiastic participant in a rich community of people whose writing I admire, whose online friendship I cherish, and whose willingness to open up their lives to strangers never fails to astound me.

I found this beef and broccoli recipe on one of the most interesting and entertaining blogs that I follow. It’s called Sybaritica, and it’s written by C. John Thompson, a Canadian public defender/food writer whose territory is literally the top of the world, composing of tiny villages above the Arctic Circle.

Although I subscribe to dozens of blogs, John’s is one that I will always drop everything and read whenever a new entry arrives in my inbox. He has a keen, curious mind and his subject matter is always interesting — whether he is writing about the challenges of representing defendants in remote Acrtic villages or reviewing exotic Asian cooking products.

I have frequently commented on John’s blog that he should consider writing a book or even a movie. His life is truly fascinating — sort  of like “Northern Exposure” meets “Law and Order”.

This Beef and Broccoli recipe looked especially delicious, as it is one of my favorite carry-out dishes. It was actually quite simple to make and extraordinarily flavorful. Both Sandi and I enjoyed it very much, leaving me to wonder why I haven’t made this before.

Probably because we don’t usually cook with beef, preferring instead lower-fat alterntives such as chicken or ground turkey breast. This recipe may change that.

Beef and Broccoli

3/4 lb Beef Steak (I used flank steak, tenderized with a mallet)

2 cups Fresh Broccoli Florets

1/2 Medium White Onion, cut into wedges then separated

2 TBS plus 1 tsp Cornstrach

1 TBS plus 1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2  cup Chicken Stock

1/4 cup White Wine

3 TBS Oyster Sauce

1 TBS Granulated Sugar

2 TBS Grated Ginger

2 Garlic Cloves, minced

2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

1 cup White Rice

Handful of Frozen Peas

1. Blanch the broccoli by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Drop florets into boiling water, cooking about one minute, then strain into colander, return to pot and cover with cold water to stop the cooking process. This can be done earlier and stored in the refrigerator.

2. Pound beef flat with a meat mallet or the bottom of a cast iron pan to tenderize it,  then cut it into 1″ to 2″ pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with 2 TBS cornstarch, 1 TBS baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Let sit for about 20 minutes so the baking soda can further tenderize the meat.

3. Make a sauce by combining the stock, wine, oyster sauce, sugar and 1 tsp cornstarch in a bowl. Whisk it so that the cornstarch doesn’t clump.

4. Cook the rice. I used my rice cooker, adding the rest of the can of chicken stock, a handful of frozen peas for color/texture, and a little S&P.

5. Heat a cast iron pan over a high heat (or a wok if you have one). When very hot, add 1 TBS of the EVOO. When smoking, add the meat and stir-fry until brown and crispy, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

6. Remove meat to a bowl and let the pan get hot again. Then add remaining TBS of EVOO, get it smoking hot, and add garlic and ginger. When the ginger becomes fragrant (less than a minute) add the broccoli florets and toss together. Let broccoli heat through for a moment or two, then return meat to the pan, along with the sauce. Cook until the sauce reduces and becomes thick, about two minutes. Serve immediately over rice.

This is a wonderful dish to warm up a cook Autumn evening. If you like it spicy, add a 1/2 tsp of dried red pepper flake during the final two minutes of cooking.

I’m grateful for having met so many interesting and giving people like John who are willing to share their knowledge and even their lives with the rest of us. And I’m looking forward to watching that movie!




Stir Fry Secrets

You’ve probably been in Asian restaurants where the menu is 30 pages long and there are literally hundreds of items listed. When I was a culinary student I used to wonder, “Isn’t it
expensive to prep for so many different dishes every day?”

Here’s the secret they don’t want you to know: Although there may be hundreds of dishes, they are all combinations of only a handful of basic ingredients. Each dish is a pairing of couple different vegetables (such as onions, peppers, pea pods, etc.), combined with a few kinds of proteins (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, etc), then served with your choice of starch (white rice, soft noodles, fried noodles).

All are quick cooked in very hot oil, usually in the same wok.

Obviously, there are variations. Sweet and sour chicken is breaded in a tempura batter, deep fried and served with a sweetened vinegar sauce. In egg foo young , vegetables are fried with an egg and flour mixture and served with a brown sauce. Moo shu sauce is made with sweetened plum puree.

But you get the idea.

Which brings us to why stir fry is the ultimate in budget cooking. Open your refrigerator and look around. Maybe you’ve got some leftover chicken, a half an onion and some garden fresh jalapenos. Guess what? You are now in the stir fry business!

Stir fry is one of the best ways to use up whatever leftovers you have laying around. Or you can buy a couple simple items and create an all-new quick and easy meal for your family.

Since I’m already spilling the beans, here are a couple of other stir fry secrets:

  • A little goes a long way: If you only have a small amount of leftover protein, you can stretch it out by mixing it with lots of inexpensive vegetables and rice or noodles. Kind of like ancient Chinese hamburger helper.
  • Rice and noodles don’t cost anything:  Okay, maybe they cost something, but it’s pennies per plate compared to other starches like potatoes or pasta. Filling up a plate with lots of white rice is a tasty and nutritious way to improve your family’s grocery budget.
  • Use the same basic marinade: Marinade chicken, pork, beef or shrimp in a little freshly crushed garlic, minced ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil and you will get an Asian influenced meal that won’t bust your wallet. Always keep these items on hand (ginger freezes excellently), and you will always have a quick and easy go-to meal guaranteed to please your family.
  • It’s thickened with the cheapest things on earth: Mix 1 TBS corn starch to 1 cup of water (this is called a “slurry”) and add it to your stir fry. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for five minutes and you’ll get a thick, flavorful
    stir fry that rivals anything from your local chop suey palace. In fact, that’s
    exactly same thing they do!

Want to make your stir fry more exotic? Spend a little more for baby corn cobs, water chestnuts or bamboo shoots. Or stop by the produce section to pick up some enoki mushrooms or bean sprouts. Easier still, during the last minute of cooking, throw in any leftover nuts you have lying around, such as cashews, peanuts or pecans.

Here’s a simple recipe I recently made that incorporates all of these ancient Chinese secrets.

Stir Fry Beef and Broccoli

Stir Fry Beef and Broccoli

Stir Fry Beef and Broccoli

For the rice:

1 cup dry white rice

2-3/4 cup chicken stock

1 TBS butter or EVOO

Salt and pepper to taste

For the protein:

6 oz leftover cooked flank steak (you can use any beef, chicken or pork you have)

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 TBS minced ginger

1 TBS sesame oil

3 TBS low-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

½ tsp red pepper flake

For the stir fry:

½ red (or white or yellow) onion, sliced

½ yellow, red or green pepper, julienned

1 garden fresh jalapeno, sliced (seeds and ribs included)

½ cup sliced mushrooms (totally optional)

1 small to medium head of broccoli crown, separated

A couple of green onions, sliced at an angle

1 TBS chopped parsley (only because I already had it)

For the thickening agent:

1 cup water or chicken stock

1 TBS corn starch

1. Marinade the beef in the other ingredients between 10 minutes and 24 hours, depending on how much time you have. The longer you marinade, the more flavor will be aborbed by the beef. But don’t worry: all the flavor is going in the pan anyway.

2. Make rice however you prefer. I have a rice steamer, which is SO easy: Just dump in all ingredients, turn it on and forget about it. Perfect every time. Here’s a link to another easy way to cook rice.

3. Heat a large pan over a high flame. When hot, add oil and allow to get smoking hot. Add all the vegetables except the broccoli, scallions and parsley and cook until onions transluscent, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the beef and all the marinade and toss around. Cook until heated through, about a minute. Stir in the broccoli and thickening agent (liquid and corn starch), stir, reduce to low heat and cover. Cook about five minutes, stirring once or twice.

5. For plating, pile white rice in center of pasta bowl. Use a slotted spoon to arrange stir fry beef and broccoli. Garnish with green onions, chopped parsley and maybe a few more red pepper flakes.

Now you know the secret.