Friday, January 16, 2015

Beef, Green Bean, Scallion, and Water Chestnut Stir Fry

A review of my index of recipes will reveal that I'm no stranger to the stir fry. It's a quick and easy meal once the mis en place is done. It's also generally a healthy choice--far more so than Chinese take-out. That said, I have to say this particular stir fry gets high marks for flavor and will probably replace my old standby beef with broccoli. I found the basic recipe in one of those America's Test Kitchen publications that I frequently purchase. This one, "30-Minute Suppers," has been put to good use in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. As is generally the case, I made a few changes to reflect my taste. The recipe yields 4 generous servings and is excellent served over plain white rice.

1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbs plus 2 tsp vegetable oil (divided)
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces (buy the bagged ones to save time)
1 lb flank steak, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
8 scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger (don't even think of using powdered!)
1 can chopped water chestnuts, drained

Whisk the oyster sauce, broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and pepper flakes in a small bowl.

Heat 1 tbs vegetable oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat; heat until just smoking. Add the beans and cook, stirring every 30-45 seconds, until spotty brown. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat an additional 1 tsp oil and cook the steak until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the green beans.

Heat the final 1 tsp oil and add the scallions to the skillet, cooking until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water chestnuts and cook about 30 seconds more. Return steak and beans with any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the oyster sauce mixture and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Serve over white rice, if desired.
One of the reasons I buy the America's Test Kitchen publications is that they are teaching vehicles. I always learn something new about cooking or baking, despite the many ears I've been engaged in these pursuits. I've had an electric stove for many years (too many) and a ceramic topped one for at least 20+ years. These stove tops are not wok friendly. What I learned in this publication, however, is that using a large skillet is a better option anyway. A skillet's flat bottom design allows more of its surface to come in direct contact with the flat burner, delivering more heat over more of the skillet than a wok and enabling it to stay hot even after food is added. Also, while it's a temptation while stir-frying (as the name implies) to stir constantly, it's better to wait 30 - 45 seconds between each round of stirring so the pan can retain its heat. Something I normally do is to put the meat to be slice into the freezer for 15-30 minutes so it firms up and is easier to slice uniformly.

The flavor of this dish surprised me. There aren't a lot of ingredients; there is no thickener necessary. The key is having all the preparation done and the ingredients lined up in order. Adding oil a bit at a time and stir frying until a bit of brown appears brings out the most flavor in the ingredients used. This was a far better dish than any I've eaten from a Chinese take-out place.

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