FreshTartSteph: Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry

After a snackful weekend loaded with the usual Super Bowl suspects—raise your hand if you too had con queso with tortilla chips!—I was ready for a pile of fresh, tender-crisp vegetables. This is my go-to stir-fry, flavorful, light, and adaptable in every which way. Feel free to substitute or add pea pods, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, summer squash…basically any tender vegetable that loves a quick saute.

Ditto the protein, by the way. I love beef with broccoli, but chicken breast, pork, or tofu are all stir-fry classics. The trick for tender meat is to “velvet” it in a slurry of egg white, cornstarch, and wine while you chop vegetables. I add a generous pinch of Chinese five-spice powder to the mix because I crave the stuff. Typically a heady mixture of cloves, star anise, cinnamon, pepper, and fennel (variations abound, found in most grocery stores), it’s an easy way to add a big punch of flavor to a quick stir-fry.

This is not a saucy dish, but there are definitely enough pan juices to enjoy spooned over rice or noodles. If you choose noodles, cook and drain them ahead, then dump them into the wok with the meat and vegetables and toss. Lightly crushed peanuts or toasted almonds are a delicious garnish on pretty much anything, but particularly on vegetables alongside a soft, chewy starch. Go for layers of flavor! Go for layers of texture! Go!


Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry

Adapted from a recipe by Martha Rose Shulman for the New York Times
Serves 2-3

Tougher vegetables like broccoli or carrots benefit enormously from a quick blanching before stir-frying. Skip this step if you’re using tender veggies like pea pods, mushrooms, or summer squash.

12 oz. tender beef (any of the steak cuts work nicely), sliced against the grain into 1/4-inch strips
1 Tbsp. egg white, lightly beaten
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1 1/2 tsp. + 1 Tbsp. rice wine
1 1/2 tsp. water
salt to taste
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
peanut oil or other high heat oil
1/2 large onion, sliced thin
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
generous pinch red pepper flakes
optional rice or noodles for serving
optional crushed peanuts for garnish

In a large bowl, stir together the egg white, cornstarch, five-spice powder, 1 1/2 teaspoon rice wine, water, and a generous pinch of salt until cornstarch is dissolved. Add the steak and stir until coated. Cover the bowl and chill for 30 minutes. (I do this first, then chop vegetables, stir together sauces, and set everything out while the meat rests. You want to have everything ready to go before you start stir-frying.)

Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water and set aside. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and boil for 2 minutes, drain in a colander, and add to the ice water to stop cooking. Drain again in the colander and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine remaining rice wine, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce in a small bowl and set near wok. Combine ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes in another small bowl. Set a large plate near wok as well.

Heat a wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in a tablespoon or so of peanut oil and add the onions to the pan. Stir-fry until onions are glassy and beginning to brown at the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to the plate and return wok to heat.

Swirl in another tablespoons of oil and add the steak. Stir-fry until just cooked through and browned at the edges, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the plate and return wok to heat.

Swirl in another tablespoon of oil and add ginger, garlic, and red pepper flake-mixture. Stir-fry for a couple of seconds, then add the broccoli. Stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes, then add steak and onions to the pan and toss to combine. Add hoisin mixture and salt to taste, stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, then serve immediately.