There are some recipes that a home cook needs to have in their arsenal. And throwing together a good stir fry is something that every home cook should know how to do. Why? Because stir fry is literally something that can be thrown together with just about anything that you have in your refrigerator and pantry. It is one of the most versatile dishes. Any meat mixed with any vegetables and in the time it takes to watch one episode of a sitcom you are done. The only musts? Sesame oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, garlic and ginger. And these aren't even really "must haves". In a pinch any of these can be substituted. So, when I'm feeling tired and not quite enthused about cooking, stir fry is a good home cooked meal that I can throw together with minimal effort. And now you can too.
Beef Stir Fry
1 lb. flank steak
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 c. julienned carrots
1/2 c. julienned red pepper
1/2 c. green beans cut on a bias
1/2 c. baby bella mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 tbsp. sesame or peanut oil
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 lemon, juiced
Cut flank steak into strips of whatever length or thickness you desire and place into a bowl. Season with salt, pepper, ginger and garlic; adjust seasoning to your taste. Sprinkle with cornstarch. Stir seasonings and cornstarch into the steak to coat and set the bowl aside in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. (I serve rice with my stir fry and use this downtime to boil my rice and prepare my vegetables. Once the steak has rested for the desired amount of time, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. When the oil is very hot, add your steak. Using a large spoon or spatula, spread the steak into an even layer in the pan and brown for 1 minute. Stir or toss the steak and continue to brown for another minute. Stir in the vegetables. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring or tossing occasionally. Add soy sauce and lemon and continue to stir or toss, being sure to coat all of the meat and veggies. Allow the liquids to thicken. The stir fry is ready to serve when the meat has reached its desired level of doneness. It can be served with rice or ramen noodles. These proportions are sufficient to feed my family of four.
The great thing about this recipe is that many components can be substituted, which is why I consider this to be a "kitchen sink" recipe. With each variation, a whole new meal is born. While beef is my stir fry mainstay, you can easily substitute chicken or pork. And most any cut of meat works too as long as you can slice it into strips. The veggies can be any of your choice. Don't like red peppers or carrots? That's fine. I've made this at various times with broccoli florets, cauliflower, snow peas, onions, scallions zucchini and and squash. I'm sure at one time I even used shredded brussel sprouts. Now you can see why this recipe comes in really handy when you want to use up vegetables that are taking up space. Don't have fresh ginger? That's okay. Substitute with half as much ground ginger or omit it altogether. Don't have cornstarch? Use double the amount of flour. (Just don't leave this out because the cornstarch or flour is a key ingredient. This is what thickens the sauce.) No sesame or peanut oil? Vegetable oil works too. Just make sure it's really hot when you start to cook. Not a fan of soy? Chicken or beef broth works in a pinch. Just eliminate the lemon juice and adjust your seasonings if the broth is bland. Now it does occur to me that there may be vegetarians among you. Don't worry, you can omit the meat and double up on the veggies. But since my recipe contemplates the addition of seasoning and thickener directly to the meat, you will need to adjust by adding your seasoning to the veggies and stirring your thickener into the cold soy or broth before adding it to the hot pan. In that case, you can skip the marinating time.
This is a really good recipe for the beginning or apprehensive cook because it is really hard to ruin. It is amenable to experimentation and good for those who want to develop the instinct to cook creatively (i.e. without a recipe). As long as you bear in mind the basic components - hot oil, meat (for all of you carnivores), thickener, veggies and sauce - you really can't go wrong.