I think that every home cook should have a few meals up their sleeve that they can put together without a recipe. I am a very recipe-driven cook–I sometimes still check the recipe for meals that I have made for years, but when I sit back and think about it, I actually do cook without a recipe fairly often.
Stir fry is one of those meals that I have done enough times that I know the format of it–the road map, if you will. Basically, you cut up everything first. Then you cook the meat, and when it’s done, take it out and set it aside. Then cook the vegetables, adding the hardest ones like carrots and peppers first, and softer ones like mushrooms later, and the most delicate, like spinach and green onions last. Put the meat back in, add a sauce and simmer until it thickens. Stir it up and it’s done! Change up the meat and the veggies and it can be a completely different meal. I love to make stirfy on Fridays, because it is a great way to use up the veggies in the crisper before I shop on the weekend. And it’s a crowd pleaser around here. Here is the basic recipe for the most common version I make. Use the meat and veggies here as merely suggestions–it is such a flexible dish.
Beef Stir Fry
- 3/4 lb flank steak cut into strips
- 1 Tb cornstarch
- 1 Tb black bean sauce (found in the Asian section of the grocery store)
- 2 carrots sliced thin
- 2 peppers chopped (I like to use red, yellow, or orange)
- 8 oz mushrooms sliced
- 1 8 oz can water chestnuts
- 2 cups snow peas
- 1 head of bok choy or napa cabbage thinly sliced
- 4 green onions sliced on an angle
- 5 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 Tb grated ginger
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 T dry sherry (optional)
- 3 T oyster sauce or soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1 1,2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 T cornstarch
Prep all ingredients first. Mix together sauce and stir with a whisk. Sprinkle meat with 1 T. of cornstarch and mix together.
In a wok or large frying pan, add oil (peanut or canola work best). Add half of garlic and ginger, stir and cook for about 20 seconds and then add meat. Stir fry the meat until it is no longer pink. You can add a little soy sauce while it is cooking as well. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add a bit more oil to the pan, then add the black bean sauce and the rest of the garlic and ginger. Cook and stir for about 20 seconds, and then add the carrots and peppers. Stir fry those until they start getting tender (3-4 minutes), and then add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms soften (again, 3 or so minutes), then add the can of water chestnuts, snow peas, and the greens (bok choy, cabbage, or even spinach). Cook for a couple minutes and add the meat back in.
Make a well in the center of the pan, by pushing the mixture toward the sides of the pan. Give the sauce a quick stir and pour it into the well. Let it cook and bubble until it starts to thicken, stirring often, and then mix it into the stir fry. Cook for a couple more minutes to make sure everything is heated through. Add the green onions and give it one last stir.
Serve it over rice, or if you are low-carb, try it over cauliflower rice or even by itself. Enjoy!