Back in the fall, after our summer garden bounty ended, we went to our local plant nursery in search of a vegetable that might do well during the fall/winter season in our area. We planted a couple of broccoli plants, and were quite pleased to see them thrive and yield several harvests in February and March. Because I have the palate of a child when it comes to veggies (a child who hates vegetables), I don’t like cooked broccoli when it has a strong vegetable flavor. For that reason, we usually cook broccolini (when we can find it) instead of broccoli — broccolini has a more mild, sweet flavor than broccoli. It also has thinner stalks and smaller florets and looks like it could be young (early harvested) broccoli, but it’s actually a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale. (And neither should be confused with broccoli rabe, which is a leafy green from the same subspecies as the turnip, and isn’t related to broccoli at all. Thus concludes our “The More You Know” PSA, Vegetable Edition.) Upon realizing that our home-grown broccoli was actually broccoli, and that we couldn’t turn it into broccolini simply by picking it early, we decided to use our first harvest in a dish incorporating a sauce, just in case the broccoli had too strong of a veggie taste for me. So we adapted this recipe for “broccoli beef,” stir-fried with an Asian sauce. Turns out that home-grown broccoli has a pretty mild flavor (or at least ours did) that works equally well in a stir-fry as it does simply sauteed with olive oil, white wine, red pepper flakes, garlic and a bit of lemon juice. But stir frying the broccoli with thinly sliced, marinated sirloin in the spicy, tangy Asian sauce was probably our favorite use of our broccoli crop. It was so good that we plan to grow twice as many broccoli plants this coming fall.
In addition to the beef and broccoli, the original recipe calls for a marinade made with soy sauce, Chinese rice wine (also called “mirin,” or you can use dry sherry if you don’t have mirin), cornstarch and freshly-ground black pepper; as well as a sauce made with oyster sauce, Chinese rice wine, soy and chicken broth. We adapted the sauce by using black bean sauce instead of oyster (we didn’t have any) and adding a little sesame oil (because we love the flavor) and chili garlic sauce (for a little kick.) We further embellished the recipe by adding green onions and a little ginger.
Start by prepping the non-meat ingredients: chop the broccoli (this will always be funny); cut up the green onions and separate the white parts from the green parts; and mince the garlic and ginger.
While prepping the other ingredients, place the beef in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes, which makes it much easier to slice (across the grain) into thin strips.
Combine the soy, Chinese rice wine, cornstarch and freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl, then add the beef and toss until well-coated. Set the beef aside to marinate for about 10-15 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the sauce ingredients: black bean sauce, sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, chili garlic sauce (or whatever spicy sauce you prefer), soy sauce and chicken broth and set aside.
Blanch the broccoli in a pot of salted, boiling water until barely tender — about 1-2 minutes.
Drain the broccoli and rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process.
With stir-fry (or other dishes that come together and cook quickly), it helps to line up the ingredients in the order in which you will use them. (It would also be helpful to maybe have a lesson or two about how to take a semi-decent photograph of said ingredient line-up.)
Heat the wok (or large skillet if you don’t have a wok) over high heat, add a couple tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil, swirl the oil around the wok until the surface is coated and the oil is hot, then add the white parts of the green onions and cook for about a minute.
Add the beef, spread it out in an even layer and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
Add the garlic and ginger to the wok, toss the beef and cook for another 1-2 minutes — until the beef is no longer pink on either side.
Add the sauce and blanched broccoli and stir it all together.
Move the beef and broccoli to the sides of the wok, creating a well with the sauce in the middle. Simmer the sauce until it begins to thicken — 1-2 minutes.
Add the cornstarch slurry (2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved into 2 tablespoons water) to the sauce, stir to thicken and cook for another minute.
Stir the beef and broccoli into the sauce and add the green parts of the green onions for garnish.
Serve the stir-fry over whatever rice you prefer (we prefer jasmine), and prepare to find your Chinese delivery/take-out menu slowly gathering dust from lack of use. Beef & broccoli is one of the easiest and fastest Asian meals we’ve ever cooked at home, with complex flavors delicious enough to turn this broccoli-hater into a big fan.
Beef & Broccoli Stir-Fry
For the stir-fry:
- 1 pound flank steak or sirloin, trimmed and sliced thinly across the grain
- 2-3 cups broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2-3 green onions, chopped w/ white and green parts separated
- cornstarch slurry: 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved into 2 teaspoons water
For the marinade:
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine (also called ”mirin,” or dry sherry if you don’t have mirin)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons black bean sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Chinese rice wine
- 1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (or spicy sauce of your choice)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chicken broth
- Place the beef in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to slice into thin strips.
- Prep the non-meat ingredients: chop the vegetables; mince the garlic and ginger; prepare the cornstarch slurry; and mix up the marinade and sauce (in separate bowls.)
- Place the sliced beef into the bowl with the marinade and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
- Blanch the broccoli in a pot of salted, boiling water until barely tender — about 1-2 minutes. Drain the broccoli, rinse it under cold water and set aside.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat, add the oil and swirl it around until the wok is coated and the oil is hot. Add the white parts of the green onion and cook for about a minute. Add the beef, spread it into a single layer and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, toss the beef, and cook for another 1-2 minutes — until the beef is no longer pink.
- Add the sauce and blanched broccoli to the wok, stir it all together, then move the beef & broccoli out to the sides, creating a well of sauce in the middle of the wok. Simmer the sauce until it begins to thicken — 1-2 minutes. Stir the cornstarch slurry in with the sauce and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Stir the beef & broccoli in with the sauce, garnish with the green parts of the green onions and serve over cooked rice.