July 17, 2010

Beef and broccoli for cheaters

You know how sometimes, you get to the end of the week, and you don't want to deal with the grocery store, but you still have to cook, because -- well, you know -- you're hungry? That can't be just me, can it? I hope not, because it sure happens around here, allthefreakintime.

When it does, I find myself with my head in the fridge, inspecting the slim pickings, and trying to imagine how they all might go together. It doesn't always work out. Sometimes a grocery run is totally unavoidable. I thought I'd come to that point with this dish, before I figured out a cheat.

So what did I find when I raided the fridge?

These veggies...

and this meat.

Broccoli, onion, garlic, and beef -- making Cantonese style beef and broccoli an obvious choice. Except that Chef Google was adamant that authentic beef and broccoli required ingredients I didn't have. Well screw it then. I was gonna have to cheat.

Beef and broccoli for cheaters

First I put on some long-grain white rice, according to package directions. Then I set a skillet over medium to preheat. Last, I started heating about 2 inches of lightly salted water in my stove-top steamer.

Forgive me, folks, for the gross lack of pictures here. A three-burner project is a lot to manage, especially when I'm starved and cranky. But wouldn't I be a condescending bitch if I explained how to steam broccoli anyway? Just go with me...

Once the skillet was hot I added a tablespoon or two of sesame oil and brought that up to temperature. Meanwhile I was slicing up the beef into thin strips.

They call this cutting "on the bias." Why not just "diagonal?"

I used cubed steak for this particular dish. I like it because I find it on sale pretty often, and it's useful for a variety of applications. If I ever master chicken-fried steak, for example, you'll be sure to see this ingredient again.

I also broke down the broccoli into florets, and the onion into smallish slices. The garlic, I minced.

By the time all that chopping was done, my steamer water was boiling and my sesame oil was sizzling. So, into the oil went the thin-sliced beef with a bit of salt and pepper. The broccoli went into the top tier of the steamer.

I let the beef get slightly brown before tossing in onion and garlic.

Imagine the burst of aroma!

After a minute or two I turned the heat to low, and proceeded with my cheat. I had about 1/4 of a bottle of oyster sauce in the fridge, which I dumped in the pan.

I'm guessing this is not authentic.

Before long, my broccoli was getting done steaming: bright green and just fork tender. I stirred that into the skillet, and realized I had two problems. One, there wasn't enough sauce to coat everything. Two, I wasn't really digging on the flavor I'd created.

The solution to both problems came in the form of some soy sauce, lemon juice, and ground ginger. I couldn't begin to tell you how much of each of these went in there. I just kept sprinkling and tasting until I was happy. But when all was said and done, damn I was happy!

Except with this picture. 

But overcooking was not an option.

I served the beef and broccoli with the long-grain rice I breezed over earlier. Which? Led to an important discovery. If you want a good, sticky, chopstick-friendly rice, you gotta skip the butter called for on the rice package! Duh, I guess. But, live and learn...

Not bad for a dirty cheater

Doug flat freaked out over this. And it was super yummy, if I do say so myself. Guess I ought to fix Chinese more often. Only next time I'd like to try a more authentic approach.

Last thought: even though this dish uses three burners, it's an ideal summer dinner. The whole thing took no longer than 25 minutes, brilliantly limiting the heat I kicked out. Hooray for late-week desperation dishes. They are my enduring inspiration.

What inspires you to try new things?

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