Beef Stir-Fry with Bell Peppers and Black Pepper Sauce

February 29, 2016

A home run from the latest issue of Cooks Illustrated (March 2016). The beef is deliciously flavored, but the biggest news is that, while finding time to caramelize, the beef also remains tender. This is achieved through two tricks; (1) soaking mix of 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for 5 minutes. Cook’s Illustrated did some measurements and calculates that just 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda will yield meat that is 20% more tender; it does so by raising the pH on the surface of the meat, making it more difficult for the proteins to bond which keeps the meat more tender and moist. The second secret (2) is soaking the beef in a velveting mixture for 15-to-30 minutes.  This

Flavorful and tender beef

Flavorful and tender beef

Today’s recipe is similar to this 9-year-old recipe. That recipe caused me some confusion while grocery shopping and I inadvertently bought only the green pepper (not buying the red pepper as well). I bought the snow peas called for in the old recipe; but then forgot about them and did not include them in today’s recipe (not called for but would have made up for the lack of red pepper).

Chris Kimball’s guidelines for good stir fry:

  1. Prep your ingredients in advance; be prepared for quick cooking time.
  2. Our domestic stove-tops are shaped for a non-stick skillet, not for a wok.
  3. Limit stirring during cooking so that food can develop color.
  4. Sear meat in batches so that it doesn’t steam.
  5. Add aromatics last to preserve flavor and avoid scorching.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 5:45 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Beef and Marinade Ingredients:
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound flank steak
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons dry sherry (or Chinese rice wine)
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar

  1. Trim flank steak and slice into 2-1/2″ strips going with grain; then cut each strip crosswise (against the grain) into 1/4″-thick slices. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon water and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Add sliced beef and toss until coated. Allow to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar. Add soy sauce mixture to beef, tossing to coat, and allow to stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, begin to cook the steamed white rice (see basic recipe below). The vegetables (bell peppers, scallions, garlic and ginger) and aromatics should all be prepared while the beef is marinating. Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and slice into 1/4″-wide strips. Cut the scallions as follows: slice the white parts thinly on the bias, then cut the green parts into 2″-pieces.

Sauce and Vegetable Ingredients:
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry (or Chinese rice wine)
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
6 scallions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

  1. In second small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sherry, 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, and 2 teaspoons ground black pepper. Whisk until combined.
  2. Set 12″ non-stick skillet over high burner and pre-heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil  until it just begins to smoke. Add half of beef in single layer, and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Flip and continue to cook for 1 more minute until spotty brown on both sides. Empty cooked beef into a third clean bowl. Repeat this step with remaining beef and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.
  3. Return skillet to high burner, and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Pre-heat until the oil just beginning to smoke. Add bell peppers and scallion greens. Cook for 4 minutes until vegetables are spotty brown and crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Empty cooked vegetables to the bowl with the beef.
  4. Reduce burner to medium-high heat and return skillet to burner. Add 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes; stirring frequently; until becomes lightly browned.
  5. Return beef and vegetables to skillet and stir to combine.
  6. Whisk sauce to recombine the ingredients. Add sauce to skillet and cook and stir for 30 seconds until sauce has thickened. Serve immediately over a bed of rice.

Basic White Rice:

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1-1/2 cups long grain white rice
3/4 tablespoon unsalted butter or vegetable oil
2 cups water
3/4  teaspoon table salt

  1. Put rice in colander and rinse using cold running water until the water becomes clear. Set colander over bowl and set aside.
  2. Put medium saucepan over medium burner and pre-heat butter or oil. Add rice and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until rice becomes chalky and opaque; stirring constantly.
  3. Add water and salt to pot. Increase burner to high until comes up to a boil; swirl pot to blend ingredients.
  4. Cover pot. Reduce burner to low and allow to simmer without stirring for 18 to 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Remove from heat, and place a clean kitchen towel; folded in half; over saucepan; replacing the lid. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Use a fork to fluff the rice before serving. Makes about 4-1/2 cups of rice.

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