Marinated Beef and Sweet Potato Stir Fry

Once upon a time many years ago, I had the opportunity to enjoy Lake Superior from the deck of a thirty-seven foot sailboat built by Gene Newhouse in Ashland, Wisconsin. I was introduced to Gene by my fishing partner Earl who was an experienced sailor. Gene was always looking for people to help crew the boat, and he decided that I could be taught enough to be of some help.

We had some wonderful adventures. I remember almost continuous lightning and high waves one night off the shore of the Upper Peninsula and an afternoon, nearly becalmed, when the thermometer registered ninety degrees just off Outer Island.

My memory of one weekend sail involves food. Usually there were just two or three of us on the boat, but Gene took pity on a couple of students trying to hitch a ride when the young woman said that she was a good cook. The boat had a cranky alcohol stove which worked best for making coffee and tea to accompany steaks cooked on the charcoal grill hung over the rail, so we were happy to hand off the job to someone else.

She took one of the three steaks we planned to cook if the wind was light enough to let us grill, sliced it into thin pieces, chopped an onion, a pepper, some potatoes and apples, made a sauce with whatever she found in the galley and wowed us with a stir fry. It was probably the first stir fry made on board Gene’s boat, and it was certainly the first stir fry I ate that included apples in the mixture.

I was thinking about that stir fry one evening while I pondered what to cook for dinner. A sweet potato that I had bought on impulse a week or two earlier caught my eye and I found a piece of round steak in the freezer. My previous attempts at stir frying round steak were not entirely successful, mainly because I have trouble cutting the meat into really thin slices.

I wondered if marinating the meat and cooking it in the marinade before I added the vegetables would help. Chopping the sweet potato into a larger dice might help too, since they could be cooked a little longer than typical stir fry vegetables without getting mushy. I added other vegetables that we enjoy in stir fries, and the result was excellent.

INGREDIENTS:

For the stir fry:
1/2 – 3/4 lb. lean beef
1 T teriyaki sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 T stir fry sauce
3 T vegetable oil, divided
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 large or two medium carrots (1/2-3/4 cup chopped)
1 small sweet potato (about 1 cup chopped)
1 sweet banana pepper
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion
Cooking spray
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 1/2 T corn starch in 1 1/2 T cold water

For the rice:
1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

PROCEDURE:

Cut the beef into eighth-inch slices about one and one-half inches long and put them into a quart bowl. Make a marinade by adding the teriyaki, soy and stir fry sauces to the bowl along with two tablespoons of oil and the wine. Mince the ginger and add it to the bowl. Stir everything together so the meat is covered with the marinade. Set the bowl aside and stir the meat occasionally.

The meat should marinate for about a half hour. That’s enough time to enjoy a small glass of wine before you prepare the vegetables.

Scrape or peel the carrots and chop them into quarter-inch rounds. If it’s a large carrot, slice it in half lengthwise before chopping it. Put the chopped carrot into a small mixing bowl.

Peel the sweet potato, cut it into quarter-inch thick slices and chop the slices into pieces about an inch long and a quarter-inch wide. Add the sweet potato to the bowl with the carrot.

This is about when I start cooking the rice. Rinse a cup of long grain white rice and put it into a one quart saucepan. Add two cups water and a half teaspoon of salt and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and let the rice finish cooking for about twenty minutes while you finish preparing the vegetables. Check after sixteen minutes to see if all the water has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat if it has, and fluff the rice with a fork before serving. If not, continue cooking for another couple of minutes.

Wash and slice the banana pepper lengthwise into quarters. Remove and discard the white membrane and seeds. Chop the pepper into half-inch pieces and set them aside in a mixing bowl. Clean and chop the green and red bell peppers into similar-sized pieces and add them to the banana pepper. Remove and discard the outer skin from the onion, chop it into a quarter-inch dice and add it to the peppers.

If at least thirty minutes have passed, it is time to start stir frying. If not, have another sip of wine or just lean back and relax until the meat has finished marinating.

Coat the inside of a large skillet with cooking spray, put it over moderate heat and dump in the meat and marinade mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir the meat so that it does not stick or burn. Cook for three to four minutes, then add the carrots and sweet potato. Continue stirring and cooking for another six or seven minutes.

Add a tablespoon of oil with the peppers and onions to the skillet at this point and mix them with the other ingredients. Cook for about three minutes over moderate heat.

Dissolve the bouillon in the water and stir it into the meat and vegetables. Mix the cornstarch with the cold water and stir it into the skillet. Cook and stir the mixture until the sauce bubbles and turns clear.

Serve over the rice accompanied by bread and salad. Offer soy sauce in case guests want more salt.

NOTES: You can make your own sauce, as I sometimes do, but we almost always have soy, teriyaki and stir fry sauces in our refrigerator. The stir fry sauce I have been using recently is called Saigon Sizzle. It is spicier than some, so I thought it would accent the teriyaki sauce. If you make your own sauce, just remember to include the major taste groups: Salty, Sweet, and Spicy.

Do not omit the wine, as it adds flavor and helps tenderize the meat. The alcohol disappears during cooking.

Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry

I don’t like to peel raw shrimp. For me, peeling and deveining shrimp ranks above eating a pomegranate, but not by much. That’s why I use peeled cooked shrimp in my recipes. Purists and gourmets will object, and I am sure that they are right, but I don’t like to peel shrimp. Taking off the tails of cooked shrimp is enough work. and people keep asking for seconds, so the things I make must taste pretty good anyway.

Maybe one reason people are cooking a bit less often today is that more people than we realize share my distaste for peeling shrimp. I complained every time I had to peel shrimp for a dish I love, Shrimp Etouffée, LINK until one day I substituted frozen cooked shrimp which I decided produced the same wonderful flavor of the original and saved me a half hour’s tedious labor. I hope that this confession encourage others to make some shrimp dishes that they have been avoiding.

I put this recipe together to make it as quick and easy to make as possible. You don’t need to mince the garlic or ginger or cook the shrimp ahead of time. You just stir the sauce ingredients together, wash and chop the broccoli and onion into pieces and pull the tails off the shrimp. Of course you have to cook the rice, but that takes about two minutes of actual preparation time. While the rice is simmering in the covered pan you are making the stir fry.

You will end up with a delicious dinner low in fat, calories and carbohydrates in half an hour.

INGREDIENTS:

2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T oyster sauce
2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
2 T water
1/2 tsp. instant chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp. powdered garlic
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
2 tsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/8 tsp. chili pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 T vegetable oil
3 cups broccoli florets
1 small onion (about 2 inches in diameter)
12 oz. cooked medium shrimp
1 scallion (optional)
Dash of salt (optional, to taste)
1 cup white rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

PROCEDURE:

Make the sauce first. Combine the soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, water, bouillon, brown sugar, sesame oil, pepper flakes (if you wish) and cornstarch. Whisk everything together and set the sauce aside.

Thaw the shrimp if necessary, remove the tails and set the shrimp aside in a bowl. Clean and chop a scallion into thin rings if you wish and set them aside in a small bowl. Wash the broccoli and separate three cups of florets. Cut the stem and root ends from the onion, remove the dry outer layers and slice it vertically. The safest way to do this is to cut the onion in half lengthwise, then cut each half into thin strips lengthwise.

Rinse the rice and bring two cups of water and the salt to a boil in a one quart pan with a tight-fitting lid. Stir in the rice and bring the pan back to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, put the lid on and allow the rice to cook until the water is all absorbed. Do not remove the lid for the first fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Once the rice is cooking, put a tablespoon of oil into a wok or large skillet over moderate heat. Stir the broccoli and onion into the oil and cook for about two minutes, then add the shrimp and continue cooking and stirring another two minutes. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and vegetables and stir until the sauce thickens and everything is warm.

Serve over the rice and garnish with the scallion rings if you wish. Freshly baked bread goes well with this dish.

NOTES: Some time ago I read an article about how chefs use parts of vegetables that a lot of people throw away. One example is the thick stems of broccoli. I now trim the cut ends of the broccoli heads from the store and chop the stems into pieces that will cook along with the florets.