Friday, September 3, 2010

Easy Dinner: Asian Beef with Snow Peas

With the kids about to go back to school, I to back to many of my tried and true weekday recipes.  We always seem to have a lot going on on weekday evenings, so I like to have a stash of quick and easy recipes that I can turn to on those nights.  Asian Beef with Snow Peas is one of those recipes -- in fact, the thing that takes the longest about this recipe is making the rice!  (More about that later.)

First things first.  You've probably noticed that even though today's recipe is titled Asian Beef with Snow Peas, those are NOT snow peas in the picture above.  It's broccoli.  Which brings me to another thing I LOVE about this recipe -- it's pretty easy to substitute something else for the snow peas if you don't happen to have any of those on hand.  Okay, first I'll give you the recipe, and then I'll give a few helpful tips.

Asian Beef with Snow Peas (adapted from a recipe on

3 T. soy sauce
2 T. rice wine
1 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 T. vegetable oil
1 T. minced fresh gingeroot
1 T. minced garlic
1 pound beef round steak, cut into thin strips
8 oz. snow peas
Hot cooked rice

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, brown sugar and cornstarch.  Set aside.  Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat.  Stir-fry ginger and garlic for 30 seconds.  Add the steak and stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until evenly browned.  Add the snow peas and stir-fry for an additional 3 minutes.  Add the soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Lower heat and simmer until the sauce is thick and smooth.  Serve immediately over hot cooked rice.

Now for a few tips.  When I make this dish, the first thing I do is start the rice.  I use a small electric rice cooker, which I just love.  The rice always comes out perfect, and I love that you just load the rice and water in there, turn it on, and let it do its thing!  I've found that rice takes about 35 minutes in the rice cooker if I'm starting with cold water, so that's why I start the rice first.  Once the rice is going, I cut the meat, mince the garlic and ginger, and cut the cleaned snow peas in half.  Of course, you could do these tasks ahead of time, too, and just keep the chopped ingredients cold in the fridge.

Although the recipe itself calls for round steak, I personally recommend using a better, more tender cut of meat.  The meat only cooks for a few minutes, so unless it's a tender cut to start with, it won't be deliciously tender when the dish is done.  I like to use a sirloin cut for this recipe, and of course you want to find a piece of meat with as little fat as possible.  Cut all of the visible fat off the meat before cutting it into thin strips.

There is a lot of temptation to "fool around" with this recipe, because it's so darned simple.  Every time I make it, it surprises me that it doesn't call for onions.  I, personally, try to resist the temptation to mess around with this recipe too much, because its simplicity is really what makes it so great, and so perfect for a school night dinner.  Adding more ingredients or more vegetables translates into more prep time, and more cooking time.  And, the thing is, this recipe is REALLY good just as its written.  Once those few ingredients are combined, they produce an amazingly tasty dish.

Oh, one more word of caution.  I wrote down 1 tsp. for the amount of cornstarch, but you may want to experiment and see if you prefer to use a little more.  Frankly, the sauce will not really get "thick and smooth" using only 1 tsp. of cornstarch.  So I'll sometimes us a little more than this.  And, make sure you lower the heat after you add the sauce mixture, because cornstarch does its magic at lower temperatures.

Finally, in case you were wondering, yes, this is a pretty healthy recipe.  If you use a good cut of beef and trim away the fat, and are careful to stick to using 1 T. of oil for the stir-frying, a serving of this dish (minus the rice) has only 218 calories and 7.5 grams of fat.  Now that's a weeknight dinner that any mom could love!