Beef Stir Fry today, guys. A super-cheap, no-frills, easy dinner of satisfying ground beef and crisp vegetables, with a rich, savoury sauce to coat it all.
It’s got no special international ingredients (oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, Shaoxing wine, bean paste, or anything else) that might deter you. It’s just an assumably inauthentic, North American interpretation of a Chinese beef stir fry, made with basic grocery store staples that my mom had in her pantry while we grew up in the early 90s.
I have been mulling over many questions this year so far, with my purpose for this blog being high on the list.
For the first many years of Foodess, I was sharing spontaneously all of my favourite basic comfort-food recipes.
Then I started reading lots of food magazines and other blogs and began sharing more “aspirational” recipes – things that I would schedule the time to cook and shoot, rather than just sharing what I was already cooking.
THEN I got super interested in photography, and my focus started to lean more toward sharing the things that were pretty to photograph.
And in all of this evolving, I have kind of lost track of my aim. I have been gliding week to week, project to project, just in the flow of things. It was lovely, but the months kept passing without any newness or direction.
I took some time to really reflect and re-focus this summer and I was able to nail down the topic pillars that I’m totally passionate about. The comfort food, first and foremost. The cooking chemistry nuggets from my science degree and years spent as a food specialist in a test kitchen (remember Tuesday Tips?). The meal planning and eating well strategies from my back-in-the-day experience as a consulting dietitian (I used to plan weeks of meals for clients, including recipes and shopping lists!). The personal journalling. And, finally, the instructional articles (photography resources, like I used to, and lots more business resources).
And so that brings us around to ground beef stir fry. Or hamburger stir fry, as we called it growing up. (Do you call all ground beef “hamburger” or is that a Canadian East Coast thing?) A recipe snugly nestled in the comfort food pillar, which is central and foremost to the heart of this blog. Y’know, the meals I just happen to be cooking for myself and my family and would like to share with you.
(Side note: did you know it actually takes more grit and discipline to take simple photos of dinner as I’m cooking it — while I’m hungry and the kids are pulling on my pant legs — than it does for me to schedule a day to bake and shoot a teetering White Forest Cake??)
To start this easy, healthy dinner, brown some ground beef in a wok or dutch oven. Add some chopped vegetables – about 8 cups raw – and stir fry them. I grew up on bags of frozen stir-fry mix, with broccoli, carrots, baby corn and water chestnuts. They’re not my preference, as I find them watery and a bit soggy, but you know what? They get the job done, are economical, pre-chopped, and as healthy as fresh, so you just do you. Especially on a Monday after a long day working/momming/whatever fills your time.
To make the versatile, all-purpose stir-fry sauce, whisk together soy sauce, garlic and/or ginger, and cornstarch while the veggies cook. Once no lumps remain, gradually whisk in the broth.
Toss the beef back into the pot with the veg, add the sauce, and when it thickens up, it’s done. Serve over hot rice and dinner is on the table.
Stay tuned for upcoming articles in all the other pillars – I’m shooting three food photography tutorials tomorrow, and have cooking resources, meal planning strategies, and lots of other things I’m super excited about in the pipelines!
Ground Beef Stir Fry
- 3 tbsp cooking oil like canola, grapeseed, or peanut
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 tsp coarse salt divided use
- 8 cups sliced vegetables I used 1 large onion, 1 medium zucchini, and 1/4 of green cabbage
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted broth beef, chicken, or vegetable
- 3 large cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. When shimmering hot, add beef, sprinkle with 1 tsp of the salt, and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned and no longer pink inside. Transfer to a plate using a metal spatula or large slotted spoon.
- Add vegetables to same pot (with another splash of oil, if needed) with the remaining teaspoon of salt. Cook until veggies are crisp-tender (about 7 minutes, depending on which veggies you used).
- While vegetables cook, place cornstarch in a large liquid measuring cup. Whisk in 2 tbsp of the soy sauce to make a smooth paste, then whisk in remaining sauce ingredients.
- Return beef to Dutch oven, add sauce, and stir to coat everything evenly. Cook, stirring frequently, just until sauce thickens and reduces slightly, about 3 minutes.