Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beef and Eggplant Stir Fry

My Mom lived in Japan for a few years during her childhood (my Grandfather was stationed there in the Navy) and while there she picked up different a few Japanese dishes that she made for us growing up, such as sukiyaki, various stir frys, teriyaki, etc. It was through her that I fell head over heels in love with Japanese pickles and also through her that I learned from a young age to eat with chop sticks - and was actually complimented on my form by an Asian couple at a Chinese wedding banquet a year ago! So that should at least be a good base for me, right? Wrong. Totally wrong. Besides my one success with coconut rice... which, let's be honest here isn't exactly Asian brain surgery, I can really only do miso marinades. Every other time I've tried to do a true stir fry or a warm curry or even a soup... fail. It's just not good, not appetizing. But I'm determined to break this trend.
Enter this fantastic recipe from Anita of Our First Place and Anita's Pink Thumb that I actually found via a former sorority sister's equally lovely blog, This Casita. It's so great when I find out people I know (or knew) also share glimpses of their lives in blogs too! Anita really breaks it down and explains things like why cornstarch, an ingredient I usually forgo using, are important, why you should use Kikkoman sparingly, how to kill that "meat" smell that's often present in stir fries, and possibly most important and the one thing I really took to heart, KEEP IT SIMPLE. That's my major downfall with Asian, when a recipe calls for just soy sauce but me, well I'll add in some mirin, a touch of teriyaki, some sriracha, a heavy hand of Chinese five spice and voila, my food has so many conflicting tastes it's just not good. Of course, as I find it's physically impossible for me to follow a recipe verbatim I made a few little tweaks without compromising the final product. And damn, it was good.... and not greasy! So good that tonight I'm doing it again but using my marinated chicken. And for the rice/starch I did a combination of Texmati with red beans and quinoa, about 1/2 and 1/2, to keep it healthy. And it all flowed pretty perfectly with the stir fry, so there's a future combo to keep in mind.
So before the recipe, here are the thing things I did differently. I used skirt steak which I didn't initially know I was going to use for this recipe, so I already had it marinating in a garlic peanut sauce, but it didn't detract and surprisingly didn't add that much in terms of a peanut flavor at all. I hate red peppers so those were left out. Next time I might use green peppers or even some bok choy, as I missed some contrasting colors in this dish. When I made the sauce I added a teaspoon of flaxseed meal. I also added in some maitake mushrooms I had lying around, but would also be great with some shitakes too. Italian eggplant was all I had on hand so I just cut it in half and then quartered the larger pieces. Cooking wine... nope, but I did have some rice wine vinegar so used that, just dialed it back to 1 tablespoon. And I threw in some sesame seeds, but didn't even notice them while I was eating. Next time I might just wait till it's all done and sprinkle over top. Oh and I used powdered ginger instead of the real stuff, because again, what I had on hand. And this is what I normally do when I see a recipe.... and this I call "tweaking". With all that said, here's the recipe.

Beef and Eggplant Stir Fry adapted from Our First Place via This Casita
1 Italian eggplant- cut in half and then quartered
3 cloves of garlic- I minced these but the original recipe said just to smash
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 lb. skirt steak- cut in strips against the grain
2 Tbl. Vegetable Oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbl. light soy sauce (I used Kikkoman so didn't use a heavy hand)
1 tsp. flaxseed meal
1 Tbl. rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of Cornstarch
1 Tbl. of granulated sugar- may try brown sugar in the future
1 small red chili- I used these tiny bad boys I got from my Mom
1 small onion- sliced
Shitakes, maitakes, bok choy, peppers, etc

Tip: A wok is super helpful. I have a huge one from All Clad, but it's a snap to clean and great for holding other appliances when not in use. Even with the wok I still manage to get veggies all over my stove, so just imagine what it would be like without it.

1. Heat wok to medium high. Add in the onions and the garlic. When you start to smell the garlic, add in mushrooms, other veggies if using and eggplant. The eggplant will soak up the oil so you really want that to go in last.  While veggies cook, slice meat and combine with 1/2 Tbl. rice wine vinegar (or cooking wine- I KNOW they aren't interchangeable, it's just what I used and it worked) and cornstarch.

2. In a bowl combine the sugar, soy sauce, flaxseed and remaining 1/2 Tbl. rice wine vinegar and mix together. Once eggplant and other veggies are nicely browned, remove and drain. Add a tiny bit of oil to the wok, then the meat, ginger and small chili pepper and allow the meat to sear.

3. Once the meat looks nicely browned, just a few minutes, make a pool and add in the sauce, allow it to bubble for a minute and then add back in the veggies. Stir everything together and then serve over rice. You might want to remove the chili's too at this point depending on your spice tolerance.

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