I was so glad this week that the smoke detector in my kitchen isn’t particularly sensitive.
As I sauteed thin slices of steak on my stovetop, the room filled with a fine smoke that my exhaust fan just couldn’t keep up with.
I am normally really nervous about cooking anything on high heat. I think it goes back to the first place I moved into when I left home. The cooktop in my rental got extra, extra hot and led to my first experience with a grease fire, despite having the temperature set to what should have been a normal one for frying. (Always remember to smother a grease fire with a lid, and do not to try to put it out with water!)
My current oven is newer and behaves itself, though, so despite putting off a little smoke, my dish turned out absolutely delicious.
The recipe I tried comes from the blog “Dinner at the Zoo” by Sara Welch. You can find it at https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/mongolian-beef/. I added veggies and extra seasoning in my version.
- 1 1/4 pounds flank or top round steak sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
- 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil I ended up needing more than this
- 2 bell peppers any color, cut into strips
- 1/2 cup green onions cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger minced (I used ginger paste)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- rice or rice noodles and sesame seeds for serving
- Cut the steak into one-inch-wide strips and add it to a plastic bag with 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat the strips.
- Prepare a plate by lining it with a paper towel and set it aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil on high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the strips of steak in a single layer. Saute for a few minutes on each side until the meat is browned. Remove the strips from the skillet and place them on the paper-towel-lined plate.
- Continue in batches (adding more oil if it’s sticking) until all the meat is browned.
- Turn the heat down to medium-high heat, add a bit more oil if necessary and add in the bell peppers and green onions. Saute until they reach your desired level of doneness. Toss in the garlic and ginger and saute for about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, water and brown sugar to the pan, making sure to scrape the bottom for any good, browned bits from the steak and the veggies. Let the mixture come to a simmer, stirring regularly.
- In a small bowl, combine the other two teaspoons of cornstarch with one tablespoon of cold water. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the skillet and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture is starting to thicken, reduce the heat to low, and stir in the steak. Make sure to mix well to evenly coat everything.
- Add salt and pepper as desired (I didn’t have to add any salt at all, thanks to the other seasonings. It’s better to taste the sauce first.)
- Serve over prepared rice or rice noodles and top with sesame seeds.
This was amazing. In fact, I have already made a second batch of this one in the time since I first tried it. The sauce is sticky and has tons of great flavor without being cloyingly sweet. This also reheats super well as leftovers, so be sure to make some extra rice or noodles so you have pre-made meals for later in the week.
And pay attention to your own stovetop’s “high” setting when you try this. Some are more sensitive than others—as are some smoke detectors. But as long as you get a good sear on your meat, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
This piece first appeared in print on July 6, 2023.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.