Let's talk about stir-fry.
Stir-fry was my mother's meal of choice on hectic nights, and I'm beginning to see why. Once you have your technique down, you can throw in whatever you like. It's taken me a while to come into my own with this style of cooking -- I'm constantly at war with my inner baker who likes to do it all according to the recipe. By contrast, my mom hates to bake, so there you go.
I've done this recipe with chicken and carrots and all sorts of other things, but I keep coming back to this simple combination of green beans, onions, and red peppers. Quick and delicious.
Here are a couple of tricks for stir-fry success:
- Prep everything completely before you begin. This is not the time to try to chop peppers while the onions are cooking -- that's a recipe for burning onions. I set my ingredients out in separate bowls all lined up so I can quickly grab what I need.
- Work with a hot, hot, hot pan and keep the food moving. Use some long tongs to toss everything around in the pan. If you're intimidated by the high heat, have some extra water handy and add a splash to the pan before things get too dark.
- Add things to the pan according to length of time they need to cook -- something like carrots should go in early, garlic much later, as it burns easily.
- Meat or seafood (like shrimp) should be cooked quickly then removed from the pan prior to cooking the veggies. Add them back into the mix along with the sauce near the end. In this way, you can control the doneness of the protein, ensuring that it doesn't get overcooked.
- Be fearless! The worst that can happen is that you make a mistake and try again next time. Don't make it for company until you have it down pat. (A good rule of thumb for anything, really.)
Garlicky Green Bean Stir-Fry
oil (a flavorless oil with a high smoke point is best -- peanut or canola are both good choices)
1 med. yellow onion, ends removed, then halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4" wide slices
pinch of salt
1 lb. green beans, cleaned and trimmed into approx. 2" long pieces
1 red bell pepper, sliced into approx. 2" long pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. water
3 Tbsp. oyster sauce
soy sauce to taste
toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Heat a couple teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the skillet is too hot to hold your hand over. Stir constantly throughout the following process: Add onions, along with a pinch of salt. Saute for a minute, then add peppers. After another minute, add beans, then garlic, after a minute or two.
Pour in water, give the pan a little shake, then cover with a lid for several minutes. (Occasionally give the pan a shake, if you're concerned about things burning.) Lift lid and check a bean for doneness -- they should be tender crisp. If they aren't quite ready, put the lid back on and cook for a minute or two more. If the pan is dry, add a little more water. When beans are tender, add oyster sauce and 4-5 shakes of soy sauce (or as much as you like). Serve over steamed rice with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top, if desired.