For the past couple of weeks or so, I wasn’t really cooking. I was traveling a lot, and therefore not buying groceries. So pretty much the only thing I ate at home were snacks—and they were great snacks, which I’ll write about soon—and not real food. I like going out to eat, but it does get tiresome when it’s the only option.

It only seems fitting, then, that the first meal I’d cook upon returning to my kitchen would be a takeout staple. And now, I swear to you, I am never ordering takeout beef with broccoli ever again.

No takeout carton in sight.

It turns out that when you make your very own beef with broccoli, you can overcome the chief flaw of the takeout version: that the meat is usually cooked til it’s practically jerky. “Beef with broccoli” where the meat is actually tender is another beast altogether.

I’m still working on perfecting my other takeout staple, hot and sour soup, but in the meantime I think I’ve figured out the awesome crunchy things that restaurants give you to put in your soup. Apparently they’re not noodles, as I always believed, but deep-fried strips of egg roll wrappers. The hot oil turns them from wan, pasty things to golden, bubbly, crunchy goodness. I’m pretty sure this technique must be right, because I couldn’t stop eating them—which is exactly what always happens to me with the restaurant crunchy things.

Yep, that's it.

Beef with broccoli
From The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, via The Pioneer Woman

1 lb (500 g) top sirloin or flank steak, thinly sliced into 1/8-in (3-mm)-thick strips
11/2 lbs (750 g) broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
1 tablespoon high-heat cooking oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic

Beef marinade
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cooking oil
Freshly ground black pepper to season the beef

Stir-fry sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)

In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the beef marinade. Add the beef and let marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature. [I accidentally included the garlic in the marinade, and recommend that!]

In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce.

In a wok or large sauté pan, add 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cover to steam for 3 minutes. The broccoli should be bright green, crisp tender and you should be able to pierce the stem with a fork. Drain.

Discard the water in the pan and dry the pan well. Set the pan over high heat and when hot, add the high-heat cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and fry for 15 to 30 seconds, until fragrant. [Skip this step if you accidentally included the garlic in your marinade.] Add the steak strips, keeping them in one layer, and fry 30 seconds. Flip the strips and fry the other side.

Pour in the stir-fry sauce and stir to combine. Simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked broccoli back into the pan and toss to coat well.

Serves 4.