Pepper Steak

Feb 15th

At a 30th birthday party recently we had the opportunity to look at pictures of the birthday girl through middle and high school. We commiserated about our frizzy hair (pre-straighteners), swooshy pants, and complete lack of makeup know-how. I honestly don’t know why anyone liked me through middle school and most of high school…I was a train wreck. It’s strange though, because we weren’t just idiots, we were actually following the trends. It’s the trends faults that we looked so dumb. I wonder what people wear now that we will look back and scoff at? Cough, jeggings, cough cough.

Clearly there are trends in clothes, hair, etc., but there are most DEFinitely trends in food as well. Growing up my mom used to make pepper steak for dinner, but it had been years since I’d had it. Well, I found a GREAT sale on top round steak – they were basically giving it away at Giant. This type of red meat is usually pretty cheap, which makes this a great way to get some week night iron. Round steak comes from the rear end of the cow, therefore it’s lean and tough. However, this also means that it’s more flavorful when cooked correctly (not to mention healthier, as it’s so devoid of marbling). The reason filet mignon is tender is because it comes from the midsection of the cow which isn’t worked. I always say to my students, “have you ever seen a cow do sit ups?”. The tenderloin area is finely marbled with fat, and fat equals tenderness!

Anyways, the way to cook tough meat is “low and slow”; braise, stew, or roast. This steak is “braised” during it’s 30 minutes of cooking time in the liquid. The moist heat breaks down the muscle fibers, leaving the meat tender instead of chewy. With the veggies, this is a super healthy dinner! Serve it over brown rice, quinoa or bulgar for a complete and completely delish dinner.

Pepper Steak

Serves 4

1 lb beef top round steak, cut 1 in. thick

2 tsp. canola or olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c. chicken or beef broth

¼ c. light soy sauce (or tamari)

¼ tsp. sugar

½ tsp. pepper

1 stalk celery, sliced

1 green bell pepper, sliced thin

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin

1 (14 oz) can diced tomato, drained

2 tsp. cornstarch

¼ c. cold water

1. Heat 1 tsp. oil in skillet on medium high heat and add onion and garlic, stirring until soft, fragrant, and beginning to turn golden (about 5-8 minutes).

2. Remove with a slotted spoon.

3. Add remaining 1 tsp. oil and sauté the beef until browned. Don’t worry if the beef is not cooked through. Just the outside needs to be brown.

4. If there is excess grease when the meat is done cooking, drain the fat. Add the broth, soy sauce, sugar and ground pepper to the skillet, stir well. You can’t pour fat from meats down your drain. It is saturated fat and is solid at room temperature – it could clog your drain once it cools down! Always collect the fat in a can and dispose of once it hardens.

5. Return onion and garlic to skillet and simmer all together for 30 minutes. To “simmer”, you want to first bring the mixture to a boil (bubbles vigorously breaking the surface), then reduce the heat to low where little bubbles are gently popping here and there). You can have the lid off or set askew on the pan.

6. Add celery, bell peppers and tomatoes.

7. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until celery and peppers are crisp/tender-around 5-8 minutes.

8. Dissolve the cornstarch in cold water by stirring them together in a small bowl. Every wonder how sauces at Asian restaurants have a thick quality that is so delicious, when obviously there isn’t any cream thickening it? It’s the cornstarch! It turn the liquid from the veggies and meat into a sauce.

9. Stir mixture into the skillet, stirring constantly until thickened (around 2-5 minutes).

10. Serve plain or over brown rice, quinoa, or bulgar wheat (or any grain of your choice).

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