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The Butcher

Stir-Fry: A Little Goes a Long Way

February 20, 1986|MERLE ELLIS

"Stir-Fry Meats: Beef, Turkey, Chicken, Pork--$3.69 a pound," an ad announced in bold type in the food section of a newspaper in my neighborhood recently. I don't know whether I should be angry with the supermarket, or at the consumer for even considering spending that kind of money for that kind of meat.

In the very same ad, boneless chicken breasts, "California grown, no hormones, no additives, natural," were advertised for only $2.99 a pound. Now how much time would it take to slice a boneless chicken breast into thin strips to stir-fry?

Chinese stir-fry cooking is a marvelous method of making a little bit of meat go a long way. It's a quick and easy way to cook, perfect for today's busy life styles. But what it is not is a method of cooking that requires expensive meat. Less expensive, less tender cuts of meat are ideal for stir-fry.

Some Cutting Involved

The cut of beef called for in most beef stir-fry dishes is flank steak, which certainly is not a tender cut. It used to be inexpensive and that's probably why it's called for in so many stir-fry recipes. A much better, more tender cut of beef for stir-fry would be top round steak or sirloin tip. Both were available for $1.99 per pound the same week that stir-fry meats were on special for $3.69 a pound.

That same week I could have bought chicken legs and thighs for 49 cents a pound, turkey thighs for $1.49, pork steaks (boneless) for $1.89, and any number of other cuts of meat perfect for stir-fry--all for far less than $3.69 a pound. Of course, there is some cutting involved, but are you really so busy that you can't slice the meat off a chicken leg to save $3.20 a pound, or cut a boneless pork steak into cubes to save $1.80?

Stir-fry is a simple cooking technique. You can whip together a simple and delicious stir-fry dish in less time than it takes to boil water.

A heavy Chinese wok is the ideal pan to use, but it's not essential. Any heavy skillet large enough to hold the food, with enough room to toss it around a bit, will work. The principle is to keep the food tumbling over high heat so that everything cooks quickly and evenly. It's important to have everything ready, have all slicing, dicing and mincing done before cooking.

Here is a simple recipe for stir-fry Beef With Onions. You could easily substitute pork for the beef. A tomato and a green pepper can replace two of the onions. You can use chicken or turkey for the meat, and celery and almonds in place of some of the onion. There are all sorts of variations you can experiment with. BEEF WITH ONIONS

3/4 to 1 pound thinly sliced beef

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup peanut oil

2 tablespoons white wine

3 medium onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup beef broth

Salt, pepper

Place meat in small bowl and add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon peanut oil and 1 tablespoon wine. Toss to blend well and set aside. Heat remaining oil in wok or skillet over high heat. Add beef and cook, stirring, until just done, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove meat from pan and set aside.

Add onions and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add beef broth and cook 1 minute longer. Return beef to pan. Mix together remaining soy sauce, cornstarch and wine. Stir mixture into to pan to thicken sauce. Makes 4 servings.

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