Stir-frys aren’t a traditional American dish, but the concept of them has been around in various forms and cultures for a long time. If you think about what a stir-fry is, it is essentially a …
Stir-frys aren’t a traditional American dish, but the concept of them has been around in various forms and cultures for a long time. If you think about what a stir-fry is, it is essentially a foundation of starch with an added pan-fried mixture of proteins and vegetables. The reason I say they have been around in many forms is that, while they are commonly recognized in many dishes with Asiatic roots, they exist in parallel cooking styles of other regions with a diverse range of ingredients that are derived from wherever the dish is being prepared. Much like a dumpling and a pierogi are cousins of a sort, so too are the various spinoffs of a stir-fry.
My wife makes a sweet and savory stir-fry that normally incorporates our local abundant protein: venison. It’s a fairly simple meal that typically makes enough for plenty of leftovers to be reheated for lunch throughout the week; it is fairly healthy, as well. After taking a pack of venison steaks out of the freezer to thaw, she will break out the large skillet. We have a ceramic-coated one, which lends itself to cooking both the meat and the vegetables without much risk of sticking and burning. She begins by cooking the meat. Each steak is laid on the oiled or buttered surface until browned, then flipped and removed. I prefer butter, my wife prefers oil—however, in the end, it will make very little difference on the finished product. Venison is very lean meat, so I can’t overemphasize how important it is that you don’t overcook it. If you are choosing to use beef, you have a slightly larger margin for error, but all the same, try to avoid over-cooking or the meat will be tough to chew in either case.
Once the meat is cooked, you will remove it to a plate and let it rest under tin foil or another type of cover to prevent it from drying out. In the same skillet, without cleaning or wiping it out, throw in your vegetables. We use a frozen medley from the store that you can buy specifically for stir-frys, but feel free to use any vegetables that you like. Typically, you will want crunchy veggies like snap peas, carrots and, my personal favorite, water chestnuts. Don’t overdo it on the water chestnuts, but they add a unique texture that I think is a major part of a successful stir-fry. They can be found at most grocery stores these days, so even if you’ve never heard of them, rest assured they are a fairly common ingredient.
With your vegetables sautéing in the steam of their own defrosting in the hot skillet, stir them gently until they begin to sweat.
As your vegetables reach the point of caramelizing, you will add a soy sauce mixture. The soy sauce recipe is listed below. Continue to stir this and allow it to thicken slightly as it cooks on low heat.
While this is cooking, on another burner you will start the rice. Rice forms the foundation of this dish and helps to absorb the flavors of all of the rich ingredients. When cooking the rice, you may wish to make more or less depending on how many you are serving and how much of the other ingredients you have prepared to cover it with. In a saucepot, bring 1.5 cups of water to boil for every cup of rice you use. We prefer long-grain Jasmine rice, but you can use whatever type you prefer. Once the rice has been added to the water, do not stir. Allow the rice to naturally cook undisturbed until it has absorbed all of the water and you no longer see small water bubbles coming up through the rice.
As the rice cooks, uncover your meat and begin slicing it across the grain into small tender strips. Once you have done this to all of your steaks, add them back into the vegetable and soy sauce mixture and gently fold them until fully incorporated. You can turn off the burner at this point and wait until the rice is cooked. In a bowl, fill halfway with the rice before covering with your meat and vegetables. Then, dig in. My poor wife had to wait for her dinner until I had photographed it, but the wait was well worth it as we sat down to enjoy this northeastern take on a universal comfort. For you meal preppers out there, it is a great option for a week’s worth of lunches and reheats very well. For those of us without that kind of discipline, though, it’s a warm hearty meal to be enjoyed as we brace for the coming winter.
The way out here, we like a warm dinner, especially one with all of the necessities in one easy bowl.
Serves 2 to 4
1 package stir fry vegetable medley
1 cup Jasmine long grain rice
1 pound venison steaks
Soy sauce mixture
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons of brown mustard
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ground dry ginger
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
Heat oil or butter in a skillet and cook venison steaks to medium-rare before removing and covering. Cook vegetables over medium heat until caramelized before adding soy sauce mixture and stirring until slightly thickened. Bring 1.5 cups water to boil in a saucepot and add 1 cup of long-grain white jasmine rice. Allow to cook undisturbed until water is completely absorbed. Slice cooked steaks into strips and add back to the vegetable mixture to warm. Combine rice vegetables and meat in a bowl and enjoy.