Beef and Broccoli

by Andie Mitchell on June 30, 2010

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know how I feel about weight maintenance. After losing ten times ten plus thirty five pounds, the reality of a new life set in. A feeling of: Hey, I got to the party, stayed a while to celebrate, and now I’m ready to head home. Making sure that home wasn’t inside the rectangular box of an Express Dozen at Dunkin Donuts was the feat. Home had to be the embodiment of a new found balance. No more scale successes each week, no more dress sizes to be dropped, no more planning for the “when I’m thin…” It felt as though the incentive to live healthily was in the Good Will pile with my size 22 pants. Neither seemed to fit anymore.

Part of the desperation that comes with lost weight and the struggle of “getting there” is the fear of not being able to dine with decadence again. People prescribe moderation like a daily multivitamin, but what’s the dosage on danishes? The RDA on Reese’s? Fortunately and unfortunately, it’s your own choice.

Navigating my own way in the ‘healthy-weight’ world was largely influenced by cooking. Uncertain of how to reintroduce the foods I loved all my life, but had given up throughout weight loss, I began creating my own recipes. Healthier versions of the classics. I said to myself, “Anyone who throws caution to the wind and uses an unlimited amount of butter, cream, oil, and the like, will ultimately make a dish that tastes delicious. Because butter, in and of itself, takes taste to the next level. But the true challenge, the mark of a truly good cook, is the creation of flavor. Knowing the essence of good food, understanding flavor complements, how to use herbs and spices to cultivate that perfect palate pleaser, believing that food can be just as beautiful on its own without makeup and a ballgown.”

I experimented. I failed. I may have cried once or fifty- two times. But making the dishes I had always loved, in a way that felt wholesome and somehow pure, felt so worthwhile. So satisfying. My mind jogged through memories of buffalo chicken pizza in my first college dorm, Chinese food buffets with my family, and thick wedges of buttercream-bathed fudge cake. There will be a life for these beloved eats, I promised myself.

I kept that promise. Four years later and I’m still cooking up classics with my own flair. Learning more everyday about what works, what doesn’t work, what tastes so good that Daniel browses engagement rings online, and what makes my dog, DeeDee, prefer Puperoni.

There’s barely a dish I can think of that I haven’t attempted to modify in a healthful way. The beautiful thing is that I’ve learned two things: how to maintain my weight, and more importantly, how to maintain a passion for living well. I know, it sounds an awful lot like a promotional clip for a weight loss clinic, but it’s true.

This recipe, for Beef and Broccoli, is one of the recipe recreations I love. If you’ve stayed for dinner at my family home, you know that when we order Chinese takeout, we aim to feed the block. At least fifteen white containers filled with fried fare, just in case the population of my hometown hasn’t eaten dinner yet. Among the chicken fingers, crab rangoon, egg rolls, and Peking ravioli, is one flavorful order of beef and broccoli.

I spent years trying to get that authentic taste- that thick salty-sweet sauce to glaze the strips of steak just so. To shine on the broccoli florets that were tender, but still slightly crisp. Finally, I got it. The secret? Oyster sauce. And cornstarch. Below is a recipe I adapted from Jaden, at Steamy Kitchen, whose authentic recipe I found over at Simply Recipes. It’s delicious. You’d swear it was from your local Chinese restaurant. Worth making, worth repeating, worth filing in your recipe box.

Beef and Broccoli (adapted from Jaden’s recipe featured on Simply Recipes)

  • 1 pound flank or sirloin, sliced thinly across the grain
  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

For the beef marinade

  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar

Stir together the beef marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the beef slices and stir until coated. Let stand for 10 minutes

Make the sauce: Stir together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside. Blanch the broccoli: Cook the broccoli in a small pot of boiling, salted water until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

Heat a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat until a bead of water sizzles and instantly evaporates upon contact. Add the cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the beef and immediately spread the strips out all over the surface of the wok or pan in a single layer (preferably not touching). Let the beef fry undisturbed for 1 minute. Flip the beef slices over, add the garlic to the pan and fry for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute until no longer pink.

Pour in the sauce.

Add the blanched broccoli and bring to a boil.

Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens, 30 seconds.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle June 30, 2010 at 11:21 am

Hello! I found your blog yesterday and quickly added it to my reader. I book-marked your page on maintenance too (LOVE your views on it and know I will refer to it as I find my way) and can’t wait to try your recipes – they are right up my alley and I know my girls would enjoy them as well.

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Can You Stay for Dinner June 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Thanks so much, Michelle! Welcome to the blog. Hope you can stomach my antics!

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lequan@luvtoeat June 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

Hey great looking dish Andrea! I cook with oyster sauce and cornstarch a lot. Actually just posted a recipe using oyster sauce. But you are definitely MUCH MUCH more talented than me in the kitchen! Those two ingredients can work wonders in a wok huh?

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Erica June 30, 2010 at 11:31 am

I make a very similar recipe for Josh all the time. He loves it! Tastes just like take out. Hope you’re having a good week

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foodiefresh June 30, 2010 at 11:42 am

I love hearing about how you changed your life to maintain the weight and I think it’s wonderful of you to share that great cooks aren’t made over night. Chinese food is one of those things I love, but am often scared to go out and buy b/c you just have no idea what they put in there (I’m talking about the sauce and oil, not the meat). Thanks for the health-i-fied recipe. I’ll definitely try it sometime. :)

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Mo June 30, 2010 at 11:57 am

It’s amazing that you lost that much weight! Very inspiring. :)

I love beef and broccoli in stir fries, so I have no doubt that I would love this!

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Katie @ Health for the Whole Self June 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I loved reading this post! My favorite part was what you said about a true cook being one who understands flavor profiles, one who can make a dish delicious without simply adding creams and fats and the likes. I love that mindset – healthy cooking is a challenge, but an extremely rewarding one!

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Kelly June 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I always am trying to make chinese healthier, the only thing i’ve attempted so far is lo mein and I love that! I think I will be trying this, will it work with chicken too?

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Can You Stay for Dinner June 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm

chicken will work!!

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homecookedem June 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

How funny! Andrew just made us a delicious beef and broccoli dish last Saturday evening and the whole time I kept saying, “mmmmm, this is mmmmm, so much mmmmm, better than mmmmmm, take-out!!” ;) Yum, yum, yum!! And way healthier!! :) Yours looks great!!

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman June 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I love that you said this: I experimented. I failed. I may have cried once or fifty- two times. Ah, I feel like that so many times making healthy foods. Good to know a cook like you, who makes incredibly delicious-looking food, also felt like this at one point!

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Tina June 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I love your story! I love how you know to have balance and find a way to enjoy things you love in a healthy and fun way. This recipe looks divine. I adore Chinese take out food and I’m going to have to add yet another one of your recipes to my favorites now. Thanks!

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Kelly June 30, 2010 at 4:25 pm

YUM! I love chinese food with all my heart….this is fabulous!

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Lisa @ Endeavorous June 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm

This looks delicious! My favorite Chinese food dish. Btw I made a batch of Congo Bars for my boyfriend last week…he (we) devoured them – so good!

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Can You Stay for Dinner June 30, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Oh YAY! I’m so glad you liked the congo bars. They’re just such a treat! Thanks for the support!

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Sophie @ yumventures July 1, 2010 at 7:18 am

This is one of my favorite posts so far! I have been struggling (and sometimes succeeding!) at making decadent, filling meals that are also healthful and not that bad for you. It has taken really getting to know food and ingredients, how certain things make me feel, what combinations create something thicker and heartier without adding extra fat and calories. I feel that so many people either miss out on the flavor by eating plain foods to skip the unwanted pounds, or (horrifically) using fake sugars and ultra processed faux butters to try to make something “diet” but instead just loading on the chemicals that will probably destroy your body anyway. I love this dish, and the thought behind this post!

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Heather (Where's the Beach) July 1, 2010 at 8:30 am

Thanks for the recipe. This can so easily be made vegetarian – love it.

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Krista July 1, 2010 at 8:51 am

Beef and broccoli is certainly a favourite of mine! Thanks for posting a delicious, easy recipe for it. ;)

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Janet Nagy August 26, 2010 at 7:34 am

You saved me for dinner tonight. I googled wgt loss dinner with broccoli since this is the veggie in my frig. and found this blog. Yah! WOW! and i have all the ingredients, however I never think of steak on a wgt loss diet so i am surprising myself as i have some in the freezer and you spared me darting to the market after work. Thanks so much as this looks like a great dinner that will suit my 22y son and husband as well as myself!

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Can You Stay for Dinner August 26, 2010 at 8:32 am

Thanks so much, Janet! I hope you liked it!!

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Brooke November 7, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Tried this tonight–so easy and so yummy!! Thanks for sharing!

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Kathleen December 13, 2011 at 9:49 am

I found your recipe a while back and finally got around to trying it. It was excellent!! I’m so glad I found this as an alternate to take out. I even blogged my experience with it at:

http://noutensilunused.blogspot.com/2011/12/beef-and-broccoli.html

Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

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Michelle January 29, 2012 at 3:59 pm

How many people is this supposed to serve?

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Keely August 23, 2012 at 11:24 pm

I just found your blog and pleased to say I have been reading it for over 2 hours now! And pinning just about all of your recipes! You are so funny and have some of the most appealing recipes I have seen. Thanks so much for sharing!

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Shan February 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I followed the recommendation of steaming broccoli for the minimum time on the steam bag and this was fantastic! Very quick, easy, and delish! This will be a staple!

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Chris August 15, 2013 at 6:41 am

I have loved every recipe of yours that I have made. This one did come out quite salty (unless I measured wrong :( Can I use less of the oyster sauce (I think the culprit here) and still keep the wonderful sauciness? Thanks for the recipes and the great sense of humor. I wish you continued success :)

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Dave April 15, 2014 at 10:47 pm

My favorite.

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