Stir-fries aren't usually the well-edited dishes you think about and shop for in advance. They are frequently renegade, use-up-what's-in-the-fridge meals, which is part of their charm. But not so with this recipe. I chose these particular ingredients deliberately, picking up pork tenderloin for a mid-week treat and adding lots of fresh spring vegetables for crunch.
I referred to a few recipes I've used and modified over the years, one of which calls for sherry to deepen the flavor of the sauce. Mixed with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a touch of sesame oil, this makes an incredible sauce to coat the meat veggies.
The one problem with cooking batches of food over high heat is that I inevitably end up with a glaze of browned bits on the bottom of the pan, which often start to scorch partway through cooking. While not terribly authentic, my solution is to add a few tablespoons of water to the pan while the vegetables cook. It helps move cooking along with a little steam action, prevents the browned bits from burning, and adds deep roasted flavors that make the sauce even tastier.
Once you have everything chopped and ready to go, this dish comes together in about fifteen minutes. If you have leftovers, they make a really great lunch the next day.
Pork Stir-Fry with Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas
1 12-16 ounce pork tenderloin
1 cup rice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon corn starch
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, tips trimmed
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Place the pork in the freezer for 20 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients. This helps make it easier to slice. When ready, slice the pork into medallions about 1/2-inch thick. Then slice each medallion into 2 or 3 strips. Season the strips with salt and pepper.
Bring two cups of water to a boil. Add a half teaspoon of salt and the rice, and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook the rice for 20 minutes (or follow package instructions). When done, remove from heat, fluff with a spoon, and leave partially covered until ready to serve.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the stir-fry. Whisk together the soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and corn starch. Set near the stove.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the canola or other vegetable oil in a large (14-inch) sauté pan over high heat. Add the pork and cook, stirring and turning strips once or twice, until edges begin to brown and they are just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the other teaspoon of oil to the pan, and cook the shallots until they have softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the asparagus, cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then add the sugar snap peas. Pour half of the water into the pan, and scrape the bottom of the pan to pick up browned bits. You may need to add all of the water, depending on how high the heat and how brown your pan.
Sauté the vegetable mixture for another 4 to 6 minutes, until asparagus and peas are bright green but still crunchy. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in the sauce and the cooked pork. Continue stirring until the sauce has thickened and the meat and vegetables look glazed.
Serve immediately with rice. Leftovers will keep for a week.
Helpful links: • How to Cook Rice on the Stove • How to Trim Asparagus • How to Peel Ginger • How to Season a Wok • Recipe: Spicy Broccoli Tofu Stir-Fry
Originally published April 8, 2008.
(Images: Emma Christensen)