Put that takeout menu back in the drawer — we're coming upon asparagus season, so it's time to take full advantage of its short appearance! This Chinese-style stir-fry can be made in the same time it takes for takeout to arrive. Pick up some flank steak, asparagus, and mushrooms at the grocery store and break out the wok when you get home.
Flank steak is a great choice for stir-fries because it's lean, flavorful, and has lots of beefy flavor. The trick to tender beef is slicing the meat against the grain, or against the tough muscle fibers in the meat.
One shortcut I take when making stir-fries is making sauces that can double as a marinade. In this case, dry sherry, soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil make a classic brown sauce, but I also use just a tablespoon of it to season the beef before it goes into the pan.
After the meat is browned, but not cooked all the way through, mushrooms and asparagus go into the pan separately to cook. Only stir-frying small amounts of food means that there's space in the pan or wok for things to brown and take on some extra flavor. When everything's cooked, they all go back into the pan to get coated in sauce. Trust me — takeout will never taste as good!
Stir-Fried Beef and Asparagus
For the beef and sauce:
8 ounces flank steak, trimmed of excess fat and sinew
2 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
For the stir-fry:
3 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
8 ounces fresh brown or porcini mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Steamed white rice or brown rice, for serving
For the beef and sauce: Cut the flank steak crosswise (with the grain) into 2- to 3-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Place the beef in a medium bowl; set aside.
Whisk the remaining ingredients in a small bowl until the cornstarch and sugar are fully dissolved. Transfer 1 tablespoon of this sauce mixture to the bowl of beef and toss to coat the meat; set the remaining sauce aside.
For the stir-fry: Heat a large frying pan or flat-bottomed wok over medium-high heat until a drop of water vaporizes immediately on contact. Drizzle in 1 teaspoon of the oil, then add the beef and spread into an even layer. Cook undisturbed until the beef begins to sear, about 1 minute. Using a metal spatula, stir-fry for 30 seconds until the beef is lightly browned, but not cooked through. Transfer to a large plate.
Drizzle 1 teaspoon of oil into the pan, add the mushrooms, and season with salt. Stir-fry until the mushrooms are browned and softened, about 2 minutes, then transfer to the plate with the beef.
Drizzle the remaining teaspoon of oil into the pan, add the asparagus, ginger, and garlic, and season with salt. Stir-fry until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water and stir-fry until the asparagus is crisp-tender and bright green, about 3 minutes.
Add the reserved beef, mushrooms, and any juices and stir to combine. Whisk the sauce again to recombine and dissolve the cornstarch, then add to the pan. Stir-fry until the beef is just cooked through and the sauce thickens and is glossy, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, and serve with rice.