Far too often, beef with broccoli is a gloppy mess. In fact, I rarely order it for takeout as I fear the curse of over-thickened and excessively-sweetened brown sauce will ruin what would otherwise be a perfectly fine meal. But after making Diana Kuan's version from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook at home, I've learned I have nothing to fear from this dish. Her quick tricks—blanching the broccoli and marinating the beef with cornstarch—leave the beef tender and the broccoli bright green. The sauce? It's just thick enough to cling to the stir-fry without turning to sludge, and the minced garlic and ginger add bright punch to the mix.
Why I picked this recipe: I wanted to see if a homemade beef with broccoli could assuage my fears of the ubiquitous brown sauce.
What worked: Velveting the beef (adding cornstarch to the marinade) and blanching the broccoli with baking soda upped this dish from a muddled, gloppy stir-fry to a meal I'd serve at a dinner party.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: I was skeptical of blanching the broccoli salt-free, but the baking soda does indeed keep the broccoli green. The broccoli is plenty salty once stirred into the super-seasoned sauce.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.