Stir-Fried Beef with Basil and Chiles

A Thai-inspired dish that will get you hooked on stir-frying.
TIME 15 minutes, plus time to freeze and marinate the meat
MAKES 4 to 6 servings
About 1½ pounds flank, sirloin, or strip steak
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1½ tablespoons minced garlic or more to taste
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Juice of ½ lime
½ cup chopped peanuts, optional

1 Put the meat in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, if the basil leaves are large, roughly chop them.

2 Once the meat is firm, slice it across the grain as thinly as you can, then cut the slices into thin strips no more than 3 inches long. Combine the beef, basil, and the 1 teaspoon oil in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes so the flavor of the basil accents the beef. (If you don’t have time to let the beef marinate, just mix the beef and basil together—skip the oil.)

3 When you’re ready to cook, put a large skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke, 3 to 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan and add the garlic; stir once or twice. As soon as the garlic begins to color— 10 to 15 seconds—return the heat to high and add the beef-basil mixture; sprinkle with a little bit of salt and the crushed red pepper.

4 Stir frequently but not constantly, just until the meat loses its red color, 1 or 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, then the soy sauce and lime juice, and stir to make a little sauce. If the mixture looks dry, add 1 or 2 tablespoons water. Turn off the heat, garnish with the chopped peanuts if you’re using them, and serve.

  • Stir-Fried Beef with Vegetables: Cut enough bell peppers, carrots, or celery into thin slices to get about 3 cups. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the pan and cook them, stirring, until they’re brightly colored but still crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove them and continue with the recipe from Step 1. Just before serving, return the vegetables to the pan and stir a few times to warm them.

  • Freezing any meat for 15 to 30 minutes makes it easier to slice thinly.
  • White or brown rice is most common, but you can serve stir-fries tossed with Asian noodles. Save a little soaking or cooking water as you drain the noodles; add the noodles to the pan with the stir-fry and toss, using the reserved water to keep everything moist.

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