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The Hand-Off: Spicy Orange Beef Stir Fry

2011 February 24

By Zack Luby

I talked with you on Tuesday about my first big decision – what I was going to cook.  It’s tough to eat local in Vermont in February -but not impossible: the beef, garlic, and carrots I used were all from VT.  The beef comes from Laplatte Farm in Shelburne – they don’t have a website, but they rock it.  The oranges and broccoli “came from away,” to use the parlance of VT.  The chilis came from my CSA, which, by the way, is the best CSA on earth: the Intervale Community Farm.

Having decided what to cook, I then had to grapple with the next big decision – what to listen to while I cook!  I think that this is nearly as important to the outcome of the meal as the ingredients.  I went with Bob Marley’s Exodus (The Deluxe Version) because Natural Mystic is one of my favorite all time “upful” (uplifting) songs – and I think the meaning of the song fits what we are trying to do as we look for opportunities to change our broken food system.  Everyone used to eat local and organic back in the day.  Also, a soul needs uplifting during February in VT – which is not the most verdant of months in the Northeast.  Music for the soul while I prepared food for the soul – not bad.

So, having decided what to listen to, I was ready to roll.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

Rice – I have a Zojirushi rice cooker, and it’s awesome.  It plays “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” when I start the rice cooker, and plays some other children’s song when it’s finished.  Also, in between when I start it, and when it finishes, I have no idea how long it will take until it’s completed.  The numbers count upwards, and do not appear to correspond to hours or minutes or seconds.  It’s epically Japanese.  It also makes great rice.  I am not one of those “I can’t make brown rice” people, but this thing is killer.  Perfect rice every time.

Prep –  No worries here.

Cooking – I started a-woking.  I have to say that stir frying and taking pics at the same time was tough!

A great tip (from Eating Well Magazine, they seem to use it in every recipe): Remove the meat from the pan after you cook it.  This one tip has greatly improved my cooking, as I am no longer am destroying the meat by overcooking it.

Another tip:  Substitute brown paper bags for paper towels as a grease absorbing tool.  This was the one thing that I couldn’t figure out how to do when we got rid of paper towels in our household – paper bags do the trick.

Orange Beef Stir-Fry

(I used this Eating Well recipe for inspiration):

Prep time: From “Natural Mystic” through “Waiting in Vain” on Exodus (roughly 30 minutes)

Cook time: Like 7 or 8 more songs (or 30 minutes)

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: 3-4 servings


  • 1 lb. Laplatte beef (You can definitely substitute tofu or tempeh for the beef if you are veggie or vegan)
  • 1 or 2 head broccoli
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 3 splashes (approx. 3 Tbs) Tamari
  • 3 splashes (approx 3 Tbs) rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 3-4 oranges
  • 1 zest of one orange peel
  • 3-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 big piece (approx. 3-4 Tbs) ginger
  • 3-5 dried chilies (I used 5 and it’s super spicy)
  • 2 Tbs oil (Peanut, Canola, or Sesame all would work, I used Peanut)

Cooking Directions

  1. Slice the beef into thin strips, cutting against the grain. It really, really helps if you freeze the beef for a bit before cutting it for 15-25 minutes. You get a much straighter, more accurate cut that way, and it’s way easier to cut through the meat. Throw the beef in the freezer before you cut up everything else, and cut it after prepping everything else.
  2. Start the rice, however you like to cook it.
  3. Chop up the garlic. Chop up the ginger. I think it really helps to use a veggie peeler on the raw ginger to get rid of the rind-y part before mincing.
  4. Cut the broccoli into small florets. Cut the carrots into 1/4″ or so slices.
  5. Zest one of the oranges. Try and get as little of the white stuff of the orange as possible. Cut up the peels into little 1/2″ squares after zesting.
  6. Juice the oranges into a bowl. Add the tamari, rice vinegar, and cornstarch to the bowl of orange juice, stir it up, and set it aside.
  7. Fire up the wok and add the 2 Tbs of oil. Make the wok super hot, the oil should just about be smoking. Add the beef.
  8. Stir fry the beef (As I learned on Wok with Yan Stir Fry, not stare fry! Keep it moving around in the wok) for about 1 minute, or until it has browned. Use tongs to pull the beef out of the wok and let it rest on paper towels, or, better yet, if you don’t use paper towels in your house, a brown paper bag to soak up some of the oil.
  9. Add the garlic, ginger, orange zest, and chili to the wok. Stir fry for about a minute.
  10. (man that smells good doesn’t it?)
  11. Add the carrots. Stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli, add about 1/3 cup of water, bring to boil, then cover and steam for about 3 minutes.
  12. Add the orange juice mixture. Cook until the mixture begins thickening, about 2-3 minutes.
  13. Add the beef back to the wok, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  14. BAM! Spicy Orange Beef is ready!

    The dish came out great, but I always think I can do better.  I would say that if I cook this recipe again, I will try and get the zest thinner than I did on this go around.  You can see in the picture above that it’s pretty thick.  It also came out super spicy, so you can probably use fewer dried chilis to be safe.  I had the chilis left over from my CSA this summer.  I put a ton of them in a brown paper bag to dry them out, and have been enjoying them all winter.  They are super hot as well, I am not sure if drying them out makes them hotter, but I don’t remember them being so hot when they were fresh.  The spice from the chilis and the sweetness of the orange really go well together in this dish.

    Thanks to Sarah, Brianna, and Recipe Relay!


    Zack Luby is the owner of Good Stuff Communications, a digital marketing firm located in Burlington, VT. He is also about to complete (woohoo!) his MBA in Organizational and Environmental Sustainability at Antioch University of New England, which is where he met Sarah and Brianna.  Good stuff!

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    • Evan Hoeltge

      Nice post Zach; witty as well as informative. I will have to try this recipe out. I have eaten orange beef but never prepared it!

      • Zack Luby

        Thanks! It came out great, I would definitely suggest giving it a shot. If you want the sauce to be close to traditional orange beef, I would suggest adding a bit of cornstarch to thicken it up. Glad you liked it!