I really like black pepper. As a kid, I used to shake a bunch of black pepper onto my New England Clam Chowder at Souplantation (Sweet Tomatoes in the South), and would put tons and tons on my scrambled eggs at church retreats (so much that sometimes I contemplated unscrewing the cap for a bit).

When I staged at the French restaurant, one of the line cooks informed me, rather authoritatively, that black pepper was supposed to be an accent, not a main flavor. Though I agreed that one should not be able to detect black pepper as a main component of most dishes (exceptions include black pepper ice cream?), it made me kind of sad! Two memorable food items include the black pepper filet mignon on Chinese banquet menus, and black pepper sauce at Hong Kong-style cafes like Regent or Garden Cafe.

I had some flank steak to use up, and the poor celery was getting limp from too much time in the fridge.

Black Pepper Steak

Ingredients:
1/4-1/3 lb (114-151 g) flank steak, or other cut of your choice
a bit of cornstarch
soy sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
oil
4-6 stalks celery, thinly sliced along the diagonal
1/4 to 1 onion, thinly sliced
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
salt

Instructions:
1) Slice the beef: first, cut on the diagonal, against the grain, so that you have thin slices. If you need to, cut these slices in half so that they are only a little longer than your pinky, maybe 2-3 inches.
Then, stack a few thin slices at a time to cut thin strips. When in doubt, go thinner!

2) Marinate the meat: Put beef in bowl. Add some soy sauce and cornstarch. how much? You don’t want the beef slices to look like they are gasping to be coated with soy sauce or cornstarch, but you don’t want them drowning, either. Just enough to coat the beef. Mix in sugar and several grinds of black pepper.

3) Heat some oil in a wok until the oil starts to smoke, then transfer the beef to the wok, stirring so separate all the beef slices. Cook only until 80% of the beef has changed color..you want the beef between a rare and medium rare at this point. Transfer beef into a bowl.

4) Heat some more oil in a wok until the oil starts to smoke, then add the celery and onions. Add some salt to season the vegetables. Cook until the celery and onions are slightly softened, then add more black pepper! Add the beef, juices and all, back to the celery and onions. Saute until all the beef changes color and is cooked through.

5) Serve with lots of rice, and maybe more black pepper 🙂

Notes/Substitutions:
-Feel free to substitute or add ingredients here. Please keep the onions, though. Onions and beef are good friends! Mushrooms, while earthy and meaty tasting, may drown your beef in their juices if not cooked properly, so make sure cook the ‘shrooms in small batches on high heat.