My brother Pat is 8 years older than me, which by default made him one of my babysitters at nights when my parents would be at the restaurant growing up. He loved playing jokes on me and tolerated me as I begged, pouted and cried my way into watching The Sound of Music for the zillionth time. Our day to day family life obviously revolved around food, whether we were at the restaurant or home. Being children of restaurateurs, the bar was set high, and granted, I was a bit of a foodie as a child, so, even if he dared a canned chicken noodle soup for dinner, I’d have looked at him like a Martian just landed on his head. So, my brother learned early on that every meal had to be special, at least for me anyways. This consequently resulted in his grand contribution to my childhood, the “Pat Special”. This dish, which I will share the recipe shortly, was a cherished part of my childhood. Every family has their staples. Since I was the “baby” of the family, I obviously couldn’t fend for myself, well, until about a year ago (kidding!), so my siblings would take turns cooking for me when my parents were at the restaurant.

Now, I thought the Pat Special was the best thing on the planet. It was better than candy and popcorn. My brother would babysit me more or less once a week and I relished the night I’d get to eat it. And boy, did he know how to sell it too. He made it seem like Pat Special was nothing that even our parents would be able to replicate. It was as if this particular dish was made with imported panda and the zest of prehistoric dinosaur eggs. And I would eat every last bit of it!

Well, one day after school in the 4th grade, I was at our family restaurant when the most earth shattering thing happened! One of our servers came waltzing out of the kitchen with a hot, steamy plate of PAT SPECIAL?! What is this? This was more disturbing than finding out Santa Claus didn’t exist. I gasped to my dad, “Daddy!!! That was Pat Special?!?!” He said, “What? Baby that was Beef and Broccoli!”

The moral of the story is: You can sell just about anything in life, as long as you present it with confidence.
This was one of my favorite, if indirect, cooking lessons for me. I didn’t have to go crazy with soufflés of rare Japanese blowfish topped with obscure ingredients I can’t pronounce. Two ingredients, beef and broccoli, made a symphony of flavors when I ate it as a kid, more because of the fanfare that accompanied it by my brother. So, next time you’re nervous about cooking something for someone for the first time, or even for the 100th time, just keep in mind that you can make anyone think you’re a rock star with just a little bravado. Cook with love, cook with confidence and add a dash of caring and everything you make will taste amazing…

Pat’s Special “Beef and Broccoli”

  • One lb of flap beef or skirt steak, sliced
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 1 ½ cups of chicken broth 
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of thin soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of corn starch mixed with ½ cup of water 
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of vegetable oil
  • 2-3 dashes of sesame oil
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste

On your stove top, heat your IMUSA wok to med-high heat. Put your vegetable oil in the wok. Wait till the oil gets nice and hot and throw in your sliced beef to brown. Careful to not crowd your beef slices, as it will “steam” and not brown properly. While the beef is still cooking, throw in your broccoli florets. Keep stirring around the broccoli and beef in the wok for about 2 minutes. Next, add the chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar. While it comes to a nice low boil, add the sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of the corn starch/water mixture. When the beef is cooked through and the broccoli is still firm, but cooked, it’s done. Lastly, top with some fresh ground salt and pepper to taste and voila, you’re ready to eat!Serves two.