01 October 2012

Eats: fried rice

This past weekend I talked to my mom on the phone (a rarity, as I loathe the phone!) and she said that she could tell I’d been busy because she reads my blog. Wha huh? I seem busy... from the blog? The blog is totally my happy not-busy place! No, the blog is where I don’t describe the sixty to seventy hour weeks I’m pulling for my J-O-B. This makes me seem busy? Oh dear. You have no idea.

I’m getting home late nowadays, is where I’m going with this.

And yet I am still trying to cook dinner daily! Oh, I fail sometimes. There was one week that Mr. P had to get takeout not once, not twice, but three times because I couldn’t get home before 7PM to even start cooking the ridiculously complicated meal I’d planned for that day. But I’m getting better at it! Not by coming home earlier, no, but by remembering to plan meals that come together quickly.

And today is one of the quickest quick meals you’ll ever make. Seriously, it’s almost as fast as toasting a sandwich and definitely faster than baking a frozen pizza. And it’s something we ordered for takeout anyway for ten times the cost: fried rice!

Well, if fried rice is so great, Sarah, how come you didn’t make it those three nights instead of takeout? Simple: I didn’t have leftover rice. You need leftover rice for fried rice. Perhaps stored half-heartedly not in actual storage containers, but rather just in the rice cooker bowl itself.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be literally leftover. You could just make it a day in advance. I’d have done that except I was brain-dead from the work week. So I guess this comes together quickly with a tiny amount of foresight... or just the realization that you have leftover rice to use up somehow.

Why the insistence on leftover? You want it to be dry and clumpy. It fries up better that way, promise!

(Have you realized yet that I took these photos back in the old house? Gosh, I miss my neutral countertops and through understanding of the room’s lighting.)

Okay! So once you’ve made rice a day in advance for some reason or other, it’s time to fry it up! But before you toss the rice in the skillet, first brown some garlic and onion over medium heat in a few tablespoons of sesame oil mixed with vegetable oil.

Burning optional. Oops.

Of course, if you’re me, you use the jarred minced garlic and the dried minced onion. Because it is easy and easy is all I care about nowadays!

Then add more sesame/vegetable oil, turn the heat up, and add the rice and lots of soy sauce. Lots and lots and lots of soy sauce. I never measure, I just add and toss it around until it’s “fried rice color”.

If you’re a pro, you can shake in a bit of red wine vinegar and fish sauce too, but honestly I’m not sure if I can tell a difference in the flavor. Oh, and skip the salt (the soy sauce is certainly salty enough) but do add black and/or red pepper to taste.

Final tip: Do not mistake the bottle of Worchestershire sauce for soy sauce. Not that I would know from personal experience! I just IMAGINE that it is the most horrible tasting thing ever conceived in my kitchen oh my gahhhh.

Easy enough so far? Good, now it’s time to get fancy with our super-fast dinner. Scooch the rice over to one side, turn the heat back down to medium-low, and add MORE OIL. We’re mimicking greasy Chinese takeout, after all.

While the pan is cooling a bit, crack an egg and scramble it in a separate bowl.

Then, carefully, pour it into the skillet!

It’s important to turn the heat down so you don’t burn the egg! Basically you want to cook a little egg-pancake in the skillet with the rice. Once the bottom of the egg is set, flip it over to finish cooking while breaking it up into little chunks.

Voila! You can add more protein to make it more main-dishy if you want, like chicken or beef or tofu. But you should probably cook it separately, unless you work at Benihana and are a genius expert hibachi chef.

And speaking of cooking separately, as I fried the rice, I was simultaneously boiling some frozen mixed veggies in salted water. Our Kroger (waahhh I miss you Kroger) didn’t sell peas and carrots for some reason, just peas and carrots AND corn AND green beans. Close enough!

Ta-da! Really, that’s it! Garlic and onion, sesame and vegetable oil, rice, soy sauce, and pepper are all you really need. Red wine vinegar and fish sauce pep it up, and egg and veggies make it a (simple) main dish. Make it your own with some meat, diced red bell pepper, water chesnuts, edamame, mushrooms... whatever you happen to have laying around your house a half-hour before it’s dinnertime! Enjoy it during your next 70-hour workweek!