Fried rice is occasionally acceptable to my little rice monsters. They eat white rice without hesitation, which leaves me a lot of leftover rice. Fried rice is the perfect way to use those leftovers…but kids are fickle. Sometimes the bowl is scraped clean; other times they won't go near it.
*Now, when we go to our local Hibachi restaurant, they insist on having fried rice. Do I need a floor show? Flipping spatulas in the air, juggling eggs, causing large sake flare-ups in my wok? No way that can end badly, right?
Pam Anderson's fried rice formula in Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals jumped out at me. It's a great refrigerator velcro technique - I had rice, eggs, some Asian pantry items, and a bunch of fall vegetables from my CSA. Fennel and Carrot fried rice, here we come!
Pam had an interesting technique in the recipe. Chinese restaurants keep a large pot of boiling water on the stove right next to their wok, to par-boil firm vegetables before finishing them in the wok. Pam's insight was to pre-steam those firm vegetables - carrots, broccoli, asparagus - in ⅓ cup of water as the first step in the recipe. This is a great idea for a home cook making a weeknight stir-fry, and a technique I'll be using often.
Recipe: Weeknight Fried Rice
Adapted From: Pam Anderson Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals
Cook time: 20 minutes
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thin
- ⅓ cup water
- ½ teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon plus 3 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
- 6 eggs
- 1 medium onion, halved, each half cut into 8 wedges
- 1 large bulb fennel, stalks and fronds removed, sliced thin
- 3 scallions, white part cut into 1 inch pieces, green part sliced thin
- 1 large clove garlic, smashed
- 1" piece ginger, smashed
- 4 cups cooked rice
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1. Prep the vegetables and eggs: Prep the vegetables - slice the carrots, onion, fennel, and scallions; smash the garlic and ginger. Whisk the eggs with ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt until scrambled.
2. Pre-steam the carrots: Combine the carrots, ⅓ cup water, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in a 14 inch wok or 12 inch nonstick fry pan. Cover the wok and heat over medium-high heat until steam starts escaping around the edge of the lid. Steam the carrots for three minutes, then transfer to a bowl.
3. Scramble the eggs: Wipe the wok out with a paper towel. Swirl 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil into the wok, then add the eggs. Cook, scrambling and flipping, until the eggs are just set, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to cut the eggs into bite sized pieces, then transfer to a plate.
4. Stir fry the vegetables: Increase the heat to high, and let the wok heat up for 1 minute. Swirl 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil into the wok. Add the onion, and stir fry until spotty brown and tender at the edges (crisp-tender), about 2 minutes. Transfer the onions to the bowl with the carrots. Swirl in 1 teaspoon of the peanut oil and add the white part of the scallions, garlic and ginger. Fry until you smell garlic, about 10 seconds. Immediately add the fennel and stir fry until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and onions back to the wok, and stir fry until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer the vegetables back to the bowl.
5. Fry the rice: Let the pan reheat for about 1 minute, then swirl in the remaining 3 tablespoons of peanut oil. Add the rice and stir fry, breaking up clumps of rice, until all the rice looks glossy and is heated through, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vegetables to the rice and stir to combine. Add the remaining scallions, drizzle in the soy sauce and sesame oil, and stir and toss the rice until it is evenly coated with soy sauce. Serve.
* Change up the vegetables. The original technique is designed to use a pound of whatever vegetables are on hand. I used carrots and fennel; almost any vegetable can replace them. Bell pepper strips, green beans, cabbage, asparagus, broccoli, radishes… The recipe is best with two different add-in vegetables, about 8 ounces of each, cut into thin slices or diced. If it's a firm vegetable, treat it like the carrots and pre-steam it. If not, treat it like the fennel and add it after the onions.
* In the original, Pam stir-fries an 8 ounce block of tofu, diced and marinated in soy sauce. I didn't have any tofu on hand, so I skipped that step, and upped the number of eggs. If you want to add tofu, stir-fry it after the scrambled eggs, reserve on a plate, and add it back in with the eggs.
* If you didn't want a vegetarian recipe, you could substitute 8 ounces of any protein for the tofu. I like to use up a leftover pork chop this way - dice it up, stir fry it to give it a crisp crust, then stir it in at the end.
* Another change from the original - Pam didn't scramble the eggs separately - she stirred them into the rice after it was heated through to cook them. My kids like big chunks of egg, so I always scramble them first.
* Unfortunately, this was one of those times the kids didn't eat much of the fried rice. I think I cut the onions too thick - something about the big hunks of onion turned them off. They picked the egg and rice out of the bowl, and pushed the vegetables to the side. My oldest watched me stir everything into the wok. Then he asked if we could do "build your own fried rice" next time, where he gets to pick and choose what he wants (rice, eggs) and leave everything else (all the vegetables, except maybe for a scallion slice).
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Pam Anderson Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals
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