Friday, February 01, 2008
Fried Rice Skips To the Dinner Table
THE MINIMALIST; Fried Rice Skips To the Dinner Table
By MARK BITTMAN
TO the list of dishes better prepared at home than elsewhere, please add fried rice. This afterthought of Chinese restaurants is almost as easily varied as pasta, and has one distinct advantage: It can be made with leftover rice.
In fact, it must be made with rice that has been previously prepared. The rice that comes with Chinese take-out is ideal. Just-made rice inevitably clumps, which is why so many novice cooks believe that well-made fried rice is somehow impossible to produce at home. But when cooked rice is chilled for a few hours, it dries out and can be stir-fried with a minimum of oil.
The rest of the process replicates a standard stir-fry. Choose your other ingredients -- vegetables, meat, fish, tofu -- in whatever combination you like and cook them one or two at a time, each in a little bit of oil (a nonstick pan is essential) over high heat, until they are pretty much done.
That task completed, add a bit more oil and the basic aromatics, like garlic and ginger, followed by the rice. When that is hot and glossy, you can add an egg or two if you like, return the cooked ingredients to the mix, and add soy sauce and other seasonings. The quality and freshness of the dish will be a revelation.
The choice of vegetables and other major ingredients is unlimited, but if you follow the proportions in the recipe here you will never go far wrong. But here are some points to consider:
I like peanut oil for stir-fries, but neutral oil like corn or grapeseed is also good.
No matter how much garlic and ginger you use, they should be cooked in the oil for no more than 30 seconds before adding the rice, or their flavor will become too mild.
You can scramble the eggs separately and cut them into the mix, which will produce the most recognizable bits of egg, or make a well in the rice and scramble them in that. You can also simply stir them into the rice mix, in which case they will act as a pleasing thickening and bonding agent.
Some liquid in addition to soy sauce is needed here. The most authentic choice is xiao shing wine, which is sold at most Chinese stores, and keeps nearly forever. But sherry or white wine make decent substitutes. Water works too, since there are plenty of flavors in this dish already.
FRIED RICE WITH PEAS AND CHICKEN
Time: 30 minutes
3 tablespoons peanut oil or neutral oil, like corn or canola
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 bell pepper, stemmed, cored and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped boneless chicken
1 cup peas (defrost if frozen)
1 tablespoon minced garlic, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced ginger, or to taste
3 to 4 cups cooked rice, cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup xiao shing wine, or sherry or white wine, or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced scallion or cilantro.
1. Put 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to high. A minute later, add onion and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove to a bowl.
2. Add chicken to skillet and cook over high heat, stirring infrequently, until nicely browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add to bowl with vegetables. Drain peas if necessary and add them to skillet; cook, shaking pan, for about a minute, or until hot. Add them to bowl.
3. Put remaining oil in skillet, followed by garlic and ginger. About 15 seconds later, add rice, a bit at a time, breaking up clumps with your fingers and tossing it with oil. When all rice is added, make a well in the center and break eggs into it; scramble them a bit, then incorporate into rice.
4. Return chicken and vegetables to skillet and stir to integrate. Add wine or water and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add soy sauce and sesame oil, then taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Turn off heat, stir in scallion or cilantro, and serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.