What should or can you cook when the closest you’ve come to the stove is turning on the stove light on a late, dark, insomnia-laden night? Stir-fry. Really. You can. You should.
How do I know? I was 22 years old, standing in front of the stove in our first apartment, when my boyfriend (now husband) said, “You need to learn (to cook). It’s a matter of survival. Anyone can stir-fry.” (Sorry if you were expecting a romantic moment in the kitchen. The only time you’ll find candlelight between us – bingo – when there’s a power outage.) He really did say “survival.” Dramatic, I still think. But I got the point. I couldn’t eat in a dining hall, sorority house, or restaurant for the rest of my life. Over-priced and over-greased foods are not long-term solutions.
So I learned to cook via stir-frys. I learned how to season meat. I learned that I wouldn’t faint touching and cutting up raw meat. (That was a hard one. I bought surgical gloves for my first encounter. No joke.) It wasn’t always pretty, as you can imagine. But FHE was supportive and ate every over-salted, under-salted, overcooked, and/or undercooked meal I prepared. In the first few years, 99% of our meals were stir-fries. They were simple, versatile, convenient, and reliable.
Fast-forward through years of working, graduate school, and starting a family. The boyfriend-turned-husband is still here. And so are the stir-frys. In fact, when in doubt or when pressed for time, I stir-fry. They are well-balanced, healthy, quick to prepare and clean-up, and (best of all) the perfect way to use up leftover ingredients. The hardest part of preparing this dish is emptying the mountain of food from your frying pan into a serving dish!
Stir-Fry Fried Rice
You can serve the dish over rice or pasta. Or you can mix your choice of starch into the cooking process for fried rice or fried pasta (I guess that’s what you’d call it). Tonight, Rice Kernel requested fried rice, so that’s what I’ve posted here. We typically add eggs in our fried rice, but omit it for stir-fries. (Rice Kernel doesn’t like eggs. This is one recipe where I can sneak it into his diet.)
- 2-3 cups vegetables of your choice (onions, carrots, cabbage, sugar snap peas, scallions, frozen mixes, etc.)
1 1/2 cups protein (sliced beef, chicken, shrimp, ham, tofu, egg)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound of pasta or 1 1/2 cups rice (white or brown rice)
2-3 tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp scallion, chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
freshly ground pepper
chili flakes (optional)
- Prepare noodles or rice according to directions. (I often cook my rice in chicken stock for added flavor. If you are preparing a stir-fry of vegetables and meat over rice, freshly-prepared rice is fine. However, for fried rice, leftover rice is more ideal. Freshly-cooked rice is often too moist, leading to a mushier final product.)
- Marinate meat, if necessary, and either slice or chop into small pieces.
- Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add oil and stir-fry your protein until about 80-90% cooked (If using beef, until the redness in the meat is gone; or until chicken turns white). Remove and set aside.
- Add a few additional teaspoons of oil and scramble the eggs. Add the vegetables and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Then add cooked noodles or rice, along with the cooked protein and scallion.
- Add soy sauce, sesame oil, freshly ground black pepper and chili flakes (optional). Cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Adjust seasonings as necessary and serve.
Note: Many Asian recipes call for oyster sauce. It’s a great flavor enhancer but, over the years, I’ve read reports that the product contains high levels of chloropropanols and/or other cancer-causing ingredients. Based on that concern, I omit it from my cooking entirely. Our stir-fries and fried rice dishes are just as flavorful without it, I think.