Thursday, August 28, 2008

Funked-up Fried Rice: How to screw with tradition

Last week, one of my favorite cooking websites, Simply Recipes, posted a piece about how to make the perfect Shrimp Fried Rice. The tantalizing picture and description left an indelible impression -- I knew I had to make (and consume) fried rice before I spontaneously combusted from soy sauce lust.

During college, fried rice used to be one of my staple dinners. It was fast, easy, nutritious, and most importantly, cheap. It also served me well during my years as an assistant in the entertainment industry. Since I typically got off work after 7 pm, making runs to the grocery store for fresh chicken breasts or salmon steaks just wasn't an option. More often than not, I would happily settle for eggs as my primary source of protein.

When I switched fields this past fall, and suddenly had more time to spend cooking and grocery shopping, my fried rice dinner lost some of its appeal. Getting home at 6 pm meant I could spend an hour making chicken risotto or chicken Marsala -- and still be settled down on the couch by 8 pm for the newest episode of "Gossip Girl." Why bother with boring old fried rice when I could be digging into succulent pieces of chicken and roasted shallots instead?

Elise's post reminded me that not every meal has to be either extravagant or frozen (like my Thursday night ritual). There is a middle ground. There is fried rice.

While a Chinese Grandma would cry foul at my version of fried rice, my Americanized tongue finds it more than acceptable. It takes what can be an oil-laden nutritional disaster, and transforms it into a healthy weeknight dinner that doesn't require a single trip to the meat counter. (Unless the butcher is really cute and the eggs are located nearby.)

Ingredients (for 1 serving):

1/4 cup short grain brown rice
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Sugar snap peas
Broccoli florets
1/3 cup edamame, shelled and cooked according to directions on package
1 egg
Soy sauce, to taste
Sesame oil
Red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Soy Vey Veri-Teri Teriyaki Sauce
Slivered almonds, toasted (optional)

1. Cook brown rice according to preference, using either chicken broth, water, or a little of both. I prefer using a combination and generally stick with the 1 part rice, 2 parts liquid ratio. In this case, it would be 1/2 cup liquid. If at all possible, cook the rice the day before to allow it time to dry out, but it's really not going to break the dish too badly if the rice is fresh. (Doubters can refer to the picture above -- does that look like a mushy mess? I should most definitely think not!)

2. Heat sesame oil in saucepan over medium temp (to prevent the oil from burning). Saute onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, and then add the broccoli, sugar snap peas and teriyaki sauce. Do not overcook. Remove the vegetables while they are still crisp.

3. Fry the egg separately. When it is still slightly runny, but mostly cooked, return the vegetables to the pan and add in the rest of the ingredients -- the edamame, rice, red pepper, red pepper flakes.

4. Add soy sauce to taste. I typically go with 1 tablespoon, but some people may found that to be too much of a sodium overload and/or are concerned about their husbands' blood pressure, like Betty on "Mad Men." I don't have a husband and I don't have high blood pressure (I don't think), so I am fine and dandy to make my arteries do a little extra work.

5. Stir everything together until ingredients are well-combined and sizzling hot. Plate and sprinkle optional toasted slivered almonds over the top.

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