Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Repurposing Leftovers: Trash Fried Rice

I had a reader request recently (I know!) for a post on ideas for reusing leftovers.  Yes, there have been many times in my past where I was perfectly content to eat spaghetti bolognese or black bean quesadillas five nights a week, but I like to think that my palate has sophisticated to the point or requiring a bit more day-to-day variation.  Fortunately, this doesn't have to take any more time than reheating a meat sauce, and as an added bonus you don't have to scrape red sauce off of every surface in the microwave.

By boiling up a big pot of staple ingredients that take some time to cook (rice, pasta, beans, etc.), you can mix and match with different flavors throughout the week with just the time of a 10-minute stir fry.  Every time I make some meal with multiple components, I tend to keep them separate as leftovers for this very purpose.  Starches also tend to keep better when they are on their own without being left to soak up juices and get mushy.

So, it's in this vein that I present fried rice, the first of a lazy series of repurposing leftovers as I have them.  You really need leftover rice for this recipe (or better yet, rice that's sat in the pot/cooker overnight to dry out), and it is incredibly easy, filling, and delicious.  Also completely customizable to whatever you happen to have in the fridge.  Not authentic at all of course, but it uses one pot instead of the nonsense of cooking everything individually - perfect for a quick midweek meal.

And in the interest of full disclosure, this picture is of pearled barley and not rice, but the barley actually holds up to the frying pan a bit better than rice does.  Who knew?

Trash Fried Rice

Serves 2-4
Total time: <15 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 onion, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small knob ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon 5-spice powder (optional)
  • 1 cup protein, diced (tofu, beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, anything that won't fall apart)
  • 1 cup vegetables, chopped (anything goes here, fresh/frozen/canned: peppers, broccoli, peas, mushrooms, green beans, cabbage, greens, shredded carrots, celery)
  • 2 cups dryish cooked rice (white, brown, jasmine, or pearled barley)*
  • 2-3 tablespoons salty sauce (soy, fish, teriyaki, or oyster)
  • 1-2 tablespoons wine (Chinese, white, or cooking sherry) or water
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
  • chopped scallions, peanuts, and cilantro (optional garnishes)

Heat oil in a heavy pan over medium heat.  Cook sliced onion until softened (about 5 minutes) and add garlic, ginger, and 5-spice (if using).  Add protein and cook until lightly browned (another few minutes).

Add vegetables and cook for a few minutes until softened (if using fresh veg, just heat through if it is frozen or canned).  Stir in rice until well mixed, breaking up any clumps with a spoon.   Make a well in the center of the pan** and add the salty sauces, wine/water, and Sriracha (if using).  Quickly mix the sauces together with a spoon and then distribute throughout the rice mixture.  Cook for another few minutes until the liquid is evaporated or absorbed.

Remove pan from heat, drizzle with sesame oil, and add garnishes as desired.

* As a lighter variation with the same bulk, substitute half or 2/3 of the rice with shredded cabbage.

** You can also crack an egg in the well at this point, but scramble it in the space briefly before mixing in with the rice.


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