Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fried Rice

Fried rice is so often overlooked.  That's not to say that people don't like it, but in my experience, it's generally relegated to the position of side-dish to more exciting menu options when we order Chinese.  This is an injustice!  Fried rice is fully capable of being a meal all by itself, not just a side dish or vehicle for leftovers.  This is a home-made fried rice dish with plenty of stuff in it to keep it interesting, filling, and delicious.

The most important base ingredient is pre-cooked rice.  If you try to make fried rice out of freshly-cooked rice, you'll end up with a big pile of moosh - no good.  You need to give the rice at least a couple of hours to release all of its excess moisture, preferably overnight in the fridge.

I marinated my chicken in a simple mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and lime juice, and the flavor was great.  Since you'll be cooking rice and throwing it in the fridge the night before, why not chop the chicken and marinate it at the same time?

As for the rest, you'll need some eggs, plenty of frozen vegetables, some pineapple, garlic, soy (or Tamari) sauce, and cooking oil.

I use a cast-iron skillet throughout this recipe - there are a number of reasons you might do otherwise.  First, if you have a good gas stove and own a wok, that's the ideal way to do fried rice.  My little electric stove just can't keep a wok hot enough to do it right, so I went for the cast iron.

Second, if your cast iron isn't sufficiently well-seasoned, eggs will stick to it like glue - you might consider a nonstick pan for the eggs.

Start by cooking your eggs.  Add lightly-beaten eggs to a skillet over medium heat, add a bit of salt and pepper, and let cook a minute or two undisturbed.  Set finished eggs aside for later.

Scramble the eggs and cook until done, taking care not to overcook.

Increase heat to medium-high, add a bit of cooking oil, and saute the chicken with some minced garlic until cooked through.  If you marinated it, there's no need to add anything more than a dash of salt and pepper at this stage.  If you're starting from plain chicken, you'll want to add some soy sauce at this point.

Set cooked chicken aside.

You probably still have plenty of oil in the pan from the chicken - if not, make sure there's 1-2 tablespoons in the bottom of the pan, then add just enough rice to form a single, thin layer.  Take care not to overcrowd the pan - you'll end up repeating this step and the next several times until you're out of rice.

Let cook 2-3 minutes, then stir and continue cooking an additional couple of minutes until the rice has crisped up somewhat and taken on some color.

Add some frozen vegetables and some soy sauce to the rice.  Continue cooking, stirring often, until the vegetables are hot and tender.  Remove everything from the pan into a serving dish, add fresh oil to the pan, and continue frying the rice and adding vegetables until you've used everything up.

Once all of the rice is fried, drain your pineapple well and add it to a hot pan.  Keep it moving to make sure it doesn't burn, and cook until you've put some color on it.  This will take care of some of that "canned" flavor.  You can use fresh pineapple, too, of course - but chances are there's some canned pineapple in your pantry right now, and that will work just fine.

Finally, mix everything together!  If things have been sitting for a while because you're making a lot, add things back to the pan to heat back up as you mix.

Serve hot - all by itself.  The dish can be a fine side or addition to another meal, but come on - isn't it time to give fried rice the spotlight for once?  It's tasty enough to do the job.

Recipe: Fried Rice
Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 20-30 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 4-6

  • 1 lb Chicken Breast, chopped
  • 6 cups Cooked Rice
  • 1 bag Frozen Mixed Vegetables (Carrots, corn, green beans)
  • 1 bag Frozen Broccoli
  • 1 can Pineapple Tidbits, drained
  • 2 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • Vegetable Oil for frying
  • Soy Sauce to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Optional: Marinate chicken overnight in soy sauce, sesame oil, and lime juice.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, scramble eggs.  Set aside.
  3. Add 2 tbsp vegetable oil to pan and increase to medium-high heat.  Saute chicken with minced garlic until cooked through.  Set aside.
  4. Add rice to oiled pan no more than 2 cups at a time in a single layer.  Cook 2-3 minutes, stir, and cook 2-3 more minutes.
  5. Add 1-2 cups frozen vegetables to rice.  Add soy sauce to taste.  Continue to cook, stirring often, until vegetables are hot and tender.
  6. Set aside finished rice.  Repeat steps 4-5 until all rice and vegetables are cooked.
  7. Add pineapple to hot pan and saute 4-5 minutes until hot and slightly charred.  Set aside.
  8. Combine rice mixture, cooked chicken, eggs, and pineapple.  Mix well and add additional soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.

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