Today, let's talk about the color brown. Generally speaking, brown is under-appreciated. Brown food can look unappetizing, like certain brown meats coated in a brown starchy gravy-like sauce. There's nothing delicious about a uniformly brown colored meal. But oh, add bits of green and red. Add texture. Have extra brown caramelized bits. Heck, even have some burnt bits, and now you're really cooking.
My friend ACB and I were recently talking about attention to detail in cooking. Oftentimes, I find myself most impressed and surprised with dishes that have an extra oomph. When sauteed onions are left still in the pan, just long enough to have crisp edges, or when vegetables are cooked perfectly crisp tender, or when something seemingly as bland as a potato is so well seasoned and chopped, that every bite is consistently flavorful. These are the steps that are often not included in a recipe, but make a world of difference.
The easiest thing to do with leftover rice is to make fried rice. Because there are absolutely no rules as to what you need to add, I ended up dividing the recipe into the essentials (what you need in every fried rice dish) and the extras (additional vegetables that you can add if you have them on hand). They are as follows:
- 1 or 2 eggs, beaten
- rice (I used brown), cooked according to package
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 stalks scallions, chopped
- wok, vegetable, or olive oil, with preference in that order. (If you have wok oil, use it, if not, use vegetable, if not use olive)
Additional Vegetables (use one, all, or a combination of any):
- chili peppers, chopped or sliced. I used Thai Bird Chilis
- 1 medium sized carrot, julienned or shredded
- frozen edamame
- shredded cabbage
- frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
Here you can see that I have my shredded cabbage, chilis, and lots of scallions.
If you have a wok, feel free to use this. I didn't, and had a small amount of rice, so I used my ever trusty cast iron pan. Be sure that your pan can withstand high heats and is large enough to accommodate all of your ingredients. Else, the dish will turn out soggy instead of crispy. The entire cooking process takes only about 6-8 minutes.
First, prepare all your vegetables and have them ready for adding. Then, heat up the pan until the oil is shimmering hot. Working quickly, scramble the egg on one side of the pan. On the other side, add the rice, breaking up any stuck pieces as necessary. Try to leave the rice still, but work the egg so that it does not burn. As it cooks, move it on top of the rice so that it is not directly touching the pan. Then add your vegetables. Since I wanted my cabbage to brown a bit, I added them to the hottest part of the pan, spread them out, and let them be. Sprinkle on top any additional vegetables, peppers, and half the scallions, like pictured:
After about 1 minute of letting the pan be, add in your soy sauce and sesame oil. You can now start moving the rice around so that all of it combines nicely. As you stir the pan, try to scrape up any brown bits at the bottom. Remember, brown bits equal flavor!
When the fried rice has mixed, I turn off the heat because it will continue cooking due to the heaviness of the pan. Let the rice sit for 1 more minute, so that the bottom pieces of rice get a tiny bit crusty and caramelized from the soy sauce we added. Add the other half of the chopped scallions.