Cooking Down the Fridge: Inauthentic Fried Rice
Recently, someone criticized an old post of mine, calling my gado gado recipe “as authentic as General Tsao chicken.” Ouch. Except that I made no claims about authenticity, and when I made it again this week, it was delicious. Someday, perhaps I will comb the web for the bestest recipe there is before embarking on a three-hour dinner-making odyssey. I’ll make tortillas from scratch before collecting freshly laid eggs from my personal chickens for breakfast. Given my current life situation, I estimate this to be a possibility in the year 2032. Until then, the Moosewood Cookbook will do just fine.
So, all this is to say that if authenticity is what you seek STOP READING THIS POST RIGHT NOW. You will be only left bitter and disappointed.
Moving on. Growing up, we did not eat casseroles. My mom was raised in a family of six children with one income, so canned mushroom soup was a pantry staple. Tuna noodle casserole, chicken a la king, chicken pot pie, the iterations of the creamy baked dishes were endless. As a result, my mom was rendered unable to eat another casserole once she began her own household. And as a result of that, I never got into the whole casserole scene. Without a cream sauce and puff pastry crust, though, what was I to do with my leftovers?
Half a block of tofu, some dried out rice and whitish looking baby carrots can stare me down from the fridge, and I can confidently stare right back thanks to one secret weapon: fried rice. At least once a week, usually on the day that a tenuous nap situation has left my nerves ragged, I fire up the cast iron skillet (that’s right, I don’t even use a wok —culinary sacrilege, I know) and get to work emptying out the fridge in search of dinner.
Here’s what usually transpires:
1. Heat about 4 T of vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet until water flicked on the top bounces off.
2. Add 1 c. cubed tofu, 2 T. chopped fresh ginger, 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 small diced white onion, and four generous shakes of Chinese Five Spice. Let all that cook, using a spatula periodically to avoid sticking, for 5-10 minutes, until the tofu is crispy around the edges.
3. Add whatever leftover rice I can find, usually between 2 and 4 cups, as well as any vegetables that are around. Some possibilities are carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots or peas.
4. Stir in some soy sauce. Recently, I received a sample of Bibigo Korean BBQ Sauce from CJ Foods, so I’ve taken to using that. It has a teriyaki-like sweetness that works well with the flavor melange that is my fried rice. Apparently it can also be used as a marinade, but since we rarely eat meat, it works well as a mix-in for me.
5. Once the whole delicious mess is heated through and sizzling, I add a couple of eggs and stir them in until they are cooked.
Ta-da! Dinner is done. I have no doubt that at that point, Mao himself is rolling over in his grave. But until he volunteers to come over and cook dinner, or console a koala-ing toddler while I grind my own spice blend, all I can say is – too bad.
ESers: what’s your go-to cooking down the fridge meal?