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To try this technique for great fried rice, click here.
It was the end of the week, and my turn to cook was coming up. Somehow I'd managed to miss groceries (there's a good possibility I was asleep or catching up on Dexter when everybody else was actually running errands), leaving me utterly unprepared. But I had to provide for my housemates, my sweet, hungry little housemates! What to do? It was time to scour our kitchen.
We'd talked occasionally about skipping groceries one week and trying to use up all the food in our cupboards, but the idea was never quite appealing (although we've subsisted on frozen and canned foods when we haven't been able to get a lift to the supermarket). But if we'd even considered the idea, there had to be enough for me to make something. It had worked out okay with my spur-of-the-moment acorn squash, after all.
There was an overabundance of rice in our house, so my first thought was to incorporate that. I was also lucky that a dinner earlier in the week had resulted in a good deal of leftover chicken. Time to check the vegetable crisper. Some highly questionable cucumbers, a soggy looking tomato and--asparagus! Okay. Rice, chicken, and asparagus. I briefly considered just pushing it all onto a plate and hoping my friends would be satisfied but decided to just flip through a cookbook--in particular, one of the Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast books, an invaluable part of our slight collection--on the off chance inspiration would hit.
Bingo. Thank God. I no longer had to fear a lukewarm reaction to leftovers and boiled asparagus, the would-be result of my poor planning. Fried rice would now see me through this week's dinner.
A little more searching and I came up with an onion, garlic, a slightly shriveled but still respectable piece of ginger, a bag of frozen peas, and a couple of eggs. We were in business (of a sort, anyway). From there on out, it became relatively easy. I diced up a whole onion and minced some garlic, cooking them in a little vegetable oil until they just became translucent and fragrant. In went minced ginger, followed by the shredded chicken, and then finally the thawed frozen peas and diced asparagus (following a quick boil, so it was tender but still crisp).
After all of that had cooked together I slid the mixture out of the skillet and into a medium-large bowl (one nice thing about this recipe was that it only took one skillet and one bowl--very minimal cleanup). With the skillet back on the stove I added more oil and scrambled the eggs with a little salt and pepper, stirring them constantly to get that almost stringy, slightly undercooked texture and appearance anyone who's eaten any fried rice or Thai noodle dish is probably familiar with. They went into the bowl with everything else.
The recipe called for cold rice, but our fridge runs a little too cold, so I actually had to quickly microwave my leftovers before I could even break it up to put into the skillet. Finally in it went with some soy sauce (you can keep using oil, according to the recipe, but I wanted my fried rice brown and salty). It took a while to get everything coated with sauce, but I definitely did not want a clump of chilly plain rice showing up in there. After that I let it sit, crisping it up before stirring it once more and adding it to the bowl with the chicken, vegetables and eggs. A quick mix and it was all done.
Overall, the rice was a good dish--creamy and safe in a comfort food kind of way, but with some unusual flavors and textures. The fresh asparagus and peas contrasted nicely with the chewy rice, in addition to providing color. The sweet, soft onions and the eggs and chicken rounded out the dish and really made it a complete meal. It may have been a little salty, so those who are not so inclined might want to cut down on the salt in the seasoning or leave out the soy sauce. Luckily my housemates share my love of sodium.
Four somewhat overflowing bowls of fried rice later, my housemates and I were satisfied, and I had escaped persecution for my last-minute meal.
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