It appears that my fridge may not yet have finished messing with me. Despite my (and let’s not forget Fridge Guy’s) best efforts, and this time without any loud grinding noises to signal its disaffection, it is once again getting ominously temperate inside the main compartment. In keeping with its earlier efforts, this second round of symptoms also began to manifest late on Saturday afternoon, with the extra added bonus that it’s a holiday weekend in Australia. (It’s the Queen’s Birthday. Who knew? They don’t even get a holiday in England for that.)
As I contemplate another round of frantically attempting to eat everything in my fridge before it begins to resemble a series of particularly hideous lab experiments, it occurs to me that now might be a good time to make some fried rice for dinner. Possibly the most useful vehicle for leftovers known to frugal and/or desperate cooks, fried rice is infinitely versatile. You can use raw or cooked ingredients, or a combination of both. You can make it vegetarian, or a carnivore’s delight. You can take it in any Asian direction you fancy, or you could even get really crazy and make, say, Italian fried rice (olive oil, pesto, cheese?). Pretty much the only ingredient you must have on hand is a couple of cups of cold, cooked rice. The rest of it is open to taste, interpretation, and what’s closest to going off in your fridge.
Inauthentic fried rice
Inauthentic because not necessarily what you would want to serve if hoping to impress your guests with classical Asian cuisine; but I bet many an Asian cook prepares something along these lines for an inexpensive, filling, and tasty meal. I always use this basic method, even though the ingredients vary wildly from one batch to the next:
1. Heat up some oil in a pan that will allow you to stir everything vigorously without throwing it all over the stove. A wok is optimal if you have one; I don’t, so I use a large Le Creuset casserole pan. Turn the heat up as high as you dare.
2. When the oil is hot, add some sliced member of the onion family (regular onions, scallions/spring onions/shallots, etc.). If you’re going for Thai flavorings for your fried rice, add a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar now, too. If you’re going for hot and spicy, also add some chopped fresh chili, ginger, etc. at this point. Cook, stirring continuously, until the onions start to soften.
3. Add whatever raw ingredients you’re using, starting with the one that will take longest to cook (carrots, for example). Continue stirring.
4. When these ingredients are well on their way to being cooked, dump in the cold, cooked rice. Stir to combine everything.
5. Add your sauce of choice. (Again, for a Thai-flavored dish, I use two parts each soy sauce and lime juice to one part fish sauce.) More stirring.
6. Add any cooked ingredients to warm through for a couple of minutes, still stirring.
7. Taste to adjust seasonings, add any garnishes, and serve immediately.
Things to add to fried rice
- Carnivorous protein: leftover chicken, beef, pork; bacon
- Pesco-ovo-vegetarian protein: leftover fish; shrimp; eggs (beat and cook as for scrambled eggs in an uncluttered bit of the pan at step 3; then chop and mix in as you stir); tofu; tempeh
- Vegetables: broccoli; cauliflower; carrots; zucchini; mushrooms; red pepper; green beans; snow peas; leafy greens of any kind (listed in my roughly estimated order of longest to shortest cooking time for raw, at step 2, or cooked, in any order, at step 6)
- Garnishes: chopped nuts (also counts as protein!) or fresh herbs (cilantro/coriander, Thai basil)