Using Leftovers Creatively as 'Simple Seconds': Stir Fry
'Simple Seconds' is a new weekly segment by Diane Dryden; former restaurant owner and caterer who's learned endless ways to use “creative cooking” whenever possible.
Here's The Challenge
A Piece of Leftover Meat
Stir-frying is one way a cook can take one pork chop, or chicken, or steak or s cup of leftover most any meat, adding vegetables and rice, and end up with a meal that serves at least three.
Begin by cutting the cooked meat into small pieces and set it aside.
The other important ingredients are celery, onion (bulb or long green ones) and carrots.
There are no exact proportions, add what you like or what you have, increasing or decreasing amounts, based on what you have in the fridge.
Eggs are definitely optional in this recipe, some people like them some don't. If you like them and have a few around, beat the eggs in a separate bowl and set aside.
Chop the onion, carrot, and celery and put together in the same bowl, or leave on the cutting board.
Have your vegetables, beaten eggs and meat ready in their own bowls ready to be grabbed for this fast-paced next step.
Before you begin stir-frying the ingredients, start your rice so everything will be ready at the same time.
You can use any rice you have in your cupboard, or if you're buying rice, treat yourself and save money by buying the raw rice in the bag. Not only is it cheaper, it takes only 15 to 20 minutes to fix. When you do this, the nutrition rice contains won't be lost in the commercial processing like the instant rice that comes in the box.
Remember the old couplet, “When making raw rice, water twice”. This means if you need 2 cups of finished rice, put 1 cup of the raw rice into a heavy pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stirring initially to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the rice boils, stir it one more time, put a lid on it and turn off the burner. It will steam itself until the rice grains have absorbed all the water. For instant rice, follow the package directions.
Also before you start stir-frying the main ingredients, measure a quarter of a cup of soy sauce and a quarter of a cup of water into a small bowl and add two tablespoons of cornstarch to the mixture. Set this aside also and remember to stir it just before adding it last.
Now to put it all together.
If you have a Wok, use it. If not, a large frying pan will do just as well.
Put about three tablespoons of vegetable oil in your pan and heat it until very hot. Carefully add all the vegetables at once, being careful not to spatter the grease on you, and continually stir them until they are crisp/tender. Push them up the sides of the pan and add the beaten eggs to the middle. Let them scramble and slowly mix them in with the vegetables.
Do the same thing for the meat, push the other ingredients to the side and put the meat in the middle to heat. After just a few minutes, mix everything together, push it to the side and pour in the premixed and recently stirred soy sauce mixture into the middle. Let it cook until starting to thicken and then mix everything together.
Remove the pan from the heat and at this point, you can add the cooked rice into the vegetable mixture or you can serve the mixture over the rice.
This recipe is for the basic Korean Fried Rice, but you can customize it even further by adding fresh pea pods, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, almonds or anything you think would be good in it and that you have in your cupboard.
REMEMBER, taste as you go, it will make all the difference in the finished product. If you have a new Wok, season it by adding a few tablespoons of oil and make it screaming hot. Carefully rotate the oil in the pan until the entire inside is coated. As the hot oil is swirled in the pan, it creates a type of non-stick finish. When you wash your Wok, don't scrub it with anything abrasive, thereby taking off the finish.
About Diane Dryden: When I was young my mother worked full time leaving my older sister and I to fend for ourselves. It wasn't as bad as it sounds because we lived in one of those old neighborhoods where every mother was your mother and they were all watching you.
It helped a lot that my grandparents lived next door.
Often I'd stop in and grandma would always ask, “Are you hungry?” I was age six and yes, I was always hungry.
She would open the fridge, look for a moment and then started to pull out various covered dishes full of leftovers.
She would have loved today's microwaves because way back then she used the same technique - get out a frying pan and put a little bit of each thing you wanted to eat in its own little section of the pan and let the stove do the rest.
It was always glorious, but then, it was Grandma.
I wasn't aware I did the same thing as my kids grew up, but they all credit me with the same refrigerator opening, the minutes of pondering and then the final creation.
All the recipes that will be in this new Simple Seconds segment will be just that, using leftovers creatively.
Owning a restaurant for four years and a catering service for twenty, I've also come up with interesting ways to re-purpose good food instead of dumping it out.
Using leftovers means there will be less food thrown away and your kids will never be able to find anyone who can replicate those creative childhood meals ever again.
Which may or may not be a good thing.