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Friday, September 10, 2010

Pork Fried Rice

And you thought take-out was cheap:

If I've said it once I've said it a hundred times: Chinese food is much more than a meal. In a way, getting late-night delivery is a coming of age. Other than a few high school dates I came from a "strictly-pizza" sort of family that rarely did delivery. Unsurprisingly, Chinese food became a pillar of my college experience. It was the last supper of my freshman year, the traditional post fencing tournament team dinner and the Friday night date of my senior year.

After all, takeout is a no-brainer, right? The only real question you have to ask yourself is this: beef, chicken or pork. Luckily, making fried rice at home takes the guess work out of it. By using whatever left-over meat and veggies you've got from earlier this week you'll clean your plate as well as your fridge. I don't relish handling raw meat so making something meaty and juicy once in a week is enough. Tuesday night I tried my hand at pork loins and I'll be blunt, I overcooked them. They were somewhere between cafeteria pork chops and shoe leather.

But, the beauty of cooking at home is that it provides endless opportunities to re-make meals, regardless of if the first round was a flop. In this case I used one of two left-over pork loins and a cup or so of steamed broccoli from earlier this week. Pairing the pork with the 2 cups of white rice I had intended for rice pudding and a fresh carton of eggs was the perfect quick fix. This dish is so simple I cooked it after work in about 15 minutes before a babysitting stint at our neighbors. Compared to the typically long wait for delivery this home-made version of pork fried rice provides almost instant gratification. Tragically, I didn't have time to grab some scallions from the market on my way home but with some thready scrambled egg and an extra drizzle of sesame oil I wasn't complaining.

Notes: Don't use fresh rice when making fried rice. My rice was two or three days old but even rice from the night before would work; it is important that the rice hardens a little so it soaks up the sauce and gets that beautiful crispy golden color. Since you can substitute whatever meat you have on hand for the pork and broccoli there is no earthly reason why you need to go out to buy the ingredients for this dish (that is unless you are totally out of all things edible in which case you've got the delivery guy on speed-dial). But, if you're in the mood for pork fried rice you can always buy a few thick slices of ham (not lunch meat) from your deli and use that just as easily. Also, relax. You don't need to stir your rice constantly; let it get a little crusty and soak up some color.

Recipe inspiration from blogchef.net and steamykitchen
Makes 2 cups

2 cups cold, day(s)-old rice
1 tablespoon veggie oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh garlic)
1 cup pre-cooked broccoli florets
1/2 cup chopped pre-cooked pork (loin, chop or chicken/beef is fine)
2 scallions, green only sliced thinly
2 eggs

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the veggie oil and then the two cups of rice. Don't panic, the rice will pop and spit a little oil. Don't lower the heat (unless your pan starts to smoke) or stir the rice immediately.
2. Chop your meat and veggies and set aside.
3. Stir the rice and cook for another 2 minutes, breaking up any stubborn lumps. Add the sesame oil and soy sauce quickly followed by your garlic salt (or fresh garlic), meat and veggies.
4. Heat everything through, tossing to coat. If you're using fresh garlic you may want to toss it a little more frequently to keep it from burning and turning bitter.
5. When the rice is toasted and has soaked up the sauce remove it to your serving dish(es). Lower the heat. Take the pan off the heat for a few seconds to bring down the temperature.
6. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk. Add to the pan you just cooked your rice in and scramble, stirring frequently until totally cooked through and dry.
7. Stir the eggs into the rice and top with the scallions. Serve with a little extra soy sauce for drizzling.

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