Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fried Rice

Chinese Sausage Fried Rice with Vegetables
I love making fried rice because it's quick to cook, which is a definitely plus for a busy weeknight, it's a great way to use up leftovers, but best of all, it's my clever way to sneaking vegetables into Steven's diet. There, I said it! :) If I took carrots, chopped them up, and stir fried them, Steven wouldn't touch that with a ten foot pole. But there are no complaints once the little cubes are tucked into fluffy rice coated with sausage or duck fat. Not only do different vegetables make the rice look bright and colorful, but they make the dish healthier too! See? Win win! It's not an evil plan. Though I think Steven is on to me now! Today I even snuck in some crownless broccoli stems that have been sitting in the veggie drawer for who knows how long. In the past I've added everything from salted mustard greens to corn. Now peas are something I can't get away with because Steven hates them (he hates tomatoes too! *waits for the collective gasp of the audience*). But you know, I think he just hates frozen peas because honestly, those are nasty and mushy, so I'll have to try adding with fresh peas. I don't think anyone can resist the sweetness of fresh peas. Mua hahaha!

Everyone make fried rice a little differently. It's usually made with soy sauce, which provides the salty, savory flavor and brown color. Steven's mom, however, hates dark fried rice so she uses only salt to flavor her rice, but I think this is much too boring. Jaden's secret ingredient is fish sauce, which helps to boost the umami flavor. I like to use oyster sauce for both its umami flavor and the color it gives to the finished dish. It's saltier than soy sauce so you don't need to use as much to flavor the whole dish so the rice ends up being a light golden brown instead of a dark brown.

This time I used Chinese sausage, but in the past I've used leftover ham, Chinese bbq pork, and even shrimp and tofu. For an extra special treat, my favorite fried rice is made with leftover Chinese roast duck and cooked in duck fat. I usually try to add a carrot and today I used some broccoli stems, or as I like to call them, heart of broccoli. Makes them sound so much more attractive don't you think? Like heart of palm. After cutting off the broccoli crowns I know a lot of people throw away the stems but you should save them! If you peel or slice off the tough fiberous outer layer, you get a really tender, crisp, and sweet heart of broccoli. This is good in soups, fried rice, or simply sliced and stir fried.

Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage and Vegetables

2 cups cold leftover rice, broken up into as small chunks.
2 Chinese sausage, sliced in half lengthwise then cut into small slices
2 Eggs, beaten
4 Medium dried shiitake mushrooms or 6 small ones
2 Green onions, thinly sliced
Around 1 Tbsp oyster sauce, more to taste
A small shake or two of ground white pepper
Vegetable oil

Optional vegetables
1 Carrot, peeled and cut into a small dice
3 Broccoli hearts, fibrous layer peeled off and cut into a small dice

Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in warm water. Rinse off any dirt stuck in the gills, and chop them finely.

Making fried rice with Chinese sausage includes an extra step of rendering the fat out of the sausages. If you're using with cooked meats like ham, duck, BBQ pork, it should be added towards the end of cooking to heat through but not dry out.

Heat a wok or a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the pieces of Chinese sausage. Cook until the fat has rendered out. Add chopped shiitake mushrooms and stir fry for a minute. Then add the green onions and any other vegetables that you are using. Add a little salt to flavor the vegetables. I like my vegetables to have a good bite left so I don't cook them very long. Stir fry the veggies for a minute. You want to keep the vegetables really crunchy because they will continue cooking as they are sitting in a bowl from carryover heat and then cooked again with the rice towards the end.

Transfer the sausage and vegetables to a bowl, keeping any residual fat in the pan. If there's no fat, add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil. Add the beaten eggs and scramble, cooking until the eggs are half set. Transfer the eggs into a bowl. It's okay to use the bowl you beat them in because you'll finish cooking the eggs fully later (and it's one less bowl to wash).

Add a tablespoon oil to the wok or skillet and heat it over medium high heat. Add the rice and break any chunks into individual grains. I use a spatula and press on the chunks of rice until the grains fall apart. Ideally you want all the grains to be separated to get really fluffy fried rice. It's important to use cold hard leftover rice because if you tried this with hot steamed rice, you'll end up with mush.

Cook until the rice grains are all separated and hot, about 3 to 5 minutes. They will start to pop off your pan. Add the oyster sauce and a dash of white pepper and stir until it's evenly distributed in the rice. Taste the rice and see if you need to add more oyster sauce. From this point you'll want to work quickly because you don't want the vegetables and eggs to over cook. Add the sausage and vegetables that you set aside earlier and mix this evenly into the rice. Clear the center of the pan by pushing the rice away and add the half cooked eggs. Cook them until they are almost set up, then break up any large clumps and stir them into the rice.

Serve piping hot.

Fried rice from my buddies:
Wandering Chopstick made Yang Chow Style Fried Rice, a Chinese restaurant staple.
And Jaden makes awesome Spam Fried Rice. And if you're saying "ewww SPAM", don't hate, it's actually quite tasty!

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