March 11 – March 17, 2018
Monday: Shrimp Salad
Tuesday: Miramare Restaurant
Wednesday: Crab Cakes
Thursday: Blue Crab Salad
Friday: Roasted Turbotwith Ginger-Soy Sauce
Saturday: Fried Rice with Chicken, Peas, Corn and Carrots
Sunday: Niçoise with Seared Tuna
Alas, this post is not only as late as the last one – it contains no pictures. Slow internet and the impossibility of e-mailing a picture file is the issue. If Andrew were here this could be cleared up, no doubt. But I’m on my own digitally in Southwest Florida where the average age is 76 or so and the internet it seems, isn’t that important.
We are swimming in fishes (not with them) here in South Florida. Great shell fish, snapper, grouper, pompano – the waters are teeming with fish and, come to think of it, the skies overhead are teeming with squadrons of pelicans who plunge into the ocean to eat them. Last week we shared a fish chowder with you. And this week we had an excellent Niçoise with perfectly-seared Tuna, if I say so myself. On the other hand, the shrimp salad from Monday was light and easy and irresistible, though the Blue Crab Salad with tomatoes, avocado and olives was even better and nearly as easy. In spite of which the Roasted Turbot was really the fish of the week. But, having just dried off from a dip in the gulf, I want to turn from the sea and talk about fried rice.
Rice, which is really grass seed, provides one-fifth of the calories consumed by humans on planet earth, according to Wikipedia. (We don’t know what percentage of calories it provides for Captain Kirk, Obiwan Kenobe and humans on other planets). It is also filling and a great accompaniment to proteins or underneath stews and braises. But, as some people also know, it can deliver a powerful whomp of protein itself in the one skillet (wok) meal known as fried rice. If you don’t know that, you ought to. And here’s your chance to learn all about it and enhance your cred as a home cook. The various additions, stirrings and saucings of fried rice will make you seem like a genius of improvisation if you memorize them, which is easy, and rather necessary, since the whole darn thing is cooked very quickly over high heat. You can even call it a grain bowl, if you want to seem trendy – but please don’t do so within my hearing.
Beez looked askance last week, when I mentioned I’d be cooking fried rice. “At the seashore? Why don’t we just have a salad with some shrimp or crab?” Well, I explained gently, because I’m the cook and, while I always want to take into account your tastes and preferences*, if I’m cooking for you, I get the final say. She sighed and sipped her Sauvignon Blanc. There’s nothing prettier in the world than Beez sipping Sauvignon Blanc, except perhaps Beez saying to me, after the dinner, “that fried rice was really good.”
*The single exception being food allergies. I realize that in a few cases these are real and even life-threatening. But if I’m cooking for you, I want to see a certified letter from you doctor before I ditch the Thai peanut sauce or toss out the shell fish.
This is a dish that requires previously cooked rice – and it’s better if you refrigerate or even freeze that rice overnight. It also requires you to have all the other ingredients chopped or measured and ready-to-hand. In other words, mise-en-place is key and, if you have your mise en place you will find this easy and probably quite enjoyable to cook. Your diners will be surprised at the substance and deep taste of this simple meal and you will be popular, at least for one evening.
Weeknight Fried Rice
(adapted from Sam Sifton, New York Times)
Timing: 15 minutes if you have rice already cooked
Cooked rice – one cup per person (Sam Sifton keeps cooked rice in his freezer since he feels that helps separate the grains – we refrigerated ours for maybe half a day.
Neutral oil (canola, vegetable, etc.)
Some protein (a previously cooked chicken breast, ground meat or pork, chopped brisket from your local barbecue restaurant) You don’t need much – probably ½ – ¾ cup.
Note: We cooked this dish two days ago with shrimp as a protein. Don’t throw it in until you’re ready to add the sauce and the rice.
Chopped Garlic (we skipped)
Chopped or grated ginger (do not skip this) – we grated ours
Gochujang or hot chili sauce or a bit of Frank’s or tabasco
You must cook the rice ahead of time since you need to chill it in the refrigerator. Even better is to freeze it overnight. Make about ½ cup for each person you’ll be serving.
Slice or chop your protein into bite-sized pieces. We cut up a half-breast of baked chicken from the supermarket.
Whip the two eggs together in a small bowl.
Chop or grate an inch or two of ginger. Sifton chops a lot of garlic as well –I grated maybe ½ of a large clove.
Slice scallions thinly on a bias – you’ll need a handful for the cooking and another batch for serving.
Slice a carrot into thin disks and, if it’s a fat carrot, cut the discs in half. (You want bite-sized pieces here.)
Put 2 handfuls each of frozen corn and frozen peas into a bowl.
Mix the soy sauce and sesame oil (3 to 1 proportion) in a small bowl to make a sauce. You’ll need not quite a quarter cup if you’re cooking for 4.
Sam Sifton has a wok. We are in a rented condo with few cooking tools, only the condiments and cooking oils we have bought, frozen mozzarella sticks and turkey breast dinners in the refrigerator and an enormous collection of non–stick pots.
We used a slope-sided non-stick pot and, since the stove top is electric, heated it up for a long time on medium-high, then put in maybe 1 ½ tablespoons of canola oil and the chicken untl it crisps a bit.
Remove the chicken and add a tablespoon of grated ginger and up to a tablespoon of grated or chopped garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then toss in the vegetables (we used 2 handfuls of frozen corn, 2 handfuls of frozen peas and a handful or so of thinly slice carrot. Stir-fry until they seem cooked – 2 minutes? – then toss the chicken back in.
Now clear a space in the middle of the pan or wok and add the eggs and cook to softness.
Now throw in the sauce and then the rice and mix until the whole kibosh is steaming hot. Serve, with another sprinkling of scallions.