Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fried Rice

Seppo and I are not masters of the fried rice. It always looks so simple, but always ends up a disaster. Sometimes, it's gluey, sometimes, it's too oily, sometimes the vegetables are limp and add little to the dish.

I think I finally broke through our fried rice barrier.

We had rice leftover from one of the days that Seppo made buta no kakuni this past week. There it was, a tub of rice sitting in the refrigerator, getting dryer and harder by the day.

Perfect for fried rice!

Seppo had also purchased some more smoked duck breast this past week, a different kind than the one we had last week. It wasn't as good and had a weird ham-like texture, so we didn't really enjoy eating it straight on a salad.

Perfect for fried rice!

I assembled the following:
  • 4 5mm slice smoked duck breast
  • 2 very small yellow onions, courtesy of the farmers' market from Saturday
  • 1 medium shallot, also from the farmers' market
  • 1 skinny young carrot, swiped from Joe's stash (thanks, Joe!)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup frozen green peas
  • 4 skinny young scallions, from the farmers' market
Everything was diced to about the size of the peas, except the shallot, which was roughly minced.

With this Manresa review fresh in mind, along with my recent attempt at making jap chae, I decided that I'd cook each item on its own, to let it cook the perfect degree of doneness.

First, I pulled out the rice to sit on the counter, so it won't be so cold going into the pan. Then, I sauteed my ingredients in a fake wok-like nonstick pan in the above order, from duck to carrot.

I let the fat render out of the duck breast, which I then used to sautee the onions and shallot (these two were cooked together). The duck breast was started in a warm-ish pan on medium high to high. After they took on a little color and some of the skin crisped up a little, I strained the meat out and left in fat in the pan, which amounted to about one to two teaspoons.

I lowered the heat to medium-high. I added only the tiniest pinch of salt to the onions and shallot, as the duck fat had a decent amount of seasoning already.

After the onions and shallots were softened and had no trace of bite left, but not browned in any fashion, I scooped those out and added about 1/2 teaspoon of oil, maybe less. I added the carrots and a wee bit of salt, and sauteed.

After scooping out the carrots, I added about 2 teaspoons of oil and threw in the rice. I think there were about 3-4 cups of cooked rice.

The key with the rice is to scoop from below and fluff up at every step, almost like the motion you'd use to fold batter or egg whites into something else.

After the rice had stopped sticking together and heated up thoroughly, I added back the cooked ingredients and raised the heat to high, constantly tossing and stirring, never letting things get noticeably brown or scorched. You want to hear a little sizzle, not like the wok action at the real restaurants, since you aren't working with the same equipment. When things looked pretty done, I added the frozen peas and a small squirt of sesame oil and about 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and tossed around for about 2-3 minutes until the peas were bright and cooked through.

Finally, I sprinkled on the scallion, gave everything a final toss, and removed from heat.

It's not high on the health meter, but compared to the average restaurant fried rice, it had the following going for it:
  • A bit less oil
  • A higher vegetable to rice ratio
  • Tastier primary ingredients
  • The ability to control if you want your rice to finish with a little bit of crust or not
  • A tasty way to use leftover rice and bits and bobs of random vegetables
It looked like the real deal and tasted great. Each bite was full of the flavors of the vegetables (and duck). Next time, I'd actually reduce the amount of cooking oil for parts of the process and increase the amount of carrots, which I usually don't like all that much but turned out to be fantastic in the dish.


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