Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ham Fried Rice or Fried Rice, The Leftover Machine

After the egg is cooked, the rice is fried.  Next, the ham and veg are added but not stirred together with the rice quite yet.
 Anyone who cooks needs a few pantry meals.  Meals that can be made without a special trip to the grocery store.  Meals that definitely should be made without finding specialty ingredients ("order from this website.")  How about inexpensive, tasty, quick, and healthy, too?  Fried rice pretty much fits the bill.  If you haven't mastered some kind of fried rice technique, try this.  You'll probably be making fried rice every week because pantry meals are even more important for a solo cook for whom family-sized amounts of fresh food go bad quickly.

I can't take credit for this rice, though on my own I make tres yummy fried rice.  When I don't think about it and throw in the kitchen sink, that is.  Only this one small problema:  it's not consistant.  One time it's fabulous and the next time it's so-so.  Edible, but so-so.  Makes you want to scream.  So I set out to find a great, tried and true method to conquer.  This isn't saying it'll come out the same every time, because it seldom can.  There are different ingredients available; that's the beauty of fried rice.  It's a leftover machine. The Chinese use yesterday's rice to make it and they throw in what they have. (You can also add leftover grilled chicken or other meat, but that's definitely optional.)  It's often a late-nite snack.  Sounds good, huh?   But it can come out just about as mouth-watering delicious every time.

Setting out to find the best fried rice, I didn't go to the local Asian dive where greasy rice reigns.  I went to long-time Chinese cookbook author Barbara Tropp, who in the '80's wrote a definitive, American-friendly Chinese cookbook called THE MODERN ART OF CHINESE COOKING : TECHNIQUES AND RECIPES (Hearst Books, 1982; 611 pages.)  Still available on amazon.  I tried several kinds of fried rice, but first had to re-learn how to cook rice.  Barbara's way.  The Chinese way.  Note:  This fine cookbook has lots of recipes, but also teaches much about equipment and technique.  It's a good addition to your shelf.  While there are excellent  illustrations, it is not a photographed cookbook.  Why not take your own photos and make your own Chinese cookbook?

Writing for examiner.com yesterday, I put up a recipe for sugar snap pea fried rice.   Which is lovely.  Which is not pantry-friendly unless your ever-bearing garden has fresh snap peas all year long.   This recipe is pantry-friendly.  Particularly if you keep a bit of cryovac ham in the meat drawer.  That means the kind that's vacuum packed and keeps for a good, long while.  And once you make this rice, you just might keep that package of ham around.  The ham makes or breaks this rice.  Unless you're a vegetarian, that is.  In which case, you wouldn't want it anyway, right?  Insert tofu that you have drained, pressed, baked and stir-fried ahead of time.

Try this rice.   It doesn't take long (except for the original cooking of the rice--which takes 30 minutes.)  You'll like the way you feel.  I guarantee it!

Chop everything ahead and have it ready to go right next to the stove.

Barely cooked, chopped eggs.  No browned spots if possible.

Farmer's Market fresh spring/green onions (scallions)

Ham Fried Rice (with lots of vegetables)  3 generous servings

First, make the rice:  Make a day ahead (or in the morning.)  If you need to make it right beforehand, spread it out on a big baking sheet after cooking to cool and dry out for 15 minutes or so.

Making rice well:  (30 minutes--Day before or early in the day, if possible.)

  1. Start with short or medium grain white rice if possible.  (Sushi rice will work.  If all you have is long grain rice, plunge on ahead anyway and buy more rice later.)
  2. Take 1 cup of rice and place it in a bowl; fill with water.  Swish around 10-15 seconds.  Drain in a fine-meshed strainer or pour water out while holding your hand at edge of bowl to prevent the rice escape.
  3. Repeat 5-6 times until water in bowl is becoming or is clear.  Shake rice well in strainer.
  4. In a  2 - 2 1/2  qt. pot, place rice and 1 1/2 cups water (1 3/4 cup if you have long grain rice.)
  5. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low or low and cover tightly. 
  6. Let cook 15 minutes.  You should be able to hear the rice bubbling and little wisps of steam should come from the pan.  (Not big streams of water that hiss and run; turn that mess down.)  If you don't hear/see this, turn the heat up a tiny bit until you do.
  7. After 15 minutes, remove from heat (leave covered) and let rest for 15-20 minutes.  
  8. Remove lid and fluff rice gently with a fork from the bottom.  Salt and pepper with a light hand; this is the first layer of seasoning for the fried rice. 
  9. Let cool.  Store in covered container for a day or overnight if possible.  No time?  Spread out on a baking sheet to cool as per above.
According to Barbara Tropp (and to my lights, as well), this will result in a perceptibly lighter, fluffier, cleaner kind of rice.  In fact, it's delicious.  You can well understand why Asians eat a pound a day!  

Making the fried rice: (10 minutes chopping; 10 minutes cooking)
  • 3 cups cooked/leftover rice
  • Sea salt (or table salt) and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 3T peanut or vegetable or canola oil (you'll use this a bit at a time)
  • 1/4 cup sliced ham, cut in thin slivers
  • 1/4 cup each sliced red onion, sliced cabbage, green onions (save out 2 tsp for garnish),  cut-up broccoli, peas, thinly sliced carrots (1/4"x1""), chopped asparagus, etc.  (whatever vegetables you have)  up to 2 cups total*
  • 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 t ginger minced (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (or, in a pinch, use a couple of drops of hot sauce or a sprinkle of ground cayenne--crushed red pepper is definitely best here)
  • Optional:  You can add soy sauce at the table if you like it.  The Chinese eat white rice with white salt. 
  • Optional:  1/4-1/2 sliced or chopped leftover cooked chicken, shrimp, roast pork/beef or steak
  1.  In a wok or a large, deep skillet, heat 2tsps peanut oil over medium-high heat.  Pour in eggs; let set a few seconds.  Turn over or pull eggs up to let uncooked egg underneath using a large wooden spoon.   Continue for a few seconds more until the egg is nearly done, but not browned.  Remove to a bowl and chop into tiny pieces with your wooden spoon.  Set aside.  You'll add it back in a few minutes.
  2. Wipe out pan with paper towels or cloth towel being careful not to burn yourself.  
  3. Pour in 1 tablespoon peanut oil.  Add rice.  Stir and cook for 2 minutes to heat and coat all grains of rice with the oil; do not brown.   
  4. Push rice to one side of the pan.  Add a bit more oil and throw in the ham and vegetables, including garlic and ginger if you're using them.  (Keep out a little green onion for garnish.)  Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Stir the vegetables for 2 minutes or so until just beginning to wilt, but meantime also lift/stir the rice a little bit to ensure it doesn't brown.
  5. Stir everything in the pot together.  Add the reserved chopped egg bits and stir.   If you are using up your leftover meat, add that here.  Stir together a minute or so.   Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add a bit more salt if necessary.
  6. To serve, place fried rice in a bowl and garnish with the reserved scallions.  Chop sticks are fun; use them if you can.
*If you have leftover vegetables from another meal, use them by all means.  Just heat briefly until they're hot (no need to cook again) and continue the recipe.

    Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,


    1. This was yummy and something different to use up leftover Easter ham. Thanks


    2. I thought it was yummy, too. My husband just about licked the bowl three times. Glad you liked it. I'll check out your site!


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