STIR FRY!

Moving on with this long-winded, but hopefully helpful, discourse on some of the ways to use shredded chicken…three items left on my original list:
Stir fry with chicken
Pizza or Calzone with chicken & veggies
Pasta with chicken & veggies

Here are some general instructions for STIR FRY.

A STIR FRY is a great place to use left over rice.  Could be your home-cooked leftovers, or those dandy little takeout containers of rice from any Asian restaurant.  Cold and day-old is best.  Of course you can also use this rice to make rice pudding, or in a casserole.  You can also make a stir fry that is served on it’s own, on top of noodles or using another grain.

A deep pan with curved sides is best, for STIR-ring.   A wok really is the easiest.  Although it may seem like a limited-use item, a decent one doesn’t cost much; treat it right and it will last forever.  And the thing is:  STIR FRY is  f a s t!

In addition to the pan, there are a few ingredients that are good to have around:

Soy sauce (go for low sodium)
Plain sesame or peanut oil (Canola would be fine, but not olive)
Toasted sesame oil
Mirin (a Japanese rice wine)
Ginger (Keep a piece of fresh ginger in the freezer; peel it with the edge of a spoon and grate it with a fine hole grater.  Or a small jar of minced ginger in the refrigerator is very handy.  I am NOT a fan of jarred minced garlic.  I think it gets really funky.  Minced ginger seems to keep well.  My opinion)

Garlic (powder, in a pinch, but fresh has the real kick)
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

A Note About Protein:  If you are using leftover shredded chicken, you’re all set.

If you are starting with raw chicken or other proteins like tofu, eggs (or things I personally don’t eat, like pork or beef), you need to slice the item into bite-sized pieces and cook them first.  Then remove from the pan and cover, so they stay warm while you do the veggies.  Eggs you scramble, cook and remove.  Shrimp is an exception…it will easily cook when mixed in with the hot stir fry for the last few minutes.  Or, you can certainly cook them first and hold them aside, if that feels less stressful.

Whatever vegetables you want to use, slice’em up first, before you heat the pan.  You can’t really walk away from STIR FRY.  The name is a key part of the instructions.

Most grocery stores now sell bags of pre-sliced vegetables.  I encourage you to chop your own, but pre-sliced or frozen sliced veggies are an option.  Your choice.

When everything is prepped, put the pan over high heat.  When it’s hot, usually in about 30-60 seconds, pour in a Tablespoon (TB) or so of your plain oil and reach for your protein (see above) or your first vegetable.  If you cook a protein item first, you will probably need another TB of oil when you start with the veggies.

I always start with a sliced onion.
Keep it moving and after a minute, add carrots.  
A TB of grated ginger and a couple (minced) cloves of garlic.  Stir, stir, stir.
After that, try broccoli, red peppers, cauliflower, green beans, winter squash, sweet potatoes…
You don’t need (or want) to have loads of different veggies; stick with a few that you/your family like.
Keep stirring.  It’s okay if some things get a little browned, that’s sweet caramelization happening.  But you want to work quickly, so that most things stay a little crisp.

Something soft like zucchini or yellow squash needs very little time in the pan.  One idea is to grate the summer squash and add it almost at the end.  Frozen peas, fresh snow pea pods and/or mushrooms will also go in for just the last few minutes.  There’s also the option of adding a surprise element like raisins, currents, dried cranberries  or diced dried apricots.  In my purist, brown-rice-vegetarian youth, I often made a dish called ‘Three Precious Fried Rice’ and raisins were one of the ‘precious’ items.  The touch of sweetness makes for a nice contrast with the salty soy sauce flavor.  Peanuts were another ‘precious’ ingredient…

Make a little space at the center of the pan and add a TB or so of toasted sesame oil to the pan at this point.
Then it’s time to toss in that lovely cold rice.  Stir, stir, stir.
Now it’s a flurry to the finish.
Add dried fruit if you like.
Sprinkle around a few TB of soy sauce, a few TB of Mirin and a dash more of toasted sesame oil.  Stir to combine.
Taste it.  Add more seasonings (ginger, garlic, soy, Mirin &/or toasted sesame oil) to get the flavor you want.
Add the quick cooking veggies (peas, squash, mushrooms) and the protein.
This would also be the time to add any thinly sliced greens like cabbage, spinach or swiss chard.
Mung bean sprouts, anyone?
The pan may be quite crowded by now, but stir thoroughly to get everything hot and seasoned.
Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Serve.

Written out like this, it may seem like quite a production.  But it’s not.

All of this can take very few minutes.  A typical combination at my house is onions, carrots, broccoli, rice and chicken.  With leftover rice and chicken, that means I only need to chop 3 items, plus garlic, pull the seasoning ingredients out of the refrigerator and I’m ready to go.  Ten minutes later, we’re eating.

As with most of the dishes I’m sharing here, this one has many variations.  Not just protein and vegetable ingredients, but seasonings.  Lots of yummy Asian flavors to experiment with…

I hope you’ll try a STIR FRY someday soon.

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