Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Use It Up: Fried Rice

Many things are tossed into the garbage can when they still have lots of good life left in them. Use It Up is a section on how to use this "trash" to make new useful items for your home or to re-purpose items to avoid a purchase.

Fried rice is one of my favorite meals. It's simple, it's satisfying, it's delicious. To top it all off, it's also ridiculously cheap and a great way to use up leftovers and therefore reduce your waste. It's also an easy meal to make when I'm busy or tired. From start to finish, it's about 10 minutes.

When I make fried rice, I never go with a recipe. I know basically how to make it, but I leave room for experimentation, using up something that I have in surplus or using up leftovers or items that are getting a little too close to turning.

The basics: cooked rice, egg, fat of some sort.

Heat the fat over medium heat until sizzling, add the egg and scramble lightly. Once the egg just starts to solidify, add the rice. Cook thoroughly until heated through. Season with soy sauce if you'd like. That's it.

Now, of course, this is boring. So to jazz it up, look through your refrigerator and pantry and get creative.

Use different fats. Don't just stick to vegetable oil or butter. Use bacon fat. Or chicken fat. Or tallow. Or fat leftover from cooking this morning's sausage. Animal fats add a load of flavor without the cost of added meat. In fact, if you save the fat from cooking (draining the grease after cooking bacon, sausage or ground beef) or from making stock (just pop the fat cap off the top of cooled stock, scrape off the bit of stock clinging to it and store in the frig for weeks), it is free.

Before you add the egg to the skillet, saute garlic or onions til lightly golden, then add egg.

Use rice leftover from another meal. The older the rice (to an extent, of course) the better it works for frying. I never make rice just to fry it, but I will make extra when I do make rice so I can make fried rice later that week. This is especially good if the rice is cooked in stock (and then, oh my!). We've found that stir fry served over rice cooked in stock doesn't need meat and is very filling.

Add leftover vegetables of any kind-carrots, peas, corn, celery, broccoli, green beans, peppers, radishes. Dice any large pieces. This is a great way to use up random leftovers or bits of vegetables that are getting a little old in the crisper. If you make fried rice frequently, save little bits of vegetables as you cook throughout the week so you can add lots of yummy veggies.

Add leftover bits of meat-pork, beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp. This is a great way to use up little random bits of meat that aren't enough for a meal by themselves. If you are wanting to eat less meat for health or financial reasons, this is a perfect meal. Dice the meat small and you'll get regular bits of meat and good flavor, but what would otherwise be a single serving of meat will turn into 4 servings.

Serve with green onions, especially if you are growing them yourself. You can also use greens from garlic in the garden, garlic or onion scapes or even just the sprouts from onions that start growing in the pantry.

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