My wok incites a kitchen conundrum: It looks like hell, but it cooks like an angel. My husband says our wok is a beautiful thing; I hide it away from the shiny stove-of-my-dreams for months at a time. Then we start cooking in the wok and wonder why we ever tuck it out of sight. Seafood and bits of meat emerge perfectly browned, and vegetables cook to crisp-tender. Fast.
Made from rolled steel, the wok sports a nonstick patina that comes from decades of use and proper cleaning with hot water (no soap). That, along with the wok's concave shape, means I can cook with high heat and a minimum of oil to make amazing one-pot dinners.
This spring we've been on a fried rice kick. Stir-frying all kinds of leftover cooked rice with tidbits of flavorful add-ins. Traditionally, seafood and veggies with soy sauce, but rich steak and teriyaki sauce please too. When the fridge offers them up, we combine roasted poblano chilies, corn and cilantro with some red chili sauce or mix basmati rice with roasted eggplant and an Indian curry sauce.
Of course, it all starts with the rice. I've been singing the praises of my utilitarian rice cooker for years. Perfect rice every time with no attention from the cook. Every week starts with a simmering pot of rice — mostly brown, but sometimes basmati, medium-grain white or jasmine. Once cooked, I scrape the rice out in a shallow layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate it immediately to chill it fast. Once cool, I pack it into containers for the start of great lunches. Or, awesome dinners from the wok.
If you are new to stir-frying, start with the simple fried rice. The recipe is manageable and can be done over medium-high heat. The dish is great alongside grilled salmon or roasted pork tenderloin. I also enjoy it reheated for lunch with the addition of shredded chicken or tuna.
You’ll want to work with high heat for the steak and the scallop versions that follow. Then everything will take on golden flavors and great textures. The following recipes make great one-pot meals, especially piled over a bed of baby spinach or arugula for a stunning main course.
The better the rice, the better the stir-fry. I like jasmine rice for its fragrance when adding simple vegetables; brown rice works well with hearty add-ins such as beef; toothsome medium grain rice counters bouncy bites of shrimp nicely.
Start with cooled rice — using warm rice will stir-fry into sogginess.
Break up any clumps in the rice so each grain can be fried quickly and easily.
Don't be afraid to use the highest heat your stove can produce.
Use a large, well-seasoned wok. Or, a large, deep-sided nonstick skillet — but be aware that you may need a little more oil because of the flat cooking surface.
Heat the pan before you add the oil; then heat the oil; then start stir-frying. All this heating prevents sticking.
Stir-fry with oils that like high temperatures such as expeller-pressed canola oil, safflower oil or peanut oil. Do not stir-fry with regular canola oil or olive oil.
Don't skip the egg — it adds flavor and acts as a binder. Season the egg with a highly flavored oil such as dark sesame oil or garlic oil.
Simple fried rice
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Servings: 3 or 4