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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Broke Food - Fried Rice

It's the night before payday, and the pickin's are looking pretty slim in the fridge.  It's time for another episode of broke food!  Fried rice is one of my favorite broke foods because you can whip it up in a few minutes and clean your fridge out in the process!  The additions are what make this an especially great dish. 

You can eat this alone as a tasty and filling meal, or if you have several people to feed, pair it with egg drop soup (coming in a later post) to stretch it further.  Also, the great thing about fried rice is that it's actually the items that have been sitting in the fridge a while that work the best.  Day-old leftover rice is perfect for making fried rice!

I'll put my method below.  There are a million different ways to make this, with various spices and additions.  Once you get the hang of making this, use what you like and what appeals to you for flavors.  In the photo above, I used:  corn, peas, carrots, sliced green onions, and diced leftover pork chop from when we grilled out a couple of nights ago. 

Here are the basic components.  I'll get into detail below this post.
1-2 tablespoons cooking oil of choice
Spices and seasonings of choice 
Protein* (Meat or eggs should be cooked beforehand and set aside.)
About 1 cup rice (adjust to your liking)

In large skillet, heat oil until drop of water flicked on surface sizzles.  Add your spices (not sauces) to the oil and stir for approximately 20 seconds to distribute the flavors in the oil.  Add any uncooked veggies and stir, coating with oil, then allow to cook for a minute or two. Add any already cooked vegetables. Add cooked meat or protein.  Allow to heat through.  Add rice and sauce.  Stir thoroughly to heat through and coat with sauce and spices.  Serve immediately. 

Now we'll talk about what you can put into this wondrous concoction!

Veggies:  Nothing is taboo.  Carrots, onions, bell peppers, celery, medallions of yellow squash, hulled peas, snow peas, broccoli, corn, green beans ... any of it will be great in fried rice.  Also consider adding leftover cooked vegetables from prior meals.  These are great in fried rice. 
Protein:  Diced up scrambled eggs, diced deli meat, Spam, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, garbanzo beans, or tofu are all excellent protein items that can be added to this.  You don't have to have a protein, but in my opinion it makes the dish a little heavier, filling, more satisfying, and provides a more complete meal, especially if you're only eating the fried rice. 
Spices:   You can add any spices you like during cooking.  Ginger, red pepper, sugar, salt, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, nutmeg, cinnamon... anything that you can think of can make awesome additions to the fried rice.  If you prefer a sweeter taste, consider ginger, sugar, a dash of red pepper, and garlic.  I prefer a hotter, spicier sauce, so for the photo above I used oregano, basil, fresh minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. 
Sauce:  Simple soy sauce added at the end of cooking the rice can be all you need.  However, if you want something a little different, consider a small bit of Hoisin sauce, teriyaki sauce, or add fruit juices such as pineapple or orange juice to the soy sauce before adding it to the fried rice.  When using sauce, keep in mind what spices you've used so far.  
Rice:  Any type of cooked rice will do.  If you have leftover Minute Rice, use that.  Steamed or cooked long-grain white rice is awesome for this, especially if it's at least a day old.  Even brown or Basmati rice will work in a pinch.  There's also nothing wrong with making the rice in preparation for cooking this. 
Oil:  Really, again any oil will do.  I used olive oil, but plain cooking oil or even melted Crisco will work.  Sesame oil can be used for flavor if you have it on hand.  

Don't be intimidated if what you have on hand doesn't seem to go together.  Use what you have, try it, add some sauce, and you may find that you have discovered a new favorite dish.  Ad libbing the ingredients is half the fun! 

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