Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fried rice, Reichl-style.

I don't know about you guys, but I pretty much worship Ruth Reichl. She's funny, she's humble and she's too damn talented. Her memoirs (especially Tender At The Bone and Comfort Me With Apples) are on my read-this-at-least-once-every-two-years list, and I'm still deep in mourning over the loss of Gourmet, the magazine she helmed spectacularly for 10 years. (Until Condé Nast shuttered it in October 2009. Grrrr.)

Most recently, I've been re-reading Tender At The Bone, Reichl's first memoir. It spans about 20 years' time, from her childhood in Greenwich Village to her move to Berkeley in the early 1970s. Somewhere in there, she penned her first cookbook, entitled Mmmmmm, A Feastiary. I first heard the book mentioned by name when Reichl did a Q&A on eGullet a few years ago, and promptly searched eBay for a copy. I snagged one in pristine condition for just a few bucks, and it's occupied a precious spot on my shelf ever since.

On Sunday, when confronted with a refrigerator full of leftover rice, steamed chicken and broccoli, I decided a bowl of fried rice would be just the thing to eat for lunch. And I knew Ruth was just the person to tell me what to do. When a browse through the Gourmet cookbook didn't rustle up what I needed, I turned to Mmmmmm, and was not disappointed. Right there on page forty-three is a ridiculously simple recipe for fried rice.

Reichl encourages an improvisational approach, telling the reader to use whatever bits and bobs populate the recesses of her crisper drawer. She also Americanizes the recipe somewhat, suggesting sherry in the place of Shaoxing cooking wine. No matter what you throw in or what wine you grab from the shelf, though, the result is a fast, piping hot, satisfying lunch.

Cleaning out the fridge is a pretty good side benefit, too.

(And, since matzo abounds this week, I think Mmmmmm's matzo brei may be next on the list.)

Ruth's Fried Rice
Adapated from Mmmmmm, A Feastiary by Ruth Reichl

1 cup cooked rice
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
Any vegetables you want to add (broccoli, cabbage, carrots, peppers), thinly sliced
2 tsp. Shaoxing cooking wine (or sherry, or vermouth)
1/4 cup water or chicken stock
2 tsp. soy sauce mixed with 1/4 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Sriracha (optional)

Heat a skillet until very hot. Add the oil and a bit of salt; swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Break the egg into the pan and scramble lightly. Add the onion, garlic and vegetables to the pan, and stir to combine with the egg.

Add the meat and then the wine, and stir the contents of the skillet for another 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to combine evenly. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, until the rice is hot and has lost all of its refrigerator stiffness.

Add the soy sauce mixture and grind some pepper over everything. Serve immediately, topped with a few squirts of Sriracha.

Serves one, generously.

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