Meatless Monday: The Case for Day-Old, Cold Rice
There are few things I appreciate more than a bowl of steaming hot rice, not the least of which is its starchy perfume lingering over the stove. That a little bit of water, heat and time can transform pellet-grains into glistening pillows of nourishment never ceases to amaze, figuring into countless cuisines and feeding half the world to boot.
For a cook, rice is the ultimate playmate, teaming up seamlessly with… just about anything (holler if you beg to differ), plus it’s a gluten-free godsend for the 1 in 100 people living with celiac disease.
For all of its immediate pleasures and possibilities, I love rice as much — if not more — on the second and third day. After some time in the fridge, rice firms up and becomes less gluey, the key to superior fried rice.
When cold rice meets hot oil in a wok, the grains agree to separate and reward you with the fried rice of your meatless dreams, and you’ll wonder why on earth did you wait so long to do this yourself, particularly when it takes 10 minutes, start to finish.
(You want fast food? This is the best kind.)
Other than 1 cup or so of cold grains and a wee bit of vegetable oil, the options for fried rice are endless. In fact, fried rice is a great excuse to use up veg languishing in the fridge. That said, use quick-cooking items that maintain their crunch – bell pepper, thinly sliced carrots, snow peas, asparagus tips, corn kernels, spinach, chard and my favorite, bok choy.
As for the rest, here’s a template – not a recipe – for how I like to make fried rice:
* Heat a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil in a wok (Plan B: a medium-depth skillet).
* Beat a farmstead egg (completely optional, of course, but a luscious component and in my opinion, a world apart from warehouse eggs), season with salt and pour into wok over low-medium heat.
* Allow egg to gently coagulate (about 2 minutes), fold over like a pancake with a spatula and remove from pan.
* Add veg and aromatics – garlic, chiles, shallots and add more oil if necessary – over medium-high heat, cooking until softened.
* Add rice, stir to declump and coat with veg and aromatics.
* Add a few glugs of soy sauce, an ounce of water or stock and stir. Let liquid reduce for a bit if it’s too soupy.
* Chop egg, throw back into pan. Spritz a wee bit of sesame oil over everything.
It’s hard not to smile at your accomplishment.
P.S. Did you know that Arkansas is the leading state for rice production?