Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stir fry

Legend has it (which means I’m not sure this is true) that cooking in woks originated with Chinese soldiers. When they were on the warpath the would cook food in their helmets. That’s where we get woks from. They would gather brush to cook with. Any camper knows that brush burns hot and quickly. You think you have the campfire started, but it turns out the logs aren’t burning, only the brush. Since they cooked with brush, stir fry is cooked over a hot fire and quickly.

Fresh ginger and garlic are what make the stir fry. You can keep extra ginger in the freezer. If you don’t use fresh ginger and garlic, jarred garlic and jarred ginger can be substituted, but they are not as good. Powdered ginger from the spice rack cannot be substituted. It has a different flavor and is a completely different product.

(serves 4)
This is the formula that the cookbook uses for stir fry. They recommend using the ratio of 1 part protein to 2 parts vegetables. Use oil as needed to cook the vegetables and make sure the harder, longer-cooking vegetables go in the pan before the softer, quicker cooking vegetables go into the pan.

3/4 pound protein (beef, pork, chicken, seafood, tofu), cut into small even pieces
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp dry sherry or white wine
1 T minced fresh garlic (I usually use a garlic press)
1 T minced fresh ginger (I use a microplane zester)
2 T minced scallion, white parts only (or onion in a pinch)
2-3 T peanut or vegetable oil
1 ½ lbs vegetables, cut into small pieces and divided into batches by cooking times
½ c sauce

1. Toss the protein with the soy sauce and sherry (white wine) in a medium bowl. Combine the garlic, ginger, scallion, and 1 ½ tsp oil in a small bowl.
2. Heat 2 tsp oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet (or wok) over high heat until smoking. Add the protein (meat) and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up clumps, until well browned, 1 to 3 ½ minutes. Transfer the protein to a clean bowl.
3. Add 1 ½ tsp to 1 T oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the first batch of longer cooking vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 1-5 minutes. Leaving the vegetables in the pan (or removing them if the pan will cool too much), heat another 1 ½ tsp to 1 T oil and add the faster cooking-vegetables. Cook until crisp-tender, 1-2 minutes.
4. Clear the center of the pan and add the garlic mixture. Cook, mashing the garlic mixture with the back of a spatula, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Stir the garlic into the vegetables. Add the protein and toss to combine. Whisk the sauce to combine and add it to the skillet. Remove the pan from the heat and toss until all ingredients are well coated with sauce and sizzling hot. Serve immediately.

I Do most of the things like the recipe above. I use more veggies then the 2 to 1 ratio they recommend. I use a wok (because I own one) and don’t bother removing any meat or veggies along the way. I also use more sauce. I add the veggies one type at a time, adding more oil as needed. Then clear a space in the middle of my wok to add the garlic, ginger, scallion mix toward the end. (Step 4) In a traditional stir fry recipe, the garlic and ginger are added in the beginning. The garlic can sometimes burn and affect the stir fry. I almost always add nuts (cashews, walnuts, almonds) and chopped cilantro at the end.

Here is a basic veggie order:
Broccoli, carrots, celery, mushrooms, green pepper, pea pods, water chestnuts, nuts, bean sprouts

When to add the onions depends on how small they are cut. If cut in wedges, add the onions after the broccoli. If the onion is cut into rings or half moons, add after the celery.

See Sichuan Chile Sauce, Chinese Peanut Sauce, Oven Baked brown rice

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