Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

(not) Cracking the Books

I believe I have already acknowledged I get many of my recipe ideas from the folks posting at the Serious Eats website.

Serious Eats is - well here - let them speak for themselves: "Serious Eats: Passionate, Discerning, Inclusive....Serious Eats is a website focused on celebrating and sharing food enthusiasm through blogs and online community. Our unique combination of community and content brings together the distinctive voices of food bloggers, compelling original and acquired food video, and spirited, inclusive, conversations about all things food- and drink-related."

I am not nearly so "passionate" about food as most of the SE writers seem to be. They really have it IN for Paula Deen, for one thing. There is a recurrent thread "Paula Deen is trying to kill us" and some folks get pretty high on their horses about certain ingredients or quantities or techniques she favors. I will admit to a certain regional testiness this brings out in me. She comes from Georgia and I hail from Texas, but we aren't called the Southwest for nothin'. My daughter and I agree we love anybody who uses "mayonnaise" as a verb for starters. As in "I am just going to mayonnaise my bread now".

Whenever the Serious Eaters begin clambering on Ms. Deen's case it leads me to think - gratefully - "whew - I am not SO serious as THIS!". Other of the SE threads also occasionally fall further into the "spirited" than the "inclusive" category. That is more an observation than a complaint though. People get to like what they like. As long as "people" includes me.

Another measure by which I seem to come up light upon the "serious" scale, is the reliance of regular posters on their cookbooks. They must all have scads of cookbooks - recent ones - and they seem to have read all the way through every one of them.

I have cookbooks, don't get me wrong. You can't tell by the teensy photo at the start of this post but I have a slightly less than comprehensive collection of the 1992-2001 Southern Living Annual Recipes books, among others. I don't know what happened in 1993 - maybe I was sick. I also have some treasured books from my Mom and my Mother-in-Law that I don't so much refer to as venerate.

When it comes to actually cooking, I have a notebook filled to overflowing with recipes I have printed out off the internet that I either regularly use (and then lose - that notebook is black for a reason - it is a black HOLE of a filing situation) or MEAN to use. Soon. Really.My newest favorite recipe, Ginger Fried Rice, is one I printed out, one that will soon disappear (hopefully only temporarily) into the Black Hole Recipe Notebook and it "came" to me by way of one very Serious Eater, Nick Kindelsperger, aka one of the co-founders of the Paupered Chef, who also regularly writes for the "What's for Dinner" feature for SE.

Kindelsperger took this recipe out of "Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges" by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. I'm no name analysis expert by any means, but you have a mini-United Nations right there, don't you? Asian flavors by a guy with a French first name and a what - German (?) surname? And shhhh, yes children, I know, if I was a SERIOUS Cook or Eater and had not been living in a cave in front of a computer for too long I'd probably know all about this Vongerichten guy.But I don't (or I didn't) and that's partly my point. I already have that shelf full of cookbooks. I don't want to buy any (more) cookbooks, even ones written by highly decorated and respected chefs. That is what my cave with the internet is FOR, people. I can hit SE or other sites and find the recipes posted by folks who have skimmed through the books, found the few recipes calling for less than 45 ingredients, two specialty knives and 3 hour length prep times, and save myself a lot of time and trouble.

Back to the Ginger Fried Rice. I saw this post, read the list of ingredients, which I already had more or less on hand, and fell instantly in deep like. I knew we had to have this for dinner and soon. I stopped reading mid-post and actually went to my kitchen to start some rice cooking.

We love us some fried rice around here. Sure, sure, it is Chinese-American Junk Fast Food to some extent but that suits us to a "T". I have been using my own bastardized version of the basic fried rice recipe in the Joy of Cooking for years. It is my go-to solution for left over meat and vegetables. I don't open the cookbook to get to that recipe though. Again, I printed out my own version of the recipe in the cookbook and that lurks in my Black Hole Notebook.

This recipe however, took the fried rice in a bold new direction - AND it called for a cup of leeks which I just happened to have thanks to my CSA basket last week.

So to follow is the recipe and here's the photo that sold me on trying the recipe: Ginger Fried Rice

- serves 2 -
Adapted from Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 cup leeks, thinly sliced white and pale green parts only
2 cups rice, preferably day old or at least cool
1 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 large eggs
1. In a large pan pour half of the oil in over medium heat. Toss in the leeks and cook until they are softened, but not browned. It should take about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low if they start to develop any color. Season with salt.
2. Dump in the rice and stir it together with the leeks. Cook until it is hot, just a few minutes. Turn off the heat. Divide the rice into two plates. Drizzle each with half of the soy sauce and sesame oil.
3. Meanwhile, in another large pan pour the rest of the canola oil over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and ginger. Stirring occasionally, cook until the garlic is nicely browned, just a few minutes. Remove the garlic and ginger and drain on a paper towel.
4. Fry the eggs sunny-side up in the remaining oil left from frying the garlic and ginger. When done, place one egg on each mound of rice. Sprinkle the garlic and ginger on top. Season with salt. Add more soy sauce or sesame oil if you so desire.

Here's MY results. You may note I did not manage to prevent my leeks from developing any color. I also added another egg to the top because I'd skipped lunch yesterday and was starving when I finally cooked dinner which is a BAD practice, a BAD idea and kids do NOT try that at home. Because of the MEGA EGGS on top you can't see that I actually managed to get that plating trick pulled off - molding the rice in a bowl so it served up in a nice little mound.

I got a little soy sauce happy at the end. I did SO desire to add more. A lot more. My husband, who is pretty much a salt fan, thought I'd overdone that. He still managed to clear his plate (brave fellow!) and we both agree this is a dish we'll want to try again very soon. The finished dish has a very clean taste to it, cooks up easily and quickly especially if you don't argue with your leeks about coloring too much. [Arguing with Food Score To Date: Leeks 1: Cook 0] The minced ginger/garlic pieces that you fry and then remove to add on at the end was not as fussy as I'd thought it would be. The fried bits were delicious and they imparted a nice flavor to the oil that you then cook your eggs in.

This turns out to be a great version of a family favorite. It didn't heat up the kitchen too much and even short my food deprived brain's "Two eggs would be BETTER/MORE soy sauce!!" demented version, the dish is nicely filling. We had ours with what was left of an Asian raw beet and apple ginger slaw that made for a pretty spiffy combination.

I will not be buying any new cookbooks anytime soon. I will keep cruising the internet, waiting and watching for other folks to try recipes out and then tell me how they worked. Opportunistic? Maybe. Is this an older version of those high school students who mostly squeak by only reading the Cliff Notes version of the books they are assigned? I hope not.

I'd hate to think I am completely missing the point of cooking by not reading every new cookbook that hits. I do enjoy reading and I have enjoyed reading cookbooks in the past. So maybe, just maybe, I will buy a new cookbook one of these days and sit and read it and then cook my way through, as so many others have notably done.

For today? I have many errands and chores and dinner to get on the table. I'll crack the books later. Soon. Really.....


Andrea's Recipes (Grow Your Own) said...

We love fried rice and don't care if someone else calls it junk food. I call it a good way to use leftovers and eat healthy! Yummy.

TexasDeb said...

Andrea, I completely agree. Loved your Opera Cakes by the way - they looked amazing! What an ambitious project - I am really impressed.