When I was flying full time, it was hard to get into any kind of routine. My schedule not only changed from month to month, but was often different week to week.
Chores like cleaning out the refrigerator were hit or miss. Mostly miss, if I'm being honest.
Being home has enabled me to be more mindful in many ways, one of which is to be diligent about cleaning out the fridge before the food goes bad.
While I doubt I will ever love housecleaning, I'm enjoying my weekly foray into the depths of the fridge. First, there is the challenge of repurposing the leftovers. After surveying the contents, I see if I can come up with something that my family will actually love to eat.
Secondly, I feel good because using up what we have generates less waste. This routine has made me realize the tendency I have to over buy whenever I'm at the grocery store. While I haven't completely overcome this urge, I am working on it.
Thirdly, fridge cleanup allows me to gather the leftovers and scraps that I can't repurpose for my household for my friend, Chrissy's, farm animals. She has chickens, a pig, horses and a menagerie of pets.
After reading the wonderful book, Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery, it brings me joy to think of the happiness Chrissy's pig will have when choosing which of our leftovers to dine on first.
Remy was at my side during this week's cleanup. She spotted the pile of rice leftover from Friday's dinner and immediately asked if we could make fried rice. It's one of her favorite dishes from Chinese restaurants.
I also had quite a bit of Savoy cabbage in the fridge, which enabled me to get more vegetables into Remy than normal. I'd never used Savoy cabbage in fried rice before, and I was really happy with both the taste and the texture of the finished product.
So was Remy, which is saying a lot. While she loves to cook anything, she hates to eat most vegetables.
In addition to the cabbage, I had scallions, shallots and half of a big onion that needed to be used. Vegetables in the allium family such as these are not only incredibly healthy, but combining them really bumps up the flavor of your dishes.
As far as protein goes, use whatever you have on hand. I had about a cup and a half of chicken from Friday night's dinner. I've used shrimp in the past as well, but you could use tofu, sausage, vegan meats or omit the protein, which is probably my favorite.
I'm not a fan of diced carrots in my fried rice, but you could add that if you'd like. Bean sprouts, snow peas and sugar snap peas work well, too.
For years I attempted to recreate the kind of fried rice I had at restaurants, to no avail. In addition to soy sauce, I found that there were two more things really necessary to achieve that taste I loved: sesame oil and sweetener.
Some Chinese and Indonesian soy sauces are made with sweetener, but most of what you'll find in the supermarket is not.
There is a hilarious part in the memoir, Fresh Off the Boat, where the author, Eddie Huang, talks about good soy sauce vs. bad, and his ability as a child to tell the difference. "Hysterically horrifying," were words used to describe other passages in the memoir.
If you haven't read it, I'd recommend checking it out. It's a far cry from the benign television show based on the book, and a fascinating glimpse into the life of Huang.
Back to the fried rice. Depending on my mood and who I am cooking for, I have added sugar to the soy, honey, Truvia or agave. As with the soy and sesame oil, you may need to experiment a little to decide which ratios best suit your palate.
Fried rice is forgiving. No eggs in the house? That's okay. Love pineapple? Throw it it in. It's all good. Use whatever you have on hand and adjust the soy, sesame oil and sweetener as you go.
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups assorted onions, scallons and shallots
4 cloved garlic, minced
3 eggs, scrambled
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons sugar
5 cups cooked brown rice
8 cups shredded Savoy cabbage
1 1/2 cup chicken, diced
1/2 cup frozen green peas
Heat oil in a large skillet or wok on high. Saute the onion mixture until translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute or so. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Stir continuously while you saute.
Remove the onion mixture and set aside.
Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar together in a small bowl. Add to the pan. Add the rice and cabbage.
Stir fry until the cabbage begins to wilt and sauce mixture is fully incorporated. Add the chicken and green peas. Saute for another few minutes.
Makes 10 Cups
Here is the recipe for shrimp fried rice that I made earlier during quarantine. It, also utilized leftovers from the fridge. I didn't have sesame oil in the house when I made this, but feel free to add it.
The order in which I added the ingredients is different here than what I did with this week's leftovers. Both dishes were gobbled up, so at the end of the day it didn't really matter. I wish the same could be said for all recipes.
Shrimp Fried Rice
2 eggs, scrambled and diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups cold jasmine rice
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, chopped into thirds
1/4 cup frozen peas
Scramble the eggs into the oil, on high heat. Remove eggs, dice and set aside.
Saute onion in the oil remaining in the pan until it is beginning to brown. Add the garlic. Stir, then quickly add the soy sauce and honey.
Stir again and add the rice.
Saute the rice until it is well incorporated into the sauce and onion mixture.
Constantly turn the rice so that it gets fried but not burned.
Add shrimp and peas.
Continue turning until everything is incorporated. Take off of the flame and serve.