Friday, August 6, 2010

Bacon and Vegetable Fried Rice

Fried rice is a delectable treat, usually reserved for otherwise-boring leftover rice.  However, seeing that rice takes a mere 15-20 minutes on the stove, I have no problem whipping some up when the mood for its fried variation attacks.  Besides, there is plenty of chopping and sautéing to do in the meantime.

Fried rice is a vehicle for practically any lingering vegetable you may have in your refrigerator.  The recipe below is merely a guideline.  Carrots, celery, scallions, spinach, watercress, corn (fresh or frozen), cauliflower, and zucchini would all be welcome additions.  The version below may also be grossly simplified with satisfying results:  I’ve made fried rice with just garlic, soy sauce, egg, and frozen peas as add-ins.  Despite my excessive detail, my point is that fried rice is versatile, and may be easily adjusted to both your tastes and the contents of your refrigerator.  However, I do feel the following ingredients are mandatory in addition to rice: garlic, soy sauce, egg, and some sort of vegetable.  This combination provides crucial elements in the domains of both flavor and texture.  The tender egg is particularly delightful, and it provides substance. 
Protein in addition to the egg is purely optional, but fried rice can breathe new life into less-than-thrilling leftover chicken, beef, etc.  The sky’s the limit in this regard.  I usually use leftover chicken, but last night, I had a hankering for bacon.  While bacon is by no means obligatory, I feel the need to sing its praises as key player in this dish.  The chewy, salty, smoky pieces dispersed throughout the rice were a pure joy.  But then again, when is bacon not a joy?  If you want to make the recipe below, and you happen to suffer from pork aversion or vegetarianism, skip the first step, and sauté your vegetables in light colored oil, instead of bacon grease.  Also, if you feel so inclined, a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger would be lovely added with the garlic.  A drizzle of toasted sesame oil wouldn’t hurt at the end.  About a half teaspoon would be a nice touch, without overpowering the other delicious flavors (like bacon!)  I may be providing far too many options and modifications, but this is the reality of fried rice.  My advice to you:  be decisive, go forth and fry some up. 
Bacon (and Vegetable) Fried Rice

3 slices of bacon (about ¼ lb.)
½ onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
6 mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Medium head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
½ cup frozen peas (no need to thaw)
3 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
2 large eggs, scrambled
Soy sauce (probably about 2 tablespoons)
Oyster sauce (probably about 2 teaspoons)
Black pepper
Sriracha hot sauce, to taste (optional)

-       Preheat a large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Add bacon to the hot pan, and sauté until crisp.  Remove from the pan to a plate lined with paper towel.  When cool, coarsely chop the bacon.
-       Carefully remove all but 2-3 tablespoons of the remaining bacon grease (when in doubt, go with less; you can always add some oil later if need be).  Add the onion and bell pepper.  Season with about 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and black pepper.  Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
-       Add mushrooms.  Allow to cook until they start to give off liquid and begin to brown (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic.
-       Meanwhile, par-cook the broccoli: place the chopped broccoli in a microwave safe bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, leaving one side vented.  Microwave on high for a minute and a half.
-       Add the broccoli to the pan.  Stir to combine and season with about 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and more black pepper.  Allow to cook for about 2 minutes.
-       Add rice, peas, and bacon to the pan.  Season with more soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Sriracha (if using).  Stir fry everything together for 3-5 minutes, or until everything is heated through.
-       Move rice mixture to one side of the pan, and add the eggs.  Allow to set for a minute, then scramble them until cooked through.  (See pictures above).  Mix the eggs into the fried rice.
-       Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce and Sriracha if needed.