Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

May 3, 2014

Fried Rice...Russian Easter Style

Restaurants are making a killing selling you a carton of leftovers for about $8. 

Next time you find yourself with leftover meat and rice, make a honkin' batch of fried rice, and feed your whole family for a fraction of the cost (and without wondering how much sodium or "mystery ingredients" may be lurking behind that carrot). 

My family only cooks a ham twice a year - at Easter and Christmas. We eat meat so rarely that when we do, we indulge in a pricier nitrite-free ham from a good butcher. And we all want leftovers, so we tend to overbuy (even for a Russian family, hell-bent on overfeeding our guests). This Easter, my Mom* wanted to try a new method she had read about - braising the whole ham in apple cider and spices. This resulted in a moist, delectable flavor, deeply spiked with apple, clove, and allspice. 

Since my Mom is highly praised for her beef Stroganoff, we had a sort of "turf & turf" Easter buffet. Cold ham served with an assortment of salads, and hot Stroganoff served with rice. It was a very warm day, and one of those years when Russian Orthodox Easter falls on the same day as the Gregorian Easter. This meant more leftovers than usual, which was fine with everyone who went home with lovely parting gifts of meat and Easter bread. 

Having cooked and cleaned for days ahead of our annual party, I was not in the mood for preparing anything at all time consuming for myself the following week. And then it hit me. Russian + Chinese makes sense in my family. After all, my Father's family came through China on their way to the U.S. My paternal grandparents were born in Shanghai. And with this Easter falling on April 20th (the anniversary of my Great Grandmother's passing), nothing felt more right than using Russian Easter leftovers to make Chinese food for an American girl. 

Now, contrary to the pomp that precedes the instructions, preparing fried rice can be quite simple and quick. I opted for using fresh veggies, which I usually have in abundance. Most people have a carrot lying in wait in the fridge, and if that bag of peas hasn't been in & out of the freezer for years of bruise-tending, it should be good to go as well. I'll list the ingredients I used, but as always, feel free to improvise. The best way to a successful dish is to prep everything ahead of time so that when you're cooking, you can work quickly. 

Pork Fried Rice
2-3T soy sauce
2T rice vinegar
1t sesame oil
pinch of sugar

3T grapeseed or vegetable oil

1C diced leftover ham
1/2C+ thinly sliced carrot
1/2C+ peas (either blanched fresh, or thawed frozen)
3-4 crimini mushrooms, sliced 
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 green onion, thinly sliced
2-3C leftover white rice
pickled ginger garnish

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients, and set aside. 

Heat a large skillet or wok on high, and add the oil. 
Saute the ham until golden on the edges. Add the carrot and mushroom, and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning. Add the peas to heat through. Make a well in the center of the pan, and add the egg, stirring to scramble, then mix in with the other ingredients. Add the green onion and rice, stir to combine & heat through. Pour the soy sauce mixture evenly over the rice, and heat through for about a minute. 

Serve immediately, topped with julienned pickled ginger. 

Allow leftovers to cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge. 

Note: The special braise on this ham gave this dish a wonderfully authentic Chinese flavor akin to 5-spice. I have made fried rice with regular ham, chicken, shrimp, and tofu - all delicious. Have fun improvising! 

*The ham was Mom's idea, but the credit goes to my brother-in-law, who prepared and sliced the ham to perfection. 

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