The world feels upside down. The COVID-19 pandemic is sobering and scary. At my house, we are fortunate that we don’t have anywhere we must be and have the luxury of staying put: limiting excursions from the house, substituting trips to the gym with brisk walks outdoors, and cancelling all social engagements. I’ve been travelling over the past few weeks, and though my health is robust, I don’t know what I might have been exposed to or what I might unknowingly be exposing others to. In addition to avoiding exposure, everyone needs to do what they can to keep this virus from spreading. From afar, I’m concerned about a loved one whose immune system is currently suppressed and about older relatives who aren’t taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously.
For me, in times of stress, cooking is always a calming activity. This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is a perfect recipe for improvising with what’s on hand. In Everyday Dorie, Dorie says that before she wrote it down for the book, Ginger Fried Rice was something she just made to clean out the fridge.
Fried rice is not something I’ve eaten or cooked much. When my family went to Chinese restaurants, we always had white rice, never fried rice. As an adult, I find that some of the people I got to Chinese restaurants had the opposite experience, and they always order the fried rice. And, though I think I’ve made it at home once or twice, it’s not something I usually think of.
In the spirit of Dorie’s fridge raiding, I tweaked her recipe for Ginger Fried Rice to mostly match what I had and was delighted by the result. I did purchase baby bok choy, but otherwise, I had the other ingredients around. I cooked the rice in the morning and put it in the fridge for the day so it was “leftover” by dinner time. I used a leftover soy dipping sauce for the ponzu and thawed some frozen corned beef from a past St. Patrick’s Day to add some protein. The dish was so simple to throw together.
How big/small is a baby bok choy? I wish cookbook authors would provide weights for vegetables because the size of most vegetables is highly variable. It would help judge how much and how big. I quartered my baby bok choys as instructed, but, in retrospect, given that bok choy was the only ingredient in the finished dish that required me to use a knife, I should have sliced them into strips to be more bite-sized.
I also wondered why only half of the vegetables were stir-fried and charred at the beginning. The second batch of vegetables added after the rice was still raw when it was hot. I ended up just cooking everything longer, but with so many ingredients in the pan, that second set of vegetables just steamed. I think it would have been better to stir-fry all the vegetables in batches, adding rice to the last batch and then adding the already cooked vegetables back in. Live and learn.
We really enjoyed this recipe. It was particularly good served with a salad tossed with more of the soy dipping sauce I had. My typical way of using up the fridge and freezer odds and ends is a savory tart, but I will try to remember fried rice as a delicious (and simpler) alternative.
Take good care of yourself and your family. Even if you’re healthy, if you are able, staying at home and social distancing are sensible things to do for the next couple weeks. For the common good, we all need to limit the spread of this virus.
I have a favorite recipe for a salad made from grilled steak, with a Cuban flair. It’s long been my go-to summer recipe when there’s leftover steak in the fridge. It looks like this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie, Next-Day Beef Salad, introduces some competition all year long!
Next-Day Beef is a perfect way to create a second meal from leftover beef that doesn’t seem at all like leftovers. The meat is diced into small pieces and combined with a variety of fresh and piquant ingredients. Dorie invites us to play with what’s in our refrigerators, making this a doubly practical meal.
I stayed fairly close the written recipe, adding scallions, cornichons, capers, slivered olives, and grape tomatoes. For the peppers, I used a combination of candied jalapeños and peppadew peppers for a mixed dose of sweet and spicy. (As you might expect, I skipped the apple. You’re welcome, Howard.) All of this gets tossed in a mustardy mayonnaise and served on a bed of mixed greens.
For once, I planned ahead, serving steak and baked potatoes one night, making sure there was enough leftover to test out the Next-Day Beef Salad for the next night. This made a light dinner served alongside a loaf of rosemary bread and a wedge of brie with mushrooms. Leftovers of the leftovers made a perfect lunch as well.
I loved all of the ingredients, which are staples in my refrigerator. In some ways, it reminds me of the Cuban salad that I like, but with a completely different flavor profile. The only thing I’d change next time is to cut way back on the dressing. The end result was a bit too creamy for both our tastes. Just one tablespoon or two would have been plenty to bind it all together. I also think a simple vinaigrette would be another variation to try.
I’m thrilled to have a new option on the list of repurposing leftover beef. I’m sure I will be making this again.