Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Go-to Meal... by Barbara (Ruth)

The idea for this Twofer-Monday post came to me the other night when I was wondering what meal I could put together really quickly if some friends came by for dinner. Everyone has one of these meals, I imagine - you know, you've made it so many times that you don't have to think or plan, and you pretty much have everything you need on hand.

I realized there's another interpretation of the title - your "Go-to" meal could be what you eat when you just don't feel like cooking. In that case, I would be writing about either a bowl of cereal (Raisin Bran and Cheerios being my favourites) or the perfect PB&J (cheap grocery store white bread, Kraft extra creamy peanut butter, and Welch's grape jelly, accompanied by a tall glass of cold milk).

But that would be a short post, so I'll stick with my original intention.

Those of you old enough may remember that one of the fads of the 70s was cooking with a wok. At least it was in our house, along with making your own yogurt (can you even get yogurt makers any more?). Using a wok was actually an unusual thing for us, being a very old-school, "Waspy", meat-and-potatoes family. But somehow my Mum discovered the wok, and our meals were never the same.

Over the years I became the de facto stir fry cook in our family, experimenting with different flavour combinations, sauce variations, and using different rices and noodles. At this ripe old age, I've decided it's all a matter of taste, and there really is no wrong combination. In fact, you don't even have to use a wok - a deep frying pan will do.

Although there are hundreds of recipe books with stir fry recipes from all over Asia, my own stir fry depends on what I have in the fridge. I cook with either chicken or beef (never cared for tofu, although you could certainly use that), and use whatever veggies I have available. If I'm particularly lucky, I have "exotic" things like cremini mushrooms, fresh ginger, or maybe some shrimp.

I try really hard to make it colourful and flavourful, but have certainly failed on both accounts from time to time (those are the nights when I should have had Raisin Bran).

If my stir fry is chicken based, I tend to make a sauce with a gingery citrusy mustardy flavour, often using combinations of these types of sauce ingredients:

If it's beef based, I will go with more of a dark, tangy sauce with a teriyaki or spicy bent to it, using some of these things:

Regardless of what the meat is, I always use these:

Spices can be anything that tempts your tastebuds - you might like a coriander-cumin type combination, or perhaps ginger-dill. Maybe cayenne with Chinese five-spice powder would be what you crave one night.

The same goes for what you use as your starch - rice isn't just rice anymore. You can use brown, basmati, jasmine, or sticky. You can use cous cous or quinoa. You can use egg noodles, rice noodles or even plain elbow macaroni - it all depends what is in your cupboard and what suits your mood.

As for a recipe? Well, I'll give it a shot below, but after 30 years I don't really measure anything! I just pour, stir, taste, and adjust. Eventually, I get something like this:

Let me know what your favourite combinations are - I would love to give it a try!

Ruth's Simple Stir Fry (Chicken & Shrimp base with Jasmine Rice)

  1. Start by cooking the rice, as it will take longer than cooking the entire stir fry
  2. Wash and prep veggies and meat so they are ready to add (I chop everything in big chunks, vs. the fancy shmancy styles in restaurants - it's faster, and more satisfying to eat)
  3. Heat a couple of Tb of sesame oil in a wok or frying pan.
  4. Add onions and garlic, sauté
  5. Add chicken and partially (mostly) cook, remove from pan (it will continue cooking after removed from the pan, so don't over-cook at this point)
  6. Add more oil if required
  7. Add hardest veggies (carrots, usually)
  8. After a few mins, add next hardest veggies, and so on
  9. Mushrooms and tomatoes last
  10. While cooking veggies, add cilantro, coriander, ginger
  11. Remove veggies from pan
  12. Create sauce - add about a cup of Orange Juice, a couple of Tbs each, of oyster sauce, honey, and Dijon mustard. Also add Worcester or soy sauce to taste.
  13. Add a little cornstarch (optional - depends if you want the sauce really thick)
  14. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning
  15. Add back chicken and veggies
  16. Add shrimp
  17. Heath through and stir gently til sauce thickens and meat and shrimp are cooked through
  18. Serve over rice
  19. Sprinkle with sesame seeds

1 comment:

  1. This stir-fry looks great. Like you, I just add stuff without measuring. I don't think I own a single "written down" stir-fry recipe!