The easiest and most foolproof steps to make tons of variations on a classic, reliable meal.
This is an absolute bachelor chow staple; it’s easy to make, hard to screw up, makes for good leftovers, and is tasty and nutritious. This is a very generic version of the recipe, with a great deal of wiggle room for variations and experimentation. Have some fun with it.
- Two large chicken breasts or equivalent-sized other meat
- A 16-ounce bag of frozen veggies appropriate for stir-fry. Or two eight-ounce bags, or whatever.
- A bottle of stir-fry sauce, teriyaki sauce, peanut sauce, or something in that vein.
- Olive oil, butter, or some other cooking oil.
- Some rice; I like to use about a cup and a half dry, but you might enjoy more or less.
- A saucepan
- Some means of cooking rice
- A spatula
You will have to wash:
- The saucepan
- The spatula
- Whatever you cook the rice in
- Whatever you eat it with
If you’re making your rice on the stove, you’ll want to start it early. Put two cups of water for every one cup of rice you’re using into a pot. Add a little salt, turn the stove on high, and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, add the rice and turn it down to a gentle simmer, then cover it and let it simmer for around twenty minutes until it’s done. Resist the urge to take the lid off and check it a lot; you’ll just let the steam out.
Or you can skip all that, do what I do, and make some minute rice in five minutes in the microwave. There’s instructions on the box when you buy it. I like to make it in the same dish I’m going to store leftovers in, because one less thing to wash.
Some folks like to use a rice cooker, but let’s face it, if you have one, it came with instructions.
For the actual stir-fry, you’ll want to start by cutting up your chicken (or whatever) while your saucepan’s heating up on the stove, about medium-high. Make sure you cut off any fat or connective tissue you don’t want, and slice it up into small pieces about the size of your thumb joint. Pro tip: if the chicken is recently defrosted and still just a little bit frozen, it cuts a lot more neatly. If you’re cutting beef or pork, make sure the slices are nice and thin.
Pour a tablespoon or two of oil into the hot saucepan; if it’s the right temperature, the oil will flow like water on the surface. Toss in your chicken and just a little bit of the sauce you’re using, and brown the chicken. That means stirring it around until all the pieces are cooked on the outside, on all sides. Because the pieces are so small, you don’t have to worry about them still being raw on the inside. If you want to toss some minced garlic into the pan to brown along with the chicken, you will probably not regret it.
Once the chicken’s browned, dump the bag of frozen veggies into the pan. Throw away the bag. Then dump in the sauce. How much sauce you want to use is a matter of individual taste; if I’ve got a bottle of Thai peanut sauce I’ll sometimes use the whole thing (I really like peanut sauce, okay?) but a spicy szechuan sauce should be used in more moderation. Basically, you want to add enough to lightly coat, but not drown, all the bits of food in the pan.
Now, using frozen veggies like this has one drawback: they add a lot of moisture to the mix as the ice crystals melt. This recipe’s designed to embrace that and make it an asset. If you let the mixture continue to cook on medium-high, stirring it regularly, the excess water will escape and the sauce will reduce nicely. This is a great time to be adding some extra seasonings. I like my food hot, so I’ll sometimes add a dab of Thai chili paste or some red pepper. You might like some lemon pepper, maybe a dash of a different sauce to tweak the flavor… just keep tasting it and figure out what your favorite combinations are.
Once the sauce is reduced down to a consistency you like (though beware cooking TOO long or your chicken will be tough) you just scoop it out of the pan and slap it onto a plate with some rice. This recipe is sized to make about two big hearty meals, or three smaller ones, so you can either feed a guest or have lunch/dinner ready for tomorrow.
The great thing about this kind of stir-fry is that there are a million variations you can run. Different meats, different veggie combinations, different sauces, different seasonings… you could make this twice a week for a year and never have the same meal twice. In all its forms, it’s got your protein, your carbs, plenty of nice vegetables, and all the flavor you could ask for.
Next week: lentil soup, the food you will eat after the zombie apocalypse because it is immortal.