Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Stir Fry Education, A Little Too Late

Before the stir fry went awry...

Last week I made a mediocre stir fry. I hate to admit it, but I did. My mistakes were many and varied, as tends to happen when the spirit of "summer=no cooking" rears its ugly head. Everything started out well. I pulled out my big, stainless steel flat bottomed wok. I heated it until the pan was smoking hot (literally) and added some canola oil. I added my onions and yellow bell pepper. I removed them, added mushrooms and zucchini and put everything back in the fire. Then comes mistake number. I planned on fancying up a dried packet of stir-fry sauce. I read the directions, mixed 2 ts. of honey in place of the sugar suggested on the pack with 2 tb. of soy sauce and some water.....then, I neglected to add the actual seasoning pack. Then I cleared out the wok, let it heat up and added some chicken breast and shrimp and start to toss those suckers like there was no tomorrow. I mean, I swirled, swished and flipped it until the water from my slightly frozen shrimp and the juices from the chicken brought the whole high heat cooking thing to an abrupt close. The chicken and shrimp began to steam in the juices and shrimp water, and I knew then that my perfect stir fry was no longer. Still, I pushed on feeling the pressure of a hungry husband and child hovering from the living room. I continued to drain the juices and return the pan to the fire. Then I did it again, and then again. After all this, the condition of my stir fry still hadn't improved so I added in all the veggies and poured over the (incomplete) sauce and served it up. The facial expressions around the room were pained as we pushed it down, determined not to spend extra money on take out and to maintain the ability to count our calories as much as possible. Can we forget last Monday, please?

Today I opened my email to find a notification that my June-July 2010 issue of my digital subscription to Saveur magazine had arrived. I logged in, and flipped through and realized that I had not really been taking the time to read the previous issues. So I went to an old issue and found some real foodie treasures. A titalating article on macaroni and cheese, the timeless "bechemel vs. custard" debate (to be continued in another post), a revealing article on the food of Kenya, an informative expose on olive oil, and a "Stir Fry Education" on Page 104 of Saveur about traditional Asian stir-fry methods complete with photos and instructions. This was immediately followed by a short piece about adapting American electric stoves and flat bottomed woks to traditional Asian stir fry recipes.

Needless to say, I almost slapped myself silly after reading it. I started off the right way, but should have continued the process of quick cooking parts of the stir fry and setting them aside for later. And most importantly, I didn't think to put my chicken and fish in the wok and not touch them to allow them to sear, since as meat moves it loses juices into the pan. Duh. I say all of this to say, read the article, and don't make the same sad stir fry mistakes I made, and vow to never make again. So let's recap the basics:
  1. Crank up your stove top to the max, and let it regain heat each time you add or remove an item.
  2. Allow meats to sear before moving them to seal in juices.
  3. It only takes about 30 seconds for everything to come together at the end. Thirty seconds and not a second more!
And thus will you be saved from a soggy stir-fry. Tonight I'll be trying another Asian inspired dish- Japanese tempura vegetables and shrimp. Look for that on another menu.

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