Kung Hei Fat Choi! To celebrate Chinese New Year last night, I thought I'd serve a stir fry for dinner. Stir Fry is one of those things people always talk about casually, as in, "didn't have much time for dinner so I just threw together a stir fry" which always baffled me. I mean totally BAFFLED. It seemed so involved and complicated to me. Last year, the Robeau bought me a beautiful Lagastina Wok and I knew that I had to edumacate myself in the way of the stir fry, otherwise I would only use the thing to scramble eggs. Which, by the way, is the best thing ever. It's so easy to clean! There's a tip for you: if you like to scramble eggs, use a wok. Seriously, I do a little happy dance every time I wash the wok after scrambling eggs in it. And then I shoot the middle finger at all my so-called non stick frying pans.
So, when I decided to learn how to tackle the intimidating (don't judge me) stir fry, I followed Mark Bittman's recipe. His How To Cook Everything series is always a great starting place. I love his no nonsense approach. His videos are great too, for anyone who likes their cooking instructions with a dose of dry New York wit. When I have my fantasy dinner date with Charlie Rose, I'll let Bittman cook us dinner. Anderson Cooper can bring dessert. They're going to love that story about the scrambled eggs.
More often than not, I stick with Bittman's recipe adding some additional veggies and seasonings. When I don't feel like blanching anything or when I want a strictly veggie version, this is how I do it. It's so easy, I now understand what everyone has been talking about all these years.
What you'll need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion (or 2 small), chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of dry ginger (or fresh, to taste)
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 head of broccoli
1 cup sugar snap peas
1 cup baby carrots
1/2 cup celery
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoison sauce
1 cup cashews
1 cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 bundle green onions
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
fresh ground pepper (to taste)
1. Over a medium heat, sweat out your onions, garlic and ginger in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, until they are translucent and tender. While they are working away you can go ahead and julienne your peppers.
2. Add your green and red peppers to the wok, turn the heat up to high and stir occasionally. Keep an eye on things, but don't feel the need to hover. It should take about 5 minutes for your peppers to get to the appropriate level of softness. They should get some nice colour on them now too.
3. It's now time to incorporate your broccoli, sugar snap peas and baby carrots. Instead of buying them all individually, blanching them and dealing with an ice bath, etc. (see Bittman's recipe) I like to take the lazy woman's route and pick up a bag of them ready to go at the grocery store. This is the kind of bag that you can steam in the microwave. The package suggests microwaving them for 3-4 minutes which you DO NOT want to do. You'll end up with mush. I zap the bag for 1 minute, tops and then add it all to the wok.
4. Keep the heat on high, stir frequently (this is a stir fry, after all) and add your soy sauce. Keep at this for 3 - 5 minutes.
5. Turn the heat down to minimum and throw in your cashews and hoison sauce, stirring to combine.
6. Add the stock (with the corn starch stirred into it already) and stir to combine. It won't take long for your sauce to thicken.
7. Add the chopped green onions (the white and green parts), reserving a few green bits for garnish.
8. Add red pepper flakes and fresh ground pepper to taste. Correct your seasonings (I often like to add more red pepper flakes and maybe a little garlic powder for depth).
9. Serve over rice or rice noodles. We usually go with long grain or brown rice but last night I went with noodles, for the symbolism. What? At the new year it's supposed to have something to do with a long and healthy life. You think I have too much time on my hands now, don't you? Well, not enough to actually look it up and give you the whole actual story about the noodles and the symbolism, so...there! Take that.
Verdict: Yummy and fast, a great week night dinner or casual lunch for guests. It's easier to eat on rice, but the vermicelli noodles are delicious (I really like the texture). The microwave in the bag veggies make this one almost effortless. Sad but true. Also of note, is the fact that the red pepper flakes, while probably wildly inauthentic totally make this dish for me. It's just the right kind of heat and it helps marry the other flavours together. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go warm up the leftovers for lunch!