by Jaden Hair
Every time I cook a pot of rice I almost always make double than what I will serve dinner. And it's not because I want to be ready for unexpected guests, though that has happened a couple of times, but rather, the leftover rice is perfect for making fried rice. Day old (or sometimes longer) rice makes the perfect fried rice because it has had a chance to try out a little bit in the refrigerator. When you're making fried rice, there almost always is liquid added to the pan, either soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce or cooking wine. This liquid rehydrates rice and the process of frying will re-steam the rice. Conversely, if you start with hot, freshly steamed rice, adding more liquid to the pan will only make the rice mushy. And mushy fried rice is just bad eats.
So here's how you store leftover rice: Make sure that your rice is cool enough to handle. Use your spatula to break up any clumps and separate the grains a little bit, then spoon the rice into a sealable plastic bag. Place in refrigerator overnight (or longer, up to 3 days). When you are ready to make your fried rice, take that bag out and while the bag is still sealed, use your hands to massage the rice a bit to break up any clumps. Ideally, each grain of rice should be separate.
If you are running out of time and don't have the luxury of waiting overnight for the rice to dry out, here's another method. Take your freshly cooked rice and spread it out on a baking sheet to let it cool. Put the baking sheet into the refrigerator and let the rice chill, uncovered. This will help the rice dry out quicker. I've also done this in the freezer for emergency fried rice...and if you must know what emergency fried rice is, it has to do with two hungry children and only a bag of frozen peas and carrots in the freezer. Speaking of frozen vegetables, feel free to use them in your fried rice. I always have a pack of frozen mixed vegetables on hand and in a pinch, I can make an entire meal with leftover rice.
I love cooking brown rice not just because of the health benefits of brown rice versus white rice, but more because of the nutty taste and chewier texture. When you pair it with tofu, it makes the most excellent vegetarian meal in itself (just omit the oyster sauce). Of course, you can use the same recipe with white rice, no changes needed.
Fried Brown Rice with Tofu
2 tablespoons cooking oil (divided)
6 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 stalks green onions, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup sliced fresh shitake mushrooms
2 eggs, beaten in a small bowl
4 cups previously cooked leftover rice, grains separated well
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and pepper
1. Heat a large sauté pan or wok over high heat. When hot, add just 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the tofu cubes to the pan in one layer. Cook for 1 minute until golden brown and then flip the tofu to the other side to cook another minute. Remove the tofu from the pan to a plate, keeping as much oil in the pan as possible.
2. Return the pan to the stove on medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. add the green onions, bell pepper and the mushrooms. Sauté until vegetables are fragrant and softened a bit, about 1 minute. Push the vegetables to the outer edge of the pan to clear the center. Pour the beaten eggs into the center and cook until the eggs begin to firm up. Bring the vegetables back to the center of the pan and mix well with the eggs.
3. Turn the heat to high and add the rice to the pan and use spatula to break up any clumps. Toss and mix very well with all of the ingredients. Add in the cooked tofu. Pour in the soy sauce, oyster sauce and the sesame oil. Mix thoroughly and spread the rice around the surface of the pan. Let the fried rice cook, undisturbed, for 30 seconds. Flip and spread all over the surface again. Let cook for 30 seconds. Repeat until each grain of the rice is heated through completely. Taste and season with salt, pepper and additional soy sauce if needed.
Jaden Hair is a food writer, television personality, and food photographer living in Tampa Bay, Florida, who specializes in global flavors. See more of her great recipes at www.steamykitchen.com and in the brand new Steamy Kitchen Cookbook that includes 120 easy Asian recipes and over 200 color photographs.
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