Sunday, March 27, 2011

Food: Chicken Fried Rice

Growing up, I never learned to cook. I think I may have said so before, but every time my beloved mother tried to teach me to cook, I just blew it off. I didn't want to learn to cook, I'd say, I'd never really need that skill.  I was a stupid kid, clearly, because I've really grown to believe that good food is one of the last great indulgences left.  People use to smoke indoors and drink a cocktail at 5:30, they knew how to wind down and enjoy themselves.  Now, we have food, it's not overtaxed or illegal, even if it does make us chubby.  I digress.

When I grew up, I didn't really bother to learn because I didn't feel like my ex-husband was nice enough to me to deserve the effort.  I made meals, but they weren't anything great. I never put a whole lot of thought into it, and certainly no heart.  Then, when I moved to Texas, I had to learn to cook in a hurry because Matt couldn't then, and can't now, cook at all. He's tragic in the kitchen and I enjoy a nice meal, so I learned to cook, but only tried the things that I'd had growing up and only cooked them the way my mother did. I called her and made her sit on the phone with me while I cooked the whole meal, asking her for step by step instructions. How did I do this, how hot should the oven be, what order should the food be cooked... I was tragic, but she was incredibly patient and helped me to learn long distance. You have no idea how much I'd wished, at that point, that I'd paid attention when I was a little girl.  Then, I'd know what I was doing and wouldn't have to go crying to my mother like a five year old because I couldn't make gravy.

Eventually, I was fine on my own, but I continued to make only recipes that my mom had made and only the way she made them. I didn't venture off the beaten path. I almost always liked the food she made (except the Shepard's Pie, bleh, sorry mom!), so it was no trouble for me to make those things I'd grown up eating.  Matt liked them too, for the most part (he still won't eat tuna casserole) which was a bonus.  Then, only a few years ago, I began venturing into the woods a bit, so to speak, making things that my mother had never made, or adjusting mom's recipes to my tastes.  I tried new things and sometimes they came out great, while others not so great.  Thinking about it now, I think the biggest influence in my recent culinary adventures has to be Melanie. She makes a lot of foods that I'd never tried to make, or made, and things my mom never made.

Take for instance mom's salmon patties, which calls for crushed saltine crackers.  I was at Melanie's once and she made them with cornmeal.  I liked them, they seemed easier because I didn't have to stand and crush up the crackers, so I began making them with cornmeal too.  Matt really liked it, so that was a plus, and I've never really gone back to making them the other way.  Another recipe I adjusted, on my own and without the influence of anyone else, is meatloaf.  Matt loves it, I don't love it so much, but like the salmon patties, mom uses crushed saltine crackers in her meatloaf.  I started out making it like that, but have recently changed my recipe to include crushed cheez-it crackers, rather than saltines. It comes out a little bit sharper, and more cheesy, and Matt loves it!

Okay, so why am I telling you all of this?  Well, I thought I'd share a recipe, one of those I've been talking about that goes off the beaten path for me, something I didn't grow-up eating. This is actually Melanie's recipe, but I make mine a tad bit different than hers, so we'll say it's greatly inspired by Melanie!

Chicken Fried Rice



Ingredients:[1. Approximations, since I don't actually use a recipe.]
4 Chicken Leg Quarters
4 Cups Cooked White Rice
1 Cup Frozen Peas
1 Cup Chopped Onion
4 Eggs, scrambled
Sesame Seed Oil
Powdered Ginger
Salt & Black Pepper
Garlic Salt
Onion Flakes
Soy Sauce

Method:

  1. Season chicken leg quarters with salt, pepper, garlic salt, ginger, onion flakes, and sesamie seed oil and cook in the crock pot, on high, about 4 hours or until the meat begins to fall off the bone (alternately you might boil it in a stock pot or dutch oven, or use pre-shredded chicken meat). Drain juices off of chicken and separate the meat from the bones and skin.  Set meat aside.

  2. Cook rice by package directions, with 2 tablespoons of sesame seed oil, cool and set aside.

  3. Scramble egg, set aside.

  4. In a large frying pan, sautée frozen peas and onions in sesame seed oil until the peas are thawed and the onion is soft.

  5. Add chicken, rice, and egg to the pan and mix thoroughly.  Season with powdered ginger, salt and pepper, and garlic salt until seasons are well incorporated. Add soy sauce to taste and fry rice until the ingredients are well heated.

I didn't think this recipe would be so tough to put down until I began trying to write it out. I've never followed a recipe, Melanie doesn't either, I just sort of learned from her as she was making it one night. After that, it was just trial and error. I've made it a few times now and Matt loves it, so I'm sure I'll make it again. I hope, if you make it, that you enjoy it too. One tip, go easy on the soy sauce at first, you can always add more to the pan until it's just right.  Also, taste it and add extra seasoning and soy sauce to taste. Everyone's different and this is one of those recipes that requires attention to taste because there're no exact measurements for a lot of the ingredients.

Enjoy!