Books I Cook On is an event I’m doing for January where I review one of my top 5 favorite cookbooks each week and post my favorite recipe from that book. Learn to cook, eat healthier – it’s fun!
Before I started this blog, I wrote a food blog where I took a picture of everything I ate and occasionally posted recipes. I hated it. It took a lot of convincing from my sister to give blogging another shot because I didn’t like blogging on my food blog AT ALL. Turns out, I have more of a passion for reading and it makes this blog a joy to write on. However, I do like cooking, so I wanted to do a feature this month of some cookbooks that I cook from over and over again. And hey, cookbooks are books, right?
This week’s cookbook is The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by Jaden Hair.
I bought this cookbook because I love Asian food. These dishes are easy and authentic and I make something out of here at least once a week. These recipes taught me to not be afraid of turning the heat to high on the stove. Everyone that watches me cook thinks I’m nuts when the pan is smoking and the smoke alarms go off. That just means that dinner’s done, baby. And no, the food isn’t burnt as long as I’m paying attention. Turning the heat on high makes your food more flavorful and moist. It’s not that scary once you get used to it.
Also, the introduction to this book has me shopping the Asian market like a pro. You should see the strange looks I get when I buy lemongrass at the supermarket. Lemongrass looks like a weed that grows in a swamp (PROBABLY BECAUSE IT IS), but it is oh so yummy.
The best thing I learned from this cookbook was how to make kick-butt fried rice. It tastes better than anything you can get at Chinese take-out. So that’s the recipe I’m going to share with you. But first, here are Jaden’s Fried Rice Secrets:
Use previously chilled leftover rice
To get the perfect fried rice, you’ll want to use yesterday’s rice as it’s had a chance to dry out a bit in the refrigerator. The heat of the pan and the liquid seasoning (soy sauce) will re-steam and hydrate the leftover rice. If you try to use freshly cooked, hot rice (like I did years ago,) you’ll end up with too much moisture in the rice and will make a heavy mess in the pan.
High heat is essential
But high heat doesn’t mean that you need super high BTU’s or a gas stove. All it takes is a bit of patience to let your pan or wok heat up. The high heat ensures that whatever ingredients that you put into the pan gets fried quickly and that each grain of rice gets hot to the core.
A common mistake of stir frying is to constantly poke, prod, turn and flip every second. In a restaurant kitchen where flames are so powerful they can singe your brows, chefs have to keep things moving. But in home kitchens, our stovetops need a little more time to do their work to heat up and cook our food. If you keep poking at the rice, the grains will break, release more starch and turn the entire thing goopy. It will never have a chance to fry correctly…not enough “wok time” as my Mom likes to say. The best thing is to do is to spread out the rice, use the entire cooking surface of the pan and just leave it alone. Put your spatula down and back away from the stove for a minute. Give the rice a chance to heat up. Then flip, toss and redistribute the rice, again spreading it out and leaving it alone to cook another side.
Fry ingredients separately
Fried rice has many different ingredients, and in my home it’s usually just a mixture of whatever vegetables, meats or seafood I can scrounge up from the refrigerator or freezer. But whatever the ingredients, you want to make sure that you can taste each individual one. To do this, you’ve got to fry your meat or seafood first, remove from the wok or pan when 80% cooked through and then toss it back in towards the end of the stir fry to finish cooking. Because if you try to fry all of the ingredients at the same time in the same pan, they’ll all compete for “wok time” and everything will end up tasting exactly the same!
Use what you’ve got on hand
Oh, and one more tip-you really don’t need to be exat on the measurement of the ingredients. If you only have three cups of leftover rice instead of four, just use a little less soy sauce. And if you have a few mushrooms in the fridge, throw them in! Once you get the technique of making fried rice using the secrets above, you can improvise and make up your own recipe, utilizing whatever is in your refrigerator.
Shrimp Fried Rice
8 ounces small uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt (or 1/2 tsp kosher salt)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cooking oil (divided)
3 eggs, beaten in a small bowl
2 stalks scallion or green onion, minced
4 cups previously cooked leftover rice, grains separated well
3/4 cup frozen carrots and peas, defrosted
1 tablespoon soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if you are making a gluten-free version)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the salt, pepper and cornstarch. Let the shrimp marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature. Heat a wok or large sauté pan on high heat. When the pan is hot enough for a bead of water to instantly sizzle and evaporate, add only 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil and swirl to coat pan.
Now add the shrimp, quickly spreading out around the pan so that they are not overlapping. Let the shrimp fry, untouched for 30 seconds. Flip over and let the other side fry for 30 seconds, or until about 80% cooked through. Remove the shrimp from the pan onto a plate, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.
Turn the heat to medium and let the pan heat up again. Pour in the eggs, stirring in a quick motion to break up and scramble the eggs. When the eggs are almost cooked through (they should still be slightly runny in the middle), dish out of the frying pan onto the same plate as the cooked shrimp.
Use a paper towel to wipe the same wok or sauté pan clean (no need to wash) and return to high heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, swirling to coat. When the oil is very hot, add the green onions and stir fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add in the rice and stir well to mix in the green onions throughout. Spread the rice all around the wok surface area and let the rice heat up, untouched until you hear the bottoms of the grains sizzle, about 1-2 minutes. Use the spatula to toss the rice, again spreading the rice out over the surface of wok or pan
Drizzle the soy sauce all around the rice and toss. Add the peas and carrots, the cooked eggs, shrimp and sesame oil, tossing to mix the rice evenly with all of the ingredients. Let everything heat back up again, until the rice grains are so hot they practically dance! Taste and add an additional 1 teaspoon of soy sauce if needed.