Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stir-Fry, part 2

I've finally finished my finals! Now I only have three semesters left...ugh. Oh well.

I feel bad. I haven't been posting at all, but I have an explanation. (Not an excuse, but maybe you'll be sympathetic.) This past week was Finals. Even though my finals weren't all that stressful in and of themselves, the concept of Finals is pretty terrifying and makes me want to do nothing except hide and read, so while I have some...ahh...interesting book recommendations, there wasn't really much time to cook involved. Add to that the fact that my mom's been in Florida for a week and then she packed off to some sort of retreat, and Mike also had some tests (that he actually had to care about), I was on my own. And, actually, for the six weeks before this week, Mike was off on the other fricken' side of the state, leaving only me and my mom. I don't know why I have such a mental block about cooking for just me and my mom--I cook for just me and Mike all the time, right? So I'm not entirely sure why. But a lot of time time I've just been home alone, and that means heating up some Trader Joe's frozen foods in a microwave (or, if I'm feeling energetic, a frying pan). I know I'm not the only one with this problem. I think it's depressing to put a lot of time and effort into something and not be able to share it. (I'm feeling this way right this second, actually. Glad I still have some frozen gyoza left.)

Anyway, I did manage to get some cooking in during the past six weeks, even if it wasn't nearly as much as I would have liked. (I tend to eat much healthier food when I make it myself. Going out is bad for me.) One morning during the last few weeks of the semester, I woke up and did my homework that was due for class that day and checked my school email and class was canceled and for some reason, my first thought was: MARINADE CHICKEN! (Okay, that was my third thought. My first thought was, Dammit, I like that class. My second thought was, WOO DAY OFF! Then I had the chicken thought.) I think there is nothing that pulls together a bunch of somewhat random ingredients better than a good marinade. In this case, I had a roasted garlic marinade waiting in my cabinet. I threw some chicken in and went back to sleep. (Yeah, so what if I went back to sleep at 11? I'm in college. I'm practically nocturnal. Or an insomniac. Or both. Any sleep I can get is precious.)

When I threw the chicken in the marinade, I had no plans for the actual meal. I just hoped to have some delicious chicken with some other also-delicious things for dinner that night. When it came time to actually throw dinner together, I was thrilled to realize that I'd stocked up on vegetables and was able to make this without going to the store at ALL! That's a big deal for me. A softball-sized onion and a bundle of asparagus caught my eye and I just went to town, tossing in whatever seemed like a good idea. The unfortunate thing is that this was probably a month ago and I didn't write anything down, so I'll be re-making-up this recipe as I write it here. On the plus side, it follows the basic rules of electrostirfrydynamics: if you see something that you think would be good in it, toss it in. If you're not sure (especially with spices), hold the potential meal component next to what is, so far, part of the meal. Inhale. (Through your nose.) Do the smells work? Congratulations. Now, for a recipe that I hope tastes as good as the memories in my head.

Roasted Garlic Stir-Fry
An Original Creation

-About a pound of chicken strips
-A bottle of roasted garlic marinade (I used Hannaford-brand. Well, Hannaford "Taste of Inspirations" brand. Hannaford is a grocery store near me. I was surprised at how delicious it was. Next time I'm there, I'm stocking up on this.)
-A bundle of asparagus
-A really big onion (I used yellow, but I feel like red would have worked better. I'm not really sure what the differences between onions are, but after eating this and thinking a bit, red makes more sense with the flavors.)
-Cumin seeds
-Salt and pepper
-Soy sauce or Tamari
-I might have used a little bit of Worcestershire sauce too but I can't remember.
-1 cup uncooked brown rice

1. Wake up at a reasonable hour in the morning (by which I mean, in the morning. As long as it's before noon, you're good. Unless you eat dinner at, like, 3. Then wake up early.) In a gallon-sized Ziploc-style bag, combine the chicken and marinade. Let sit in the refrigerator all day, until you're ready to cook. (I always squeeze the bag and stir around the contents a little bit a few times during the day. There's always some chicken poking out of the top or something, and I don't want that bite to be less flavorful.)
2. About an hour before you want to eat, start your brown rice. Make it however the directions on the package tell you to. (I usually eat white rice because it cooks so much faster, but I've been trying to get whole grains into my diet more regularly, and the flavors of this dish were PERFECT for brown rice. Use white if you must, but I don't recommend it.)
3. Take the chicken-bag out of the fridge. On a plastic cutting board, cut the strips into cubes. DON'T TOSS THE BAG WITH THE MARINADE. Okay. Throw the chicken and some shakes of cumin seeds into a frying pan on medium-high heat and let it cook for a while, until the chicken is mostly white.
4. As the chicken is cooking, begin to cut your onions and asparagus. Cut them to whatever size you like--I usually keep the onions between 1 square inch and 1/2 square inch. Most people say to cut asparagus into 1-inch segments, but I like them longer than that. Maybe two or three inches.
4.5 You're sort of doing this as you're cutting the vegetables. As the chicken cooks, slowly add small amounts of the marinade from the bag. I hear sometimes that you're not supposed to do this, that it's contaminated from having the chicken in it all day. I don't understand this. If the chicken is okay to cook and eat, then it doesn't make any sense not to cook and eat the marinade, but you have to make sure it stays at a pretty high heat for a while.
5. Throw in the vegetables, along with any remaining marinade and a little bit of water (no more than half a cup). Stir everything together. Add a couple dashes of soy sauce (probably about a tablespoon) and possibly some worcestershire sauce (and like I said, I can't remember if I did this, but I know that if I did it was only a tiny bit), along with a little bit of salt and pepper. (I don't usually add salt while I'm cooking--I like to let people salt to their own tastes, and I don't really do pepper 'in moderation' so I leave that up to everyone else, too.)
6. Let everything simmer until the sauce has thickened at least back to its previous consistency. If the stir-fry is done before the rice, cover it on very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is finished.
7. Scoop some rice into a bowl. Or onto a plate. Cover with your stir-fry. Enjoy.

Cumin seeds, yum! I'm not sure what that thing that looks like bacon on the bottom is. This was definitely just chicken.

This was wonderful. I was rather proud of myself--it's something really simple to throw together and yet extremely delicious. As I was cooking, I was just opening my fridge and cabinets and seeing if anything caught my eye to toss in--that's how the soy sauce and cumin came about. It's always nice to know that I can just throw something together out of what's already in the house--unfortunately, that means keeping food in the house. I'm not very good at that part.

I love how cameras capture the steam coming out of a pan. I also don't. I need a better camera.

So--woo! I have a few more things to post, and now that it's Summer (according to school), I have time to cook! I'm super excited to start grilling, and I want to take advantage of summer fruits for delicious pies. What are you guys planning on making this summer? Are you excited for any particular aspect of summer cooking?


  1. One thing we always use while cooking is garlic, because we love it so much! This is just perfect ...I love it:)
    We usually make lots of salads and smoothes in summer :)
    Weather is so cold today so we are planning to make a cream garlic soup :)
    Kisses and have a great Monday :)

  2. Diana, garlic soup sounds AMAZING. I have a recipe stashed in my "recipes you totally want to try" folder called "44-clove garlic soup," the link is here:

    Smoothies--delicious! They make a great light meal, don't they?

  3. This looks so so good! I am so hungry now!!