When I started this place back in 2008 and posted dinner each night, it wasn’t always a recipe – because who follows an actual recipe each night? More often than not it’s a matter of shuffling through the fridge and constructing something out of what’s there – what needs to be cooked, revamped or salvaged, or what’s comfortably in your repertoire, like the scrambled eggs and brown beans my mom always fell back on when we were kids, or the eggs on toast. A lot of proper dinners don’t require a recipe – and when it’s the sort of thing that makes use of whatever scraps you have in your fridge, it’s not helpful to adhere to a strict formula.
Fried rice is the very best vehicle for leftovers, and the ultimate cheap fast food. The trick to fried rice is starting with cold rice – and long grain. Sticky rice clumps together, as does warm, freshly cooked rice. But once cooled, the grains separate, making them easy to quickly stir-fry in a hot pan. I love my big, heavy cast iron, but any large skillet will do; set it over medium-high heat, add a good drizzle of canola or other vegetable oil, and a smaller drizzle of sesame oil if you have some – just for flavour. Dump in as much rice as you want to cook, without crowding the pan too much, and start to stir it around to heat it through, letting it get a bit golden around the edges.
Push the rice over in the pan and crack a couple eggs into the space; cook and scramble them, stirring back into the rice as the fluffy curds cook. Chop and add leftover roast chicken or pork, or add some crumbled sausage, roasted veggies, or raw or cooked shrimp. Shake in some frozen peas, straight from the freezer – they’ll cook in a few minutes just with the heat of the pan and the rice. Drizzle over some soy sauce to season, and if you like, toss in a handful of cilantro. It’s a satisfying way to cook, and you can make as much or as little as you want – it’s perfect when you want to make a real meal for one, but it’s just as easy to make enough for five.
What’s your go-to? Or favourite way to recycle leftovers into something new?