Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What's luck got to do with it?

I wouldn't mind potluck dinners if they were a once-in-a-while thing but in my world they outnumber conventional dinner parties by a ratio of at least four to one. At a recent potluck we attended there were four bowls of salad with blue cheese and field greens--one of which I made, which also had toasted pecans and dates--and nothing one would call a main dish. At the potluck dinner at the kid's day care center last week there were three noodle dishes--one of which I made, chop chae with lots of veggies--in addition to pizza, potatoes, and rice. Jeepers.

Today E had her graduate seminar over for their final meeting of the semester and everyone was to bring something to eat. It's our policy when we attend these affairs to bring something substantial, something to satisfy hunger if everyone else brings hummus, chips, and cookies. E often makes spinach lasagne but for today's event I volunteered to make fried rice, which would be a quicker and easier preparation and would not require a trip to the store. I ate before the crowd arrived and hid in the study doing work while the kid napped. When he woke up and we went out to meet the students I feasted my eyes on the table. Lots of cookies, chocolate fudge, popcorn balls, two noodle dishes, something made with chicken (!), and the fried rice. The kid loaded up on fig newtons and acted all shy at first. Then he demanded that we join him and his enormous stuffed Babar lying supine on he dining room floor. He got testy when E refused but I obliged and that satisfied him.

You have probably had enough of my fried rice by now, but none of my previous reports contained a proper recipe. Today one of E's students asked for one. So here is my vegetable fried rice. If you take this to a potluck it's safe to say that it won't be the only rice dish on the table. (For today's gathering I made twice this much. To see what I've done in the past, click here, here, here, and here.)

Vegetable fried rice

2 ½ cups cooked rice, room temperature or cold
4 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, diced
½ cup frozen peas
2 green onions, chopped, green and white parts separated
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt + a pinch
1 egg, beaten with that pinch of salt
peanut oil, several tbs
¼ cup kecap manis*

Preheat a large pan or a wok on the stove, then heat up a tbs of oil until smoking hot and pour in the egg. Leave it alone for a few seconds until it starts to bubble around the edges, then stir well with a spatula to incorporate the oil into it. (Cooking it in lots of oil makes it fluffy.) After 15 or 20 seconds, well before it'’s done cooking, remove from the pan to a plate.

Heat another tbs of oil and stir-fry the carrots and mushrooms until browned and softened. Push them to the side and pour another tsp of oil into the center of the pan or wok. Add the garlic and white parts of the green onion and wait until the fragrance of garlic fills the air. Then stir together with the other vegetables. Add the peas and the rice, breaking the clumps apart with your hands. It helps to get your hands nice and wet before doing this. Stir well. You can leave it over medium-high heat at this point for a few minutes and if you do some of the rice will brown and crisp up, which is nice but not necessary.

Break the eggs into small pieces with a spatula or fork and return the egg to the pan with the green parts of the onions. Add the salt, pepper, and kecap manis and lower the heat. Stir well to combine and serve on a warm platter.

*Kecap manis is a "“special sweet soy sauce"” made in Indonesia. Where I live you have to go to an Asian market to find it. I buy the ABC brand.


Blogger mzn said...

I'm trying to get my mother to leave her comments in the blog. We'll see what happens. Here's what she says:

"My favorite potluck dinner was about 20 years ago in Eugene. It was a Friday night dinner at a lovely home of one of Shelley's* friends and everyone brought a dish. There were ten homemade challahs, mostly whole wheat of course (it was Eugene after all) and four organic bean salads. A good time was had by all!"

*That would be my aunt, my mom's sister.

9:10 AM  
Blogger zoe p. said...

One of my most influential profs from undergrad told the class, "There are people who like pot-lucks, and there are people who do not."

I'm not actually sure this is true; I am usually very particular about having all my food match and balance, but every once in a while a bunch of everyone's favorite stuff thrown together is fun.

But not liking potlucks, it should be allowed.

9:19 AM  
Blogger zoe p. said...

My favorite thing about Thomas Pynchon's Mason and Dixon (well, except for the Giant Cheese episode) is Dixon's ketjap addiction. This fellow had it backwards but figures it out. Pychon implies it all, when Dixon starts putting it on everything and offending the ladies, " 'Latest ketjap, arriv'd Express from Indo-China, see? Pineapple, Pumplenose, Tamarind, - an hundred flavors, a thousand blends!' " (77)

12:15 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

Once I was telling someone about kecap manis and they thought I was saying "ketchup mayonnaise." I sometimes mumble very badly.

I haven't read M&D but I'm intrigued that kecap would offend ladies. Those to whom I have served it were rather pleased. This was in the 21st century, mind you.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Katherine said...

I have seen older recipes for pad thai which recommend substituting ketchup if you don't have tamarind paste or various asian soy products. Nice to get a little etymological perspective on that.

2:42 PM  

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