Solid Gold on a Carbon Steel Budget...

There is something very zen about making stir fry.  There is a reasonable amount of knife work involved and you get to cut veggies and whatnot into shapes you might not usually use in your everyday cooking.  I like that.  lots.  the flavors are fresh and vibrant and you can tailor the dish to your personal tastes pretty easily.  You like chicken? AWESOME! You hate chicken? AWESOME! stir-fry won't judge you. It embraces the challenge. It's like the hippie drum circle (everyone's invited) of easy recipes, but as any hippie worth their djembe will tell you, you're only as good as the tools you use.

 For years, I put off buying a real wok, thinking there wasn't much difference in a wok and a big saut√© pan.  Like most things in my life, I was wrong. A good wok is usually made of carbon and very thin.  this facilitates the super intense heat you need to get that unmistakable flavor of your favorite chinese food.  I bought a pretty basic one from sur la table that required seasoning, but now I treat it just like a cast iron pan and it never fails me.  That sucker heats up super fast and consistently cranks out superb stir fries and curries.  

Look people, I'm not asking you to go get yourself some "mahble cahlums", here.  It's a wok. it's less than 30 bucks, but you'll feel like a million bucks when you're guests say, "who cooked this, the pope?"

Basic Stir Fry
1 pound meat, sliced as thin as you can (I usually use chicken or beef, but pork is good too) or firm tofu
1/2 cup soy sauce
1tbs+1tsp brown sugar
3 garlic cloves
combine this stuff in bowl, let sit for 30min-1hr
from here on, its kind of up to you but I like to use
handful of almonds
dried red chile (chile de arbol)
broccoli (about 1/2 a head
1 red bell pepper, matchstick cut
1 carrot, matchstick cut
some greens (usually 2-3 big collard green leaves)

14 oz. Broth (chicken, beef, pork stock,veg stock, whatever)
1/4 c soy sauce
2tbs cornstarch
whisk this last group of ingredients together in a small bowl

heat up your wok. get that sucker super hot.  put in about a tbs of a high smoke point oil (peanut, preferably, but canola or grape seed or veg oil will work).  Add the almonds and the dried chiles, be careful not to burn them.  When they start to toast, remove and set on paper towels to drain, we'll add these back in later.  see what you just did…toasted almond and chile oil to flavor your stir fry. nice move, kids.  now, use a slotted spoon (or your sparkly clean mitts) to add the meat (or tofu) to the oil without transferring the marinade.  too much liquid would steam the meat and probably burn your face off, and we don't want that.  give the meat a couple trips around the pan until it starts to looked cooked. add it back to the bowl with the marinade, set aside.  now, add your veggies.  give them 1-2 minutes, tossing them around, and add the broth, soy, cornstarch mixture. now, add the almonds and chiles and the meat, marinade and all. let this cook, stir frying it around the pan for about 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to get thickened to your liking.  you can thin the sauce out with a little more stock or water if you need. 
serve with rice.
some essentials:
This is the wok I have. it rules. its inexpensive and a workhorse. it requires seasoning but you can do it, don't be a wuss and get a nonstick.  they're crap.
wok spatula- you need something to move a lot of food at once.  these are good, but i prefer 
this guy- I like that its slotted, I find it better for stir fry, and you most likely have a spatula already.  I'm surprised at how much I use this spoon and yes I know its more expensive than the wok. sheesh.
ALSO!!!!!
As much as I would love you all to go out and buy carbon steel woks, I'd love it even more if you'd check out my super talented friend, Angela's, awesome blog, here.  She is one of the sweetest, most kind hearted people I've ever met, and that would be enough, but she's also a pastry goddess.  you heard me right. PASTRY. GODDESS. Angela's got the skills to pay the bills.  She's as real as it gets in the pastry world and a pretty good writer to boot.  you will not be disappointed. cheers.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Really glad to see your posts on my dashboard again Steve!