It was a dark and stormy Wednesday night, and I had gotten home from work late with nothing planned for dinner. What to do? What to do? I had the phone in my hand and pizza on my mind when I suddenly recalled seeing a little recipe tucked up in the corner of the latest issue of Saveur magazine (my absolute favorite food magazine). I flipped open the magazine and there on page 75 was a recipe that promised dinner on the table in only six ingredients and a mere 5 minutes of over-the-stove cooking time. I paused, weighing the options — wait an hour for pizza or whip together a quick homemade dinner. The answer was clear.
This dish is unbelievably simple, and the completed dish certainly adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. The only thing that takes some time is waiting for the rice to cook, but while you’re waiting you pour yourself a glass of something and chop the scallions. Once the rice is cooked, it comes together in a flash — literally 5 minutes of actual cooking time. This would be the perfect recipe for leftover rice, which we always seem to have on hand and never know what to do with it.
When the dish was finished, S and I snuggled down at our TV trays (our tiny Uptown Charlotte apartment has no room for a table) to a hearty and tasty dinner. The recipe makes the perfect amount for two people (a rarity). I was surprised by how much I loved the pine nuts. They aren’t my favorite nut, but they lent a pleasant crunch to the dish. Speaking of texture, the chewiness of the rice somehow made the dish more filling for me. The rice wasn’t a vehicle for other things; it was truly substantial.
We followed the recipe exactly, but this fried rice is practically a blank canvas waiting for your stroke of creativity. You could add anything here and it would only improve what is already excellent. Vegetables, seafood, chicken, tofu — the possibilities are endless. The next time we make this, S and I agreed that the dish could use extra spice. The spiciness was subtle, but if your preference is for heat, definitely add a bit more dried pepper.
One of my favorite things about this fried rice is that it provided the perfect place for me to use the dried chilies from my mother’s garden. My family is in Kentucky, and I miss them more than words can say. It was nice to pull down the chilies that my mom and I picked together last summer and put them to good use. She would be proud. So now put down that phone, refile that take-out menu and head to the kitchen. You’ll be glad you did.
Japanese-Style Fried Brown Rice
Saveur, May 2008
2 dried chiles de arbol – sliced into thin rings
2 tbsp. Asian sesame oil
7 scallions – thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tbsp. pine nuts
3 tsp. light soy sauce
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice – cooled
Heat 2 tbsp. sesame oil in a 10″ nonstick skillet over high heat.
Add scallions and 2 tbsp. pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the scallions wilt slightly and the pine nuts take on a light golden color, about 2 minutes.
Add rice and soy sauce. Cook, stirring to break up the clumps, until the rice is hot and all the ingredients have mingled together, about 3 minutes.
Garnish with chiles.