Today I want to get a little personal--just a little bit. And it has to do with time, and cooking, and how there never seems to be enough food even after you spend hours cooking something that's supposed to last for days. It happens to us, our small family of two, and it happens to everyone else, I know. It also has to do with what I've chosen to post on this blog for the past few years, and why, and some possible changes ahead.
The other day, at a crawfish boil (lucky!), a neighbor of ours was saying that he checked food orleans when he was looking for something to make for dinner (that is, quick) and couldn't really find many choices. Of course, I said, "That's about right." He said, "Does it seem to you like everything on your blog takes about 3 hours to make?" I said, "[Gulp] Um...yes." And then followed with, "We usually cook those things on the weekends." Which is completely true, but for a busy dad looking for something to rustle up in a half hour, that kind of talk don't do much good.
So here's the deal: Up to this point, I've been dedicated to posting traditional kinds of Louisiana and Southern foods with few exceptions. Usually, these things take time if they're made in a traditional style, which is how we like to make them. We cook the big Louisiana pot foods like gumbo, stews, beans, jambalaya, and roasts on the weekends, almost exclusively. But we eat them for days, because we usually make a double batch and turn the leftovers into all kinds of things. I think lots of folks do that. So for Paul and me, our small family of two, we can spend 3 or more hours on a couple of roasts on Sunday, and then turn the leftover roast into quick meals for the weekdays. We make a lot of egg dishes, tacos, enchiladas, improvised soups, pastas, and fried rice. I don't usually make a big deal of the leftover things we make, but I'm thinking that's a missed opportunity. First of all, I could share more recipes of things that we truly make up on the fly; and second, this blog is my personal recipe file. I use it constantly to remember what I did when I did it and it was good. So today, here's one of our favorite leftover meals, roasted pork fried rice! We eat fried rice a lot because we always have rice (duh) and usually have some meat, veggies, and eggs to use up. It's so economical it makes me laugh a bit. Maybe I'm laughing because it's so good. That'd make more sense.
A few tips for making quick meals during the week:
- Make double batches of recipes on the weekend and freeze them to eat as future meals or refrigerate leftovers to use as parts of weekday meals in the days ahead. Roasts are especially good for this, as are beans. If you're roasting a chicken, might as well cook 2 or 3 of them.
- If you find a "leftovers" recipe you want to make, but you didn't have time to make the roast beef or whatever it calls for, try substituting a rotisserie chicken, shredded. It works in most things.
- Adjust recipes (fearlessly!) to suit what you have. If a recipe calls for asparagus and you only have carrots, don't even worry about it. Use them carrots.
- Something we couldn't live without: tortillas. We'll turn whatever we have into a burrito, quesadilla, wrap, or taco. We'll even fry them up as chips for nachos if we must!
Please share your tips for using leftovers or making quick weeknight meals in the comments section! The busy dads (and moms) of the world will thank you for it.
roasted pork fried rice
For the rice: Bring 3 3/4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan, stir in 2 cups of rice, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 17 minutes. Spread out in a shallow container to help it chill faster and keep it from clumping together.
- 4 cups cooked white or brown rice, chilled
- 3 cups shredded roasted pork (we used this)
- 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 15 stalks asparagus, in 1/2" slices
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce (or other hot sauce)
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- sliced green onions, for garnish
- Heat the shredded pork, covered, in the microwave or oven, whatever's easier, until it's warm. Keep covered and set aside.
- Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, Sriracha, sesame oil, and sugar in a glass measure or small bowl and stir well to combine. Set aside.
- Have all the vegetables chopped and ready. Heat a wok (or large, deep skillet) over high heat until hot. Add 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil, heat for a few seconds, and pour in the beaten eggs. Quickly stir and scramble them for a minute or two, and just as they become cooked, remove them to a bowl and set aside.
- Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in the wok; add onion, garlic, ginger, and asparagus, and stir-fry until the onion and asparagus are tender but still crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the peas and stir-fry another minute. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
- Heat 3 Tablespoons of oil in the wok. Add all the rice to the wok, stir-frying and turning for a couple of minutes, until the rice is hot and starting to get toasty. Add the pork, vegetables, and eggs to the rice, and then pour in the soy sauce mixture. Stir and turn well for 3 or 4 minutes, until everything is combined, hot, and good.
- Top with sliced green onions and a good show to watch. We're into Homeland.
Serves 4 to 6.