Thursday, November 18, 2010

"The Chinese Cookbook" by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee - The Best Fried Rice



Date I made this recipe: November 14, 2010

The Chinese Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee
Published by: J.B. Lippincott Company
© 1972 – Fourth printing
Recipe: The Best Fried Rice – p. 352-353

So I’m of the mind that if some is good, more is better and so if some Craig Claiborne was good, more of him and his delicious recipes was better – way better! And that’s how I came to cook from The Chinese Cookbook written by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee. And honestly, when that man says this is a recipe for “the best” fried rice, he was not kidding. This was so danged good that I honestly could have eaten it all in one sitting, with no apologies to my spouse whatsoever.

Now you may be thinking “So what’s the big deal? There are tons of Chinese cookbooks out there.” Au contraire, Pierre, there are now, but trust me, back when this was written, there just wasn’t a lot available.

And so as I discussed in last week’s blog, Craig once again broke ground, taking some of China’s best recipe and breaking them down into something that most Americans could make without too much work and for this I most heartily thank him.

So what to make, what to make? Lo Mein? Kung Pao Chicken? Chinese Pork Buns? (Oooo-I love Chinese Pork Buns!). All so good but I couldn’t decide so I threw the book over to my hubby and he said “How about the fried rice?”

The man is genius.

Here’s what I liked best about this “best” fried rice—it was not greasy. Not one little bit greasy, not one little bit overly soy-sauced and just oh so tasty. Like I said, Andy was in grave danger of going hungry for the evening because I could not quit shoveling (and I do mean shoveling—with chop sticks, naturally) this dish into my mouth. I think I came up for air now and then but am not sure.

And those of you without a wok have no fear—Target sells a perfectly decent one for not a mere $29.99 (and they threw in a wooden spatula to boot!). If all else fails, (and I’ve never done this) but use a large skillet or even a soup pot so you can rapidly stir the ingredients and mix things properly.

The only substitute I made in this dish was that I forgot to get peas but I had a frozen package of mixed veggies and used that instead. So there were bits of corn and green beans in the dish. Who cared? Oh—and the instructions to slice the shrimp in half lengthwise? Yeah, right. I chopped them into three pieces and that’s all there is to that.

Eat and enjoy. And speaking of enjoy, “enjoy” rhymes with “La Choy.” La Choy is an American company that produces Chinese food items and when I was growing up, this was as close as I was ever going to get to Chinese food without going to Chinatown…only of course, this stuff didn’t taste anything like Chinese food…but I digress. So show of hands, how many of you are old enough to remember the jingle for this (American/Asian) product “La Choy makes Chinese food...swing American!” (Perhaps you had to be there).

This dish doesn’t taste anything like canned Chinese food and for that you will thank me and Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee.

The Best Fried Rice – yield 8 to 12 servings (unless you’re me in which case, one. One, big serving)
5 cups cold cooked rice (cooked at least one day in advance)
1 cup small raw shrimps, shelled, deveined, and split in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons peanut, vegetable, or corn oil
2/3 cup cubed Chinese sausages (2 small) or cooked ham
3 eggs
½ cup cooked fresh or frozen green peas
1 tablespoon salt, approximately (Okay—only if you like eating salt licks will you like this much salt. We went with one teaspoon and that was plenty.)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
½ cup chopped scallions, green part included

Flake the rice so that the grains do not stick together. Set aside.

Combine the shrimps with the soda and salt and let stand 15 minutes or longer. Rinse thoroughly in cold water and pat dry on paper toweling.

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet until it is almost smoking and add the shrimps. Cook, stirring quickly and turning them in the oil until they turn pin, about 30 seconds. Remove them to a sieve fitted over a mixing bowl and let them drain well. Return the oil from the drained shrimps to the pan.

Add the sausages or ham to the pan and cook just to heat through, stirring. Add the rice, stirring rapidly, and cook until thoroughly heated without browning.

Do the following quickly: Make a well in the center of the rice and add the eggs, stirring constantly. When they have a soft-scrambled consistency, start incorporating the rice, stirring in a circular fashion.

When all the rice and eggs are blended, add the peas and the salt, stirring. Stir in the oyster sauce and the cooked shrimps, tossing the rice over and over to blend everything. Stir in the bean sprouts and cook, stirring and tossing, about 30 seconds. Add the scallions and serve immediately.

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