The hardest step of cooking is just deciding what to make. In case you have not figured it out already I spend a lot of time thinking about food, reading other blogs, trolling through my cookbooks and otherwise obsessing. However I often find myself in the kitchen trying to decide what's for dinner and experiencing chef's block. However I am now familiar with enough recipes and techniques that most of the time I can look at what we have and eventually come up with a meal. Not always a meal that a 4 and 7 year old want to eat, but you can't have everything.
Chef's block is a problem Lewis often has, an issue that can rear it's ugly head every week. I work on Saturdays and he has to make dinner. Lewis is competent in the kitchen carrying out all the technical aspects with ease. By his own admission, he lacks the understanding of how flavors combine that allow for improvisation, but he is adept at the skills of cooking. However he is often lost over what to make.
For most of this winter he has been making spaghetti carbonara or Chinese Hamburger with Peas for dinner every Saturday night. My children are perfectly happy, I however am bored. So Lewis promised not to make either until further notice, and I received a phone call at the end of my work day asking if I would pick up dinner. Mean nasty wife that I am, I said no. Then I subtly pointed out a recipe for fried rice that I was salivating over on Smitten Kitchen. As happy as I was when he decided to make it, I was even happier when I tasted it.
The recipe originally comes from Mark Bittman, who very clearly states in the article that it must be made with leftover rice as freshly cooked is too moist. We did not have enough leftover rice so Lewis made a batch of brown rice. I guess that means the version he served me was inferior, to tell the truth I am a little fearful to try it the real way. I really don't need for this recipe to be even better. In addition we only had one ancient leek in the vegetable drawer rather then the 2 cups the recipe calls for. It was still delicious, with caramelized leeks, the savory richness of the soy sauce and the richness of the fried egg topping all of it. One of those dishes that is better then the sums of its parts. Make this the next time you need dinner and just cannot think of what recipe to prepare.
Leek Fried Rice with a Fried Egg
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from Mark Bittman who based it on a Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipe
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp minced fresh garlic (jarred pre chopped garlic will not work here)
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only (we only had one, if I was making it I would have substituted onions for the leeks we did not have, not that I am not grateful)
4 cups rice, preferably day old (we used Brown Basmati rice but any leftover rice would be wonderful)
4 large eggs (or more, I really wished I had 2 on top of my rice)
2 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp soy sauce (we used mushroom soy sauce which gave a really great deep flavor, regular is fine)
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and ginger to the pan and saute until crisp and brown stirring occasionally. Remove the browned garlic and ginger in the pan with a slotted spoon to cool on paper towels and salt lightly, make sure to keep the garlic ginger flavored oil in the pan (Lewis actually wiped the pan out as the was unclear on Smitten Kitchen, however the video on Mark Bittman's recipe has you retain the flavorful oil). Return the pan to medium low heat and add the leeks.
Cook the leeks for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender and soft but not at all browned (actually Lewis admits he kind of burnt them, we agree it would be better tender and not burnt and with the two cups of leeks called for not a single, miserly, shriveled leek from the depths of the fridge). Season the leeks lightly with salt and raise the heat to medium and add the rice.
Cook the rice while stirring until it is all heated through and season to taste with salt, bearing in mind that you will be garnishing the dish with soy sauce at the end. Divide the rice onto 4 plates, if you want to get fancy like Lewis did pack the rice into a one cup ramekin before inverting on to each plate.
Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil in a nonstick skillet over low heat and fry eggs with the lid on until the whites are set and the yolk is soft. I have an irrational fear of unset whites so we flip them over gently before serving. Top each serving of rice with an egg, drizzle 1/2 tsp sesame oil and 1 tsp soy sauce around the outside of the pile of rice, sprinkle the crispy garlic and ginger over the top and serve.