Chinese New Year, fried rice

Happy first day of the Year of the Dragon! I am making this the first day of my 2012 as well because the 22 days preceding have been pretty much a wasteland (waist-land?) as far as diet and exercise.

On NPR’s “The Splendid Table” yesterday Lynn Rosetto Kasper talked to John Tierney, author of Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength and, together, they listed the two greatest predictors of success in any endeavor as intelligence and self-control. Oh me, I can’t do anything about the first but, evidently, I can and should work on the second.

The only tool for improving self-control mentioned was fairly constant monitoring, which means back to the calorie counting as well as weighing myself every morning. Current studies see people cheered on and their resolve strengthened by daily weigh-ins.  OK, and I’m driving 30 minutes each way this afternoon to walk in the closest mall, which is tiny and dull but better than getting soaked here at home.

To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, you couldn’t find an easier, tastier dish than fried rice. Not so healthy ordered out, but at home you keep a handle on the oil and salt. The better your vegetables, of course, the less need for salt to make them taste like something. (When I took a Chinese cooking class a lifetime ago at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, I was shocked by the cupfuls of salt the instructor poured into everything, all the while saying she was using so much less than your average restaurant.)

A stir-fry is a forgiving dish. You can change to accomodate what’s in your fridge or to your tastes as you will. Which is why there are only suggestions in the following. As my friend Jon N. says, “People who cook know what to do.”

You’ll need leftover cooked rice (about 1 cup per serving) and some tasty bits of leftover protein  (2 or 3 ounces per serving). I used both boneless, skinless chicken thighs and some ham. My leftover rice was flavored with a little salt, some unsalted butter and a large cup of frozen peas.

The only “trick” (and it’s not very tricky) to a stir-fry is to have everything chopped or minced and ready to toss into the hot skillet or wok. Besides the chicken and ham, I chopped 1 cup baby carrots, 1/2 medium onion, 2 cloves garlic and 4 scallions (these last for the finished dish only).

I beat two whole eggs with 2 tablespoons water, scrambling these in another pat of unsalted butter in an electric skillet heated to 350°. Remove eggs from skillet as soon as you’ve flipped them and slice into strips.

Add 1 tablespoon of canola oilto skillet and stir-fry carrots and

Clementine "cuties," small Bosc pears and purchased fortune cookies are the perfect accompaniments to this Chinese New Year's celebration.

onions until soft. Add garlic, a big ol’ pinch of powdered ginger, salt and pepper and toss. Add meat, then leftover rice, together with 2 tablespoons (per 4 cups rice) low-sodium soy sauce and 2 good “glugs” oyster sauce. Add cooked egg and toss gently to warm through. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

That’s all there is to this lovely one-dish meal. If you have some squash or celery or Chinese cabbage in the vegetable drawer, use them with or instead of the carrots. I should have included a handful of baby ‘bello mushrooms in mine, but I forgot. I’ll put them on tonight’s pizza instead. Happy New Year!

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