I HAVE BEEN making stir fry dishes since I was in college. Back then, it was partly for affordability. You could throw together a bunch of cheap ingredients and eat for days. But… if it’s done right, a good stir fry is a fairly healthy flavor explosion. Out of all the things I cook, it’s one of the things I love the most, and honestly, I’ve never had anything like the way I make it in a restaurant. And if you’ve scored some good hot peppers, the taste will make you cry from both joy and heat.
The recipe shifts a little, depending on what’s in the fridge, but there are a few constants — there are always a lot of peppers, onions, fresh ginger, and bacon and eggs. One of the keys, to me, is to have a large electric fryer, so that you can cook all of the veggies evenly and quickly without making them too soggy. I’ve got an electric wok… but I’ve always preferred the long rectangular fryer. I have also found that, while it makes more dishes, it’s useful to chop everything and have it ready in separate bowls prior to getting too far into the cooking process… chopping always takes longer than you expect!
Here’s how I do it:
Watery Eye Spicy Stir Fry
Prep Time: About an hour
VARIANTS: You can add yellow and orange Bell Peppers to augment the “sweet” and you can add Thai Hot Peppers, Fingerhots or Habaneros to increase the “heat.” But you should always have Red Bell Pepper and Jalapenos as the base. Adding fresh pea pods and bok choi is never a bad thing. If you’re not a fan, you can skip the broccoli or the mushrooms and it won’t change the taste much. I usually have a bag of mixed frozen diced carrots, beans, peas and corn in the freezer and I’ll sometimes toss a couple handfuls of that into the mix. You can also dice up and add chicken or pork to augment the “meat” portion, though I honestly like it best simply with bacon.
On the stove, combine two cups of uncooked rice with 4 cups water. Add a dash of salt, a tablespoon of vegetable oil and 2 or 3 one-inch sections of the lemongrass branch (you don’t strictly need the lemongrass, but it does give a nice flavor to your rice). Bring the water to a boil and then simmer covered for 15-20 minutes until the water has been absorbed. When the rice is done, turn off the heat and leave covered until you need it.
Dice the onion, and slice the zucchini, broccoli and mushrooms. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of broccoli, so I don’t use much… but I put it in in a vague nod to nutrition. Eat your broccoli.
Put the chopped veggies in a bowl or bowls (depending on how anal you are! I keep each ingredient in its own container until I’m ready for it.)
Slice the peppers to your preference (I chop the jalapenos and serranos so that they are in “circle” sections, and the larger peppers I cut in strips, and usually then cut the strips in half ). Do not strip and discard the seeds, but leave them in the pepper slices… they will provide the heat!
In a large electric frying pan (I usually have the temperature set between 300-350), begin frying the bacon strips. As the bacon cooks, combine the eggs in a glass and whisk with a fork until the yolk and white are well mixed. You can add a splash of milk to it too if you want (fluffier eggs). When the bacon is beginning to get crispy on the edges, push it to one side and pour in the egg. Scramble the egg, and then remove both the bacon and egg to a plate.
Add the remainder of the vegetable oil to the bacon grease, and pour in the onion. Saute for a couple minutes until the edges begin to yellow, then add the rest of the vegetables. Stir for 10 minutes or so, at least partially covered (helps cook the veggies faster and keeps the oil from spitting).
Chop up the bacon and then add the bacon and eggs back to the pan, adding the soy sauce and stir fry sauce.
Once all the vegetables are tender (but not too soggy!) add in the rice and… stir it in until most of the white has been coated with the sauces. You can serve almost immediately, or leave it sit on low heat for awhile until your hungry mob is ready.
And that’s it. Prepare to have your tastebuds dance. And if you were generous with your peppers, maybe shed a tear.
EVERY YEAR, I cook a ham at some point between Christmas and New Year’s, and then typically use the ham bone for a New Year’s Bean Soup. I fill most of a big soup kettle, and freeze the resulting soup for lunches for the coming cold months.
It’s typically a fly-by-night affair on ingredients, but this year I kept track when I made it yesterday, and my son Shaun chose to finish his bean soup over his cheeseburger last night… so I know this one turned out good.
Typically, I use all dried beans, but this year I only had one “multi-bean” bag, so I tossed in a can of chili beans to make up for the shortfall. I also usually use Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and chilis instead of tomato sauce… but the pantry had sauce and not Ro-Tel… and hey, cooking’s all about using whatcha got! Here’s how you can make this year’s edition of:
Everson Umpteen Bean Soup
Put the beans in your soup pot to soak. This allows them to expand before cooking. Throw away the “bean soup powder” mix that probably came with your dried multi-bean bag. You’ve got all the flavor you need coming from the peppers and ham.
If I’m really organized, I’ll soak the beans overnight, but you can get away with a couple hours in warm water. (Some people boil them and let sit for an hour to speed the process).
Drain and rinse. Return the beans to the pot and add water — I make sure the water level is a couple inches above the top of the beans. Remember it’s easier to add water than to remove it… but you will be steaming water out all day.
Put the heat on low to start simmering the beans.
Add the cans of chili beans and tomato sauce.
Chop and sauté the peppers, onions and garlic until the onions are turning golden in the butter. Add to the pot.
If you are actually using fresh New Mexican chilis, you’ll need to de-skin them because while New Mexican grown pepper “meat” has a taste like no other, Hatch chili skins are tough. Mine had been frozen (I brought a bag of fresh ones back from Santa Fe in my suitcase last year), so I put them in a frying pan with a little water until they were hot and soft, and then scraped out the inner green chili goodness with a knife. I then added all that mushy green to the pot.
Chop the baby carrots up, add to the pot.
Chop up the cilantro and add to the pot.
Sprinkle with chili powder.
Cook all on low to low-medium heat for about 4 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes. You want to keep the heat low enough so you don’t scorch the bottom or you’ll ruin the whole batch. It helps to have a good soup pot with a heavy bottom vs. the cheap thin ones they sell at some grocery stores. I used a new heavy pot this year, and the cooking process was soooo much nicer. Nothing scorched or stuck to the bottom.
About an hour before the end of the cooking cycle, I will usually skim off some of the fat and water that is sitting on top after a few minutes of non-stirring. Then I remove the ham bone, and chop off any clinging meat. If your ham bone didn’t have quite enough ham left on it, you can also dice up some more ham from your leftovers and toss that in.
I tend to like my soup spicier than everyone else, so after removing the ham bone and stirring, I will siphon some of the soup into another pot. Once I have two pots going, I’ll chop up a jalapeno or two, plus a serrano and habanero pepper, and add those to the batch that I’m going to be eating. Whatever you do, if you have people sensitive to spicy, do NOT cross the stirring spoons over that next final hour of simmering!
Serve with grated quesadilla cheese or colby jack, and a dollop of sour cream!
Makes… a LOT.