Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pork and Vegetable Stir Fry

I didn't know how to cook before I met Wei, my husband. He didn't exactly teach me, but he did give me a lot of inspiration. When I saw how easy it was for him to throw together something delicious with fresh ingredients, like a stir fry, it made me wonder why the hell I was cooking meals that came out of boxes and pouches.

My stir fry technique has become something like this: Cook the meat first, then take it out of the pan so it doesn't end up over cooked. Cook onion, then throw in the rest of the veggies and garlic. Add the meat back when the veggies are cooked. Season with cooking sauces and stir in a cornstarch slurry to bring the sauce together. Done! It's an easy way to get something fairly healthy on the table in a short amount of time.

This was the first time that I made one with a pork tenderloin. I don't know if I'll do it again. I liked the flavor, but tenderloins are such a pain to prep since you have to remove all of the silverskin and fat bits. Also, you have to be careful to cut it into small pieces, otherwise they take a long time to cook. It just doesn't fit in with my vision of a quick and easy stir fry!

This isn't a recipe as much as a suggestion. Use whatever meat and vegetable combinations you like, or make it all veggie. The only ingredients that I consider to be absolutely essential are the onions and garlic. They are the flavor base, and it just wouldn't taste right without them.

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silverskin and cut into bite size pieces
1 yellow onion, cut into half moons
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, sliced (use a green bell pepper if you want, but I just can't stand the flavor!)
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons peanut, corn, or vegetable oil (peanut is best)
Soy sauce
Thai fish sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chicken broth

Start by making the rice. You probably have your own technique, but this is how I do it. Put one cup of white rice in a medium-size pot and rinse the grains several times to remove most of the starch. I do this by swirling water around in the pot, dumping the water out (being careful not to lose any rice grains in the process), and repeating until the water runs mostly clear--about 5 or 6 times.

Once the rice is rinsed, add water to the pot so that the water level is 2 centimeters above the level of the rice. Put a lid partially on the pot, and put on a burner set to medium heat. Set a timer to 14 minutes, and it should be done when the timer goes off. Sometimes there's still some water in the pot at that time, in which case keep checking at 2 minute intervals. Basically, when there's no more steam coming out of the pot, it's done. Turn off the burner, clamp the lid on the pot, and let it sit until you're ready to eat it. This "sitting stage" is essential; it needs to sit for at least 10 minutes.

While your cut up pork is still sitting on the cutting board, season it well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a small spoonful of cornstarch over the meat and toss it all together to distribute. Heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-high or high heat in a wok or a large, deep pan. Add the meat and cook until it's done. Remove to a plate and tent with tin foil to keep warm.

Wipe the inside of the pan or wok with a paper towel, and add the second tablespoon of oil. Keep an open can of chicken broth next to you in case the pan gets too hot and you need to deglaze it. Throw in the onions and cook until soft, about ten minutes. My test is that the onions are done when I can easily cut through one by pushing on it with my wooden spoon. Throw in the garlic and the bell pepper and mushrooms. Stir fry until cooked, about another 10 minutes.

Add the meat and any accumulated juices back into the pan. Toss everything with two tablespoons each of soy sauce and fish sauce and a splash of chicken broth. Add several grinds of black pepper. Make a cornstarch slurry by mixing a tablespoon of cornstarch and a tablespoon of chicken broth in a coffee mug until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. Pour over everything in the pan and stir together until the sauce is glossy and thicker. Taste for seasoning.

Serve over the rice, and yes, chopsticks are a must!

Rating: This is not awesome

Yeah, this wasn't my best work. It was too salty and not enough vegetables in my opinion. Truthfully, I had cut up a head of broccoli to use as well, but I was impatient and didn't feel like waiting for it to cook. If you want to make it like I did, you should probably cut the amount of soy and fish sauce down to one tablespoon each. If you use another veggie to bulk up the amount of stir fry, you should be fine with two tablespoons each.

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