Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
Fried rice has been my saving grace for numerous weeknight dinners. It’s my go-to when I’m short on time, can’t decide what to make, have extra veggies on hand, or some combination of the three. Besides being a flavorful and balanced one-pan meal, it’s a great vehicle for using up extra produce in your fridge.
Most vegetables will work here: Just dice them small and be mindful of the order in which you add them to the skillet. Denser ones like carrots should go in first and more delicate ones like scallions should be added toward the end. I find that stirring every 30 seconds as you sauté the veggies gives them enough time to develop some char without burning, especially in a cast-iron skillet.
The sauce is a simple combination of pantry staples, and you can add more red pepper flakes or a squirt of Sriracha for added heat. It’s enhanced by some juices from the flank steak, which is seared in the skillet until just rare. Even after the bite-sized pieces are removed from the pan, they will continue to cook from the residual heat, so stopping at a rare sear keeps them from becoming dry and chewy as they rest.
When it comes to the rice, leftovers are actually recommended here. A day-old batch will crisp up better than rice that’s fresh, fluffy and moist. But when I whip this dish up on the fly, I use a shortcut: Spread out the cooked rice on a large plate, lightly drape it with a paper towel to capture excess moisture and chill it in the fridge to dry out a bit while you prep. This is optional though; the dish will certainly work with freshly made rice, and pressing down the rice mixture in the final cooking step will facilitate the desired crisping.
Before you get started, be sure all your ingredients are ready to go. Prepping beforehand is always helpful, but here it’s crucial, because once your skillet is heated, the whole meal comes together in about 20 minutes.
The meaty depth of this dish calls for something fruit-forward that’s not too heavy but can stand up to the bold flavors. I sought out a Syrah or Grenache, settling on a blend, the Tussock Jumper Shiraz-Grenache-Viognier Western Cape 2016 from South Africa. With its berry and cherry flavors backed by a streak of acidity, it offered a refreshing component when matched with the umami notes in the dish.
Beef Fried Rice
Pair with a Grenache-Syrah blend such as Tussock Jumper Shiraz-Grenache-Viognier Western Cape 2016 (89 points, $13).
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Approximate food costs: $30
- 1 cup white rice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound flank steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3/4 cup soy sauce, divided
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup canola oil, divided
- 2 eggs, whisked with a splash of water
- 1/4 cup carrots, diced small
- 1/4 cup peas
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
1. Rinse rice until water runs clear and add to a medium saucepan with 1 1/4 cups of water and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for 18 minutes. Turn off heat and cover with a paper towel before placing the lid back on the pan. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, add steak and 1/2 cup soy sauce. Stir to combine and let sit at room temperature. In another medium bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and red pepper flakes. Whisk to help dissolve the sugar and set aside.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a large skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat. Add eggs and stir until very softly scrambled, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
4. Drain excess soy sauce from the marinating steak. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add steak pieces in a single layer, working in batches if needed. Cook until rare, about 4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Transfer the pieces to a plate and set aside, draining 2 tablespoons of the pan juices into the soy sauce–sesame oil mixture and discarding the rest.
5. Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add carrots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add peas and sauté for 4 minutes, then add scallions and sauté for 2 more minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
6. Remove cover from cooked rice and fluff with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and increase heat to high. Add rice, eggs and the prepared soy sauce mixture. Stir, breaking up the egg and any rice clumps, until the rice is fully coated. Press into an even layer and let cook, undisturbed, until the rice starts to crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the steak and vegetables. Serves 4.