Stir fry, made at home, is doubly valuable in that it is
inherently healthy because it relies on fresh ingredients and it produces a meal in
minutes because of the fast cooking method.
WHAT YOU NEED
A cast iron wok is the perfect kitchen gadget for stir fry. The cast iron shell
distributes the heat evenly. A non stick surface and a great fitting lid is a plus. A good
quality non stick skillet and a plastic spatula will work just fine.
Take a look around and decide what ingredients you are
going to blend into your stir fry. Chop cauliflower and broccoli into flowerets. Slice red
onion and cabbage into half-inch wedges. Dice chicken breasts into 1 inch chunks. You want
the veggies and meat to be in bite size pieces for two reason. First, the stir fry will be
appealing and easy to eat if all of the components are equal in size. Secondly, similar
size pieces will insure more uniform cooking time. The secret to great stir fry is to
collect and prepare all of your ingredients in advance before you begin to cook.
SAUCING THE STIR FRY
There are several techniques for making a flavorful sauce for stir fry. Some
include a touch of cornstarch for thickening. Toss chunks of meat, poultry or seafood in
cornstarch before cooking or add a touch of cornstarch mixed with water to the sauce
before cooking. In both cases, you want to make sure that the cornstarch has time to cook
for several minutes in the dish in order to produce a smooth and shiny sauce.
Stir fry suppers lend themselves to a totally fresh
approach to cooking. Herb flavored oils may be sauce enough! You may choose to spice your
fresh ingredients with Italian or Mexican seasonings. There are no rules for stir fry -
only opportunities for creative cooking.
Heat the wok or skillet over high heat. Place a small amount of oil in the bottom
of the wok. (Olive oil is fine. Peanut oil and sesame oil add a very distinctive flavor.)
The oil will smoke slightly. Don't abandon your wok! You must stay with the stir fry -
don't walk away from this quick cooking method. You may want to add slices of garlic or
ginger to the oil to infuse it with flavor. Fresh herbs tossed into the hot oil will also
impart their essence into the dish. As the herb begins to brown, move the pieces out of
the oil and up the sides of the walk to slow the cooking process.
Next, add the ingredient that will take the most time to
cook. In most cases this will be cubes of lean meat or poultry. Cook until the thick cubes
begin to brown on all sides. This will begin the tenderizing process. At this point, you
may push these chunks up the sides of the wok, or remove them to a platter while you
continue with the recipe.
Now you are ready to add the veggies and stir until they
are just crisp tender. (If you are cooking a stir fry that includes shellfish, you want to
add this ingredient last as fish usually cooks in just minutes.)
Add the meat or poultry back to the wok. Season with sauce,
fresh herbs, citrus juice or a touch of flavored oil. Stir to coat all of the ingredients.
That's it! Serve the stir fry with rice or over pasta.