Thursday, January 10, 2013

Recipe: "Fried Rice" Quinoa

Once again, I had no recipe planned for dinner, so when I told my mother "Hey, I'll make dinner tonight if you'd like me to," I then immediately thought "Wait...why did I just say that? There's no chicken thawed out, we just had pasta (which is my go to ingredient), and I've got job applications to work on today....what the hell am I gonna make?" My mother offered to bring chicken up from our extra freezer (you know the sits in your garage or basement, crammed with packs of chicken, some years-old bags of frozen veggies, and a box of Popsicles or ice cream sandwiches). I knew I didn't want pasta, I didn't want to bother with rice, and my initial plan to make polenta fell through because I barely had 1/4 cup left. I had three boxes of quinoa beckoning me to cook some, and a small collection of vegetables stashed in the bottom drawer of the fridge, alongside a forgotten chunk of fresh ginger, so I thought I'd go for an Asian-style quinoa. The idea of fried rice came to mind, so I decided to replace the rice with quinoa and use the chicken to make the dish more substantial and filling. This kind of dish is perfect, because you can use pretty much any vegetable you have on hand—I had snow peas, onions, and cauliflower—and you could use any meat (chicken is a staple in our house, but shrimp, steak, or scallops would work well). This dish pulled together easily and the sauce blended into the quinoa mixture popped with the flavors of garlic, fish sauce, soy, and mirin.

Sadly, my lovely, white plating plate was in the dishwasher during this shot

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

For the chicken marinade

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. mirin (cooking sherry works as well)
  • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp. freshly grated ginger (dry ginger works as well)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
For the sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-2 tbsp. mirin (cooking sherry works as well)
  • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1-2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp. freshly grated ginger (dry ginger works as well)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
For the remainder of the dish
  • 1 cup dried quinoa (I use Ancient Harvest's Traditional Quinoa, which calls for 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water; it cooks in 10-15 minutes)
  • Peanut oil, enough to lightly coat the bottom of a large pan or wok
  • Approx. half a head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Approx. 6 oz. snow peas, cleaned
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 eggs, scrambled

Mix together the ingredients for the marinade in a medium bowl, add the chicken, stir to coat, and set aside in the fridge. Mix together the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl, and set aside. Cook the quinoa according to package instructions. While it's cooking, steam the cauliflower until tender, yet crisp (you can also parboil it, then shock it with ice and water to stop the cooking; steam or parboil any hard vegetables you plan to use, like carrots or broccoli). Heat peanut oil in a large pan or wok over medium high heat. Add the chicken (do not pour in the marinade though) and cook until about half done, then add the onions. Add the cauliflower and snow peas (or whatever vegetables you've chosen) after the chicken has just about cooked through. In a small, nonstick pan, cook the eggs until you've got fluffy, scrambled eggs, then break them up and add them to the pan with the chicken and veggie mixture. Add the finished quinoa and toss to combine. Pour in most or all of the sauce and thoroughly mix it in. Serve with additional grated ginger on top, as desired.

Quinoa is a great alternative to rice, and it's incredibly healthy. Its fluffy texture and nutty taste work in just about any dish, and it absorbs the Asian flavors in the dish nicely. Crispy snow peas and cauliflower, paired with fluffy eggs, and softened onions add flavor and texture to the dish, and chicken helps turn this side dish into a real meal. 

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